are you allergic or ecstatic toward exercise?

part three in our eight-part journey toward total body confidence and compassion

My mother has a quirky sense of humor. When it comes to her dislike of exercise, she says she is just plain allergic to it””like another person is to peanuts””and that’s why she can’t and won’t do it. This is my mother’s belief about exercise. This month we’re going to discover you’re beliefs about exercise, and you will have the opportunity to explore your memories and beliefs toward your own body’s movement.

Can you remember your gym days as a kid? Most likely they were peppered with either proud or embarrassing moments that impacted your attitude toward your body and exercise.

I clearly remember the pull-up section of the standard physical fitness test. Every year, all the girls would sit around the pull-up bar as if it was a campfire and stare up at the victim being tested. A girl named Jackie did 10 pull-ups as the crowd of girls counted along excitedly. Then it was my turn. I nervously stepped up to the bar, palms already sweaty, grabbed the bar and then grunted, wiggled and strained until my eyes popped out and”¦nothing. I didn’t move an inch. I repeated with more vigor, more grunting and”¦nothing again. Finally, when I was red with embarrassment, rather than effort, I breathed out harshly in a sigh and limply fell to the ground. Lanee: zero pull-ups. The gym teacher looked on in half disappointment, half pity. 

This early memory contributed to my struggle with enjoying exercise because I associated it with shame and failure. With this understanding, I am able to have compassion for myself when I am resisting trying a new pose in yoga.

I may be preaching to the ashram, but I have found it extremely helpful to examine the beliefs we hold toward exercise in order to set us free from the negative feelings associated with movement. By doing so, long-held feelings of anxiety, shame or resentment may appear. This hidden belief system may be a barrier to a fully joyous practice or exercise routine. When the word exercise comes up, do you feel a cloud come over you, or are you filled with anticipation? Is your yoga class just one more thing on your list of to do’s today? You are not alone.  

Here are some questions to ask yourself or journal about your exercise associations:

”¢  What are your memories around   
    exercise as a child? 

”¢  Which parts of moving your body do
    you enjoy? Which do you dislike? Why
    for each?

”¢  Do you feel exercise is more hassle than 

    good? If so, why?

”¢  Do you have any defining memories
    regarding exercise in your early

”¢  How did you feel about your days in
    gym class as a kid? As a teenager?

”¢  Were you an athlete? Did an authority
    figure scream at you because you
    weren’t perfect in the game?  

”¢  Were you ever teased because you
    carried more or less weight than
    other kids?

”¢  Was exercise used as a form of
    punishment, i.e., more laps because you
    missed a goal in the game?  

”¢  Was or is your family active or inactive?  

”¢  In your present life: Do you feel guilty
    about doing something for yourself, like
    taking a walk because there are so many
    demands for your time?

”¢  Did you throw in the towel for good
    after an exercise/yoga program didn’t
    give you the results you wanted? 

”¢  Does your body ache from illness
    or inactivity? 

Use these questions to spur thoughts and memories for your journal. This will help you discover which exercise beliefs you need to redefine. These are just questions to get you started and help you understand yourself better. The more understanding you have for yourself, the less likely you will carry loads of guilt and apathy for not liking to exercise. It is okay not to like exercise, but it is not okay to ignore your body’s cry for movement. Once you find out why you have an “allergy” to exercise, then you can determine what actions will help you start a new relationship with it.

Discovering the Inner Kid

Just as there may be negative associations that have shaped your feelings about moving your body in space, there are surely positive ones, too. Our bodies crave movement. We were born active and constantly in motion. Just ask any parent of a two-year-old how much they are on the go! Kids cannot sit at a desk for 10 hours like we adults do. I encourage my clients to tap into the kid within them so they can feel the same energy they had at five years old. How great would that be if we had so much energy that we had to do a cartwheel instead of reaching for another cup of coffee to keep focused at work? OK, maybe that would drive your co-workers nuts, but what a different attitude it would help us develop toward exercise.

Here are some questions and suggestions to help you to tap into your kid energy:

What were some of your favorite active things to do as a kid? Ex: jump rope, swing, pogo stick, etc?

Homework: Go to a kids’ playground and try some of those things you wrote down. Journal or meditate on how they made you feel.

Homework: If you don’t have kids, find a kid to play with and observe their attitude toward exercise. 

Journal or meditate on: What do you see that is missing in adult exercise? How would you like to be more kid-like in your practice?

Even in my training sessions, which tend to be challenging, and which some would refer to as “torture,” I ask my clients if they are ready to go play. Next time you’re putting off going to yoga class, try shifting your perspective. Instead of feeling like it’s a task, see it as a treat, as an opportunity to access your kid energy and honor your body. 

Next, we will explore seven ways to love your body in movement. 

Lanee Neil has been a private trainer in Los Angeles for seven years. She is the author of two books: The Real Weight is Over and Exposed””Insights to Loving Your Body from the Celebrities you Love. She offers body confidence consultations and personal training. Contact Lanee at