Jordan responded to our open-ended prompt about movement as self-care.
There are so many staples that come to mind with the term, “self-care.”
Rose water, bath bombs, a glass of your most Instagrammable red. The recent self-care movement has reignited our love of showing love to ourselves, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. But one aspect of self-care that gets overlooked more often than not is the physical side- exercise.
When you dissect the current self-care space, the landscape is almost oversaturated with self-indulgence. And I don’t use the term with the kind of negative connotation it typically carries, but self-indulgence in terms of, “hell yeah, this is for me.” When we look at skin-care must-tries, candles we’re addicted to, athleisure we can barely afford but buy anyway, there’s almost a kind of self-love validation that comes with it.
Yet, these things are short term fixes. Temporary manifestations of the appreciation we have for ourselves. And while they’re great and absolutely necessary (I love a “Treat Yoself” splurge as much as the next lady), they hold no power in achieving goals, changing our mentality, or challenging ourselves.
The recent shift to the effortless pampering type of self-care has made routines almost exclusively built around the cosmetology, spirituality, and “wine”-ology industries. If it can’t be done from under a furry blanket, with a mug in hand, or while plant-momming, we can’t help but question if it’s really self-care. This kind of exclusivity makes physically active time for yourself appear less worthy of the self-care space.
Exercise tends to have a bad rep.
Challenging, sweaty, and full of expectations that feel unattainable. It requires full force, full steam, and full power for full reward. It goes against most of what social media and pop culture tell us about pressing pause and showing self-love. It requires no incense or bath shelves (pause for gasps). It’s about you, what you can do, and how it makes your body feel. Spoiler alert: it can all be pretty great stuff.
Regular exercise has its scientific benefits. Bla bla bla. I’m not a doctor, consult WebMD if you want to know more. But something I am familiar with is how exercise plays a role in the way I take time for myself. A good workout has always been a priority for me; I was the high schooler skipping Friday night hangouts for a HIIT class and am now the college student late to lecture post-lift session.
But it wasn’t until I started learning more about the self-care revolution through my time interning with Girls’ Night In, a community and newsletter for millennial women to help them prioritize self-care, that I started to see the sacrifices I make for exercise as part of doing something for myself.
I think my love for exercise has always felt selfish. It was time I was stealing from other people and things I loved and the only person who benefited from it was me. I was stronger, happier, and achieving goals I’d always dreamed of, like becoming a spin instructor, but the way exercise imposed on plans with friends, getting work done, and more attached a feeling of guilt. I never saw it as something I needed for my overall wellness. It was just a routine, a hobby, the most enjoyable chore.
Recently I’ve set a couple of self-care goals for myself.
One, start a skin-care routine (no progress yet, here).
Two, say no to plans when you don’t have the bandwidth or the desire to make them (CHECK).
Three, treat mental health like physical health (still working on it).
Four, treat physical health as part of self-care and let it be a guilt-free way to love myself.
Allowing movement to be a part of your self-care routine opens doors to long term changes. You have the ability to enjoy everything your body can offer you if you let it. And, by pairing physical force with positivity and optimism, you can inspire strength in yourself you never even knew existed.
Personally, I bring a yoga “let’s set an intention for our practice today” mindset to every type of movement I do. I find it helps me feel purposeful and powerful, and gives me something to work towards. An easy way to do this is to replace single-focused goals, like losing weight, with more holistic ones. For example, turn “I want to run to get my bikini body,” into “I want to run to clear my mind and take on this challenge.”
It also helps us focus less on destination and more on each individual push. Every step matters, every stride takes you further, every drop of sweat makes the journey easier. Remind yourself that not every trip to the gym will be your best, but getting there is half the battle and if you showed up you’ve already won that.
When you bring a positive mentality to exercise, it contributes to a greater sense of caring for yourself and your body. It’s not just about what your body can do, it’s about what your body and mind can do together.
For me, the pros far outweigh the minutes of panting that follow a hard workout. Besides the endorphin rush, you may find yourself achieving beyond your goals. But all successes take time and hustle. And while other self-care routines are more about pampering and treating, fitness will have more self-doubt and challenge on its path.
It won’t be easy, but by seeing exercise as a self-care staple, we can make our moments of movement a little more sacred and a little more self-indulgent.
This is part of a series called In First Person, in which digital natives respond to an open-ended writing prompt.