Adopting a daily movement practice is more beneficial for your health long-term…but how does it differ from an exercise program?

Movement Practice vs. Exercise Program

When I was a personal trainer, I used to calculate clients’ macros and write meal plans for them to follow seven days a week. I also wrote detailed workout plans of every exercise they “should” do outside our sessions. I’d take them through “back day,” “arms day” and “leg day” workouts. I’d celebrate a client being really sore in “all the right places” and I’d ask for progress photos to show the world that my training worked. Our sessions were serious, and we had goals to reach within the allotted timeframe of the training package.

And as my personal fitness journey evolved, that rigidity didn’t align with how I wanted to partner with my clients on their journeys.

I knew there was something more when I started learning about mindfulness and adding yoga to my workouts. I got more in tune with my clients’ personal struggles and got curious about how their life outside the gym impacted their sessions for better or worse – workplace stress, parenting and relationship dynamics, sleep, home ownership and taking care of aging parents, etc.

My curiosity of  the difference between a movement practice and an exercise program led to these changes:

  • I talked more about how to stay active outside the gym.
  • We spoke of the importance of sleep and of how soreness and a number on the scale weren’t the only things to track.
  • I started offering stretching sessions in place of lifting when a client showed up exhausted from work.
  • I changed my language and asked clients how they were feeling in ways that had nothing to do with the specific exercises.

Clients started to consider other aspects of their training and during our check-ins, they proudly shared their non-scale victories.

Going to the gym can be a trap of becoming active but sedentary, meaning that you work out for 1 hour but sit the rest of the day. A daily movement practice is more beneficial for your health long-term, but how can you begin to unlearn the rigidity of exercise and adopt a daily movement practice?

How can you cultivate a movement practice?

  • Move your body in all planes of motion – Explore lateral movements and twists, raise your arms over your head, and try walking backwards. Get to know your body from all directions.
  • Listen to your body – Sometimes rest is the most productive thing you can do for your mental and physical health. Pain is a sign that something is wrong.
  • Enjoy the journey – Celebrate every non-scale victory! Are you getting more restful sleep? Has your digestion improved? Are your nails and hair stronger, shinier?
  • Be playful – Why so serious? Take a nature walk, try aerial yoga or a trampoline class!
  • Appreciate what your body can do – Gratitude for every breath, every step, jump and lap swam regardless of metrics or where you “should” be because movement is a gift.
  • Focus on alignment and optimal posture – There is no perfect posture, but your body does have a set posture that allows for comfortable movement and less tension while sitting. Focus on your set posture and gentle adjustments to your alignment when you sit, stand and lie down.

As a former personal trainer and figure competitor turned health educator and yoga instructor, I’m so proud of the evolution that the fitness industry has made over the past decade. There are now more messages about fitness being about more than weight loss, more talk of the importance of mindful movement, more encouragement to explore your body in a variety of ways and an entire anti-diet movement. Sure, we still have a ways to go and like any change, that starts with each of us reexamining how we’re showing up for ourselves (and the messages we share) in this space.

Unlearning the rigidity associated with exercise and embracing the softness of a daily movement practice is one of the most sustainable adjustments you can make for your health.

Need inspiration for mindful movement? Try one of these classes for free on my YouTube channel.

Evening Stretches for Restful Sleep

Stretches for Shoulders, Neck and Back

Evening Unwind