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Intuitive Movement: Why Workouts Don’t Always Need To Get Your Heart Racing

woman fitness athlete sneezes

With over 11.4 million views on TikTok and an 82% increase* in Google searches over the past month, an intuitive movement is an approach to fitness that’s become increasingly popular in recent years as people look to move away from the ‘all or nothing’ views of exercise that have traditionally been held.

Many people believe that workouts are only worth doing if they’re extremely tough and that keeping fit involves daily, lengthy workouts.

This mentality can lead to people flying headfirst into an intensive workout programme that is too tough to keep up and then quitting a few weeks in, or not even attempting to start as it feels too difficult. The result is inactivity and a belief that exercise isn’t for them.

Intuitive movement helps to tackle this head-on by encouraging all forms of movement, whether that’s dancing in the kitchen or going for a walk, and doing what feels good for you, rather than sticking to an unattainable regime focused on ‘going hard’ 100% of the time.

In fact, when looking at the world’s Blue Zones (places in the world with the highest life expectancy) these people do most of their movement due to the environments they live in, rather than ‘working out’ – for example, they work in their gardens, walk regularly during the day and do more by hand than with equipment in the house or garden.

However, unlearning unhelpful exercise beliefs and habits that have been with us from a young age can be quite difficult.

To help people break out of all-or-nothing thought patterns and adopt a more ‘intuitive’ movement, PureGym has spoken to Laura Melia, PT and General Manager at PureGym Manchester and TikTok fitness influencer Ella Mintram (@elmint), who regularly shares content around doing the type of exercise that feels good for you, to compile their top tips on how to make the intuitive movement work for you and incorporate different forms of movement into your life on a regular basis.

  1. Go at your own pace and avoid the comparison game
    Trying to ‘keep up with others and comparing your journey to those around you is a surefire way to take the fun out of your workouts and reduce motivation. Laura explains why the comparison is so unhelpful: “Everyone is at a different stage of their fitness journey, with different levels of strength and mobility, and what works for one person might be too much or too little for another. Don’t feel pressured to match anyone’s workouts and avoid comparing progress with other people. Instead, focus on how you feel.”

    Ella also echoes this: “Focus on yourself and your own journey – there’s no such thing as ‘not doing enough’! Just because you see other people training five times a week, does not mean you should be too. We all have different lives, different jobs and different commitments – some weeks it may be harder to fit in a workout and that’s absolutely okay.”
  2. Learn when to rest
    Ella explains that listening to your body and learning to spot when you need rest is key on the journey of moving more intuitively: “Rest should be seen as the time that your body is using to grow and recover. If you don’t recover, you will constantly be trying to exercise with an empty tank and your workouts are going to become completely unproductive. Learning to rest will help your workouts become much more worthwhile, as you’ll actually have the energy to do them!”

    Another benefit of allowing adequate rest is reducing your risk of injury too – win-win!
  3. Find a form of movement that you enjoy
    There isn’t just one type of ‘workout’ – in a gym setting alone this could vary from HIIT to cardio or weightlifting. Laura suggests trying all types of workouts, different fitness classes, and other types of movement to help you find what you do or don’t like in order to build a routine that you genuinely enjoy.

    Laura also reminds us that “Spending an hour in the gym isn’t the only form of movement we can do. Going for a nice long walk, playing a sport with the kids or dancing is also a great way to keep your body moving.”
  4. Make your workouts fun
    Once you’ve found the types of movement that you enjoy, plan to make the workouts themselves enjoyable too. For example, you may enjoy weightlifting but realise that you prefer a circuit-based format over traditional reps and sets. Likewise, you may find you enjoy walking in nature but not along a busy pavement.

    Ella explains that “Choosing workouts you enjoy is the best way to plan your exercise routine – if you don’t enjoy doing your workouts, you simply won’t do them! It’s far better to have a workout plan you will be consistent with than one that is an ‘optimum’ plan that you won’t do. I plan all of my own workouts, and by only including exercises I enjoy, I know I will enjoy the workout and look forward to doing it.”
  5. Understand your ‘why’
    If you only work out because you feel you have to, it will be difficult to motivate yourself to do so. Spend some time exploring what you want to achieve from exercising and why.

    Ella saw a huge shift in her mindset and attitude towards exercise once she understood her ‘why’ – “Why am I going to the gym? Why am I working out? Once you truly understand your reasoning for being there you can start seeing your time at the gym as your YOU time. Your time of the day to focus on yourself, focus on your goals. There is something truly so special about having somewhere to go that’s entirely about becoming the best version of yourself.”
  6. Start off slowly
    Although it can be tempting to throw yourself into a new workout routine, gradually easing yourself into a routine is a far more sustainable approach to take. Look at your current activity levels and assess what is achievable, and then slowly increase this. It’s better to do two workouts a week for a whole year, than five workouts a week for a month before giving up.

    Laura says: “It can be tempting to go ‘hell for leather’ straight away, but this is more likely to make you burn out, get injured, or quit. Apps like Couch to 5k can help ease you into it in an enjoyable way. Gym classes such as ‘Pump’ can also do something similar, as you can slowly increase your weights week on week.”
  7. Realise that exercise is there to enhance your life, not take over
    For some people, workout routines are rigid and the thought of skipping a workout can cause stress or anxiety about ‘losing progress’. However, an essential part of moving more intuitively is realising that a few missed workouts won’t have a long-term adverse effect, and that exercise is something that should be enjoyed rather than cause stress.

    This is something that Ella felt early on in her journey: “I used to turn down social events and holidays just so I wouldn’t be ‘off plan’. I thought that if I missed a session, I would lose all my progress – which simply isn’t true. Exercise should be there to enhance your life, to improve yourself as a person and reach your goals – this should never get in the way of doing the things that you love and make you feel alive!”

Intuitive movement is all about doing what feels best for you and your body at the time, whether that’s taking a walk or doing some light stretching instead of going to the gym, or having a rest day if you’re really not feeling in the mood to move.

Approaching movement with this mindset will make it much easier for you to stick to your overall ‘plan’, while promoting overall well-being as you become more in tune with your body’s cues.

If you feel like you could do with some help in getting into the flow of moving more intuitively, PureGym has a range of free workouts and classes to help you find something you enjoy.