Some fitness resolutions are still going strong, and many of us are optimistically booking in some early morning strength and cardio sessions.
But if you’re feeing demotivated and like you’d rather crawl back into bed, it might be time to reevaluate how you’re working out.
In the wake of the fast and furious HIIT boom – which basically saw us working out as fast and hard as we could – intuitive exercise is, conversely, set to be one of this year’s biggest health trends.
Rather than trying to pack in back-to-back gym sessions that push our bodies to breaking point, the idea is dial down down your training to avoid workout burnout – a very real issue that can stem from excessive training and not allowing your body proper recovery time.
What exactly is intuitive exercise?
Much like the intuitive eating trend that reigned our kitchens last year, this mindful exercise concept is all about creating a healthy and sustainable relationship with fitness. Rather than punishing your body with strict rules and restrictions – like religiously doing five workouts a week – intuitive exercise is all about listening to your body and only moving when it feels good.
“Intuitive movement refers to your body’s innate ability to communicate how, when, how much, and how often to move,” says Tally Rye, a personal trainer who has just released a book on the topic called Train Happy: An Intuitive Exercise Plan for Every Body (£14.99, Pavilion Books). “It moves us away from looking at exercising and working out as a means to control our body, and towards a way of grounding into and being in our body.”
What are the benefits?
If you’re looking to get leaner or fitter, it’s understandable to think that the fastest way to see results is to exercise as often as possible. But research has shown that what you do outside of the gym is just as important as the time you spend working out.
Experts say that building rest and recovery days into any training program is important, because as it allows the body to adapt to the stress of exercise and repair damaged body tissues. Recovery also aids the body to replenish its glycogen energy stores for sessions later in the week, helping you to stay in peak performance.
As well as supercharging your physical gains by giving your body time to adapt and grow, intuitive exercise can also provide some pretty great mental benefits too.
If you struggle to give yourself days off from the gym without feeling guilty, it could be a sign that you’re edging towards an unhealthy relationship with exercise.
Exercise addiction can be difficult to spot, but the pressure to stay in shape coupled with the feelgood endorphin buzz can cause many people to become a slave to their treadmill data. If you’re drastically reducing activities in other areas of your life, like seeing friends and family, to make time for exercise, moving intuitively could help you to strike a better balance in 2020. Getting our mindset back into thinking of movement as a form of self-care, and not a punishment, is the key.
“Listening to your body means that you can begin to engage in exercise on your own terms,” says Rye.
“You can start to explore and find what feels good for you if you’re new to exercise, or if you’ve been stuck in a rut, then stop what you’ve habitually been doing for a while and try out new ways of doing things.”
Rye, who has been moving intuitively for the last few years, says that approaching exercise this way has helped her to create a healthier relationship with both exercise and her body image.
“Personally, I had weight trained with a bodybuilding-style split for years, because it’s what I believed was best to manipulate my aesthetics and weight,” she says.
“When the pressure was off and I let myself be free from worrying about those things, my workout horizons hugely expanded. There wasn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to train anymore, and I wasn’t stuck to the rigid confines of what I thought was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when thinking about results.”
Of course, intuitive exercise does require a degree of discipline and you can’t just lie on the sofa for the next few months because it feels good. You have to learn to separate a genuine need for rest with propensity to go for weeks without moving your body properly. If you’re unsure, a good rule of thumb to follow is the NHS’ recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week.
On days where you genuinely fancy some movement but know you don’t want to push yourself to injury, it could just be a case of swapping a boxing class for a gentle yoga session. But if you’re waking up and wincing with DOMS, it’s probably a good idea to intuitively give yourself the morning off and indulge in that Saturday morning lie-in instead.