How to Enjoy Exercise: A Guide For Womxn

girl on an exercise horse smiling

Written by Kelley Griffiths

Mindfulness-based health coach, in love with Yoga Nidra, movement, currently studying contemplative psychotherapy, currently living in Berlin, Germany.

May 13, 2021

How many people do you know who know how to enjoy exercise, how to have a natural, joyful relationship with it? The kind of people who openly welcome all kinds of movement — the people who sit on the ground instead of the couch, jump up and effortlessly move their bodies to play, or to physically explain something. The kind of people who don’t even understand how cringeworthy ‘Dance like noone is watching’ is, because it wouldn’t occur to them to move any other way. Probably not many, right? 


And we don’t apply that reality when we think about our relationship to exercise. So, why aren’t we those liberated movers, shakers, and wigglers? To understand this, we need to go through the [method]. This starts with building awareness of the macro sociocultural forces at play in our lives, before we move into the rest of the method that brings us to the same place those liberated movers exist in.

two women stretching in a bedroom

Why we don’t naturally enjoy exercise:

We live in a society that makes ‘comfort’ the goal. 

The couch, the escalator, the delivery service. Those liberated movers – they were the exception that somehow defied the system with little to no examples of how to do this. Great for them, but they’re also a total anomaly, so let’s not beat ourselves up that we didn’t come out of the womb this way.


We live in a society that makes ‘comfort’ the goal but also forced us to do the school cross country

And now it tells us that we need to ‘no pain, no gain’ our way to ‘strong is the new sexy.’ Are you confused? Good, it IS confusing and the direct conflict IS real. How are we meant to enjoy exercise when we’re totally conditioned to see it as an arduous task?

We live in a society that tells us we need to look good.

 And it’s genuinely really important. It’s our social capital — it dictates how included we are, it carves out the romantic partners we have access to who are at our ‘level of looks.’ So, we start to use exercise as a tool to help us out here. And we build up a lifetime of problematic narratives that link how little or how much we exercise with how we feel about ourselves. Because, of course! Society shows us that exercise can modify our body and a modified, ‘upgraded’ body can help us be loved and belong.

These days, we also live in a society that tells us we should accept our bodies exactly as they are.

That the desire to change your body is somehow wrong, or anti-feminist, or anti-body positivity. And so, the paradox continues.

And we live in a society that tells us we need to feel good.

That we should be exercising for the mental health benefits. When our alarm goes off at 7am to get to the gym, society’s expectation, after all the conditioning above, is that mental health benefits are the catalyst that makes us leap out of our warm, cosy bed. 

It’s not just that we’ve never been taught how to enjoy exercise. We’ve actually been conditioned to not have a great relationship with exercise. And we’ve been confused, contradicted, and totally conflicted with that conditioning. 


woman stretching her back sat on a bed

So what do we do now? There’s basically two real options:

Tell ourselves it’s our fault…that we’re lazy and not good enough and then either fall into a state of paralysis and do nothing OR force ourselves into a gruelling exercise routine to try and change ourselves.

Create a new story… and take action on it.

Just kidding! That first option is in no way a viable option – that’s the story of our past, not where we’re heading. 

How to enjoy exercise is, in essence, a ‘learning and unlearning’ process. And, as anyone who is alive in 2020 knows, that becomes overwhelming. Fortunately, there is a tried and true method of retraining our brain, our behaviour, and our actions to help us learn how to enjoy exercise. (And it’s an incredibly liberating process too).

That is: 

  • BUILD awareness of the narratives above;
  • DECONSTRUCT what we’ve been taught and REIMAGINE what we want; 
  • DECIDE to say no to the bullsh*t society has served us – it’s not our story;
  • BELIEVE that we have everything we need within us, and; 
  • STEP INTO our power by creating a new story and taking action on it.


woman dancing in her kitchen

Let’s make sense of this some more:

BUILD awareness of these narratives

Reread the start of this article and then think about your own experience. Talk about it with your friends. Ask them for their stories. Get angry. Get frustrated. Repeat. 

DECONSTRUCT what you’ve been taught and REIMAGINE what you want

It’s important to recognise that when we deconstruct and move away from these narratives and start to unlearn them that we don’t suppress them. Nothing ever got less confusing by ignoring it. 

As womxn, the way we oscillate between all of these social forces is unique to each of us and to different periods of our lives. Even different days. We might feel so empowered and naturally inclined to exercise on Tuesday…and then have a totally low day on Wednesday. This happens. 

Or, for anyone who has been locked in their house during a pandemic (i.e. everyone) — this happens very, very regularly. Reimagining what you want from exercise means knowing what a great relationship with exercise could look like.

So, what does enjoying a great relationship with exercise look like?

There isn’t a one size fits all model for this but these are some key indicators of how to enjoy exercise. It’s also important to note that everyone feels closer to some of these feelings than others. You might be a lot closer to feeling like you *want* do exercise but still feel quite disconnected from the idea that it could be a natural impulse. 

As you read, try and notice what seems like a totally foreign feeling to you versus something you think you’ve already started the process towards.This is all part of creating that new story where movement empowers you to enjoy your life and your experiences through your body and with your body.   


When you think about your relationship with exercise:

Enjoying exercise feels natural, instinctive and primal 

  • You think of exercise simply as part of your instinctive need to move. 
  • You schedule in fitness and movement as naturally as you schedule in going to work.
  • You know instinctively what your body needs.
  • You listen to your body’s wisdom and act accordingly.

Enjoying exercise feels like a way to access your power as a person

  • You explore personal powers through movement and exercise, calling on discipline, determination, perseverance, resilience, and strength. This is found in everything — from doing the physical movements themselves, to showing up to do them.
  • You deeply understand the relationship between these personal powers and how they manifest through your body as *presence* as you move through the world. 
  • You know how to enhance and embrace your sexual power through exercise.
  • You challenge your ego by doing things you’re not very good at. 
  • You embrace, harness and unleash these personal powers as your Goddess powers without shame, self-consciousness or embarrassment. (Like Beyoncé)

Enjoying exercise feels like a ‘want to’, rather than a ‘have to’

  • You move free of the feeling of ‘I must do this to lose weight’, or ‘I should stop being so lazy.’
  • When you move, it comes from an internal desire, rather than an external obligation.

Enjoying exercise feels like a deep and loving relationship with yourself, free from shame 

  • You enjoy the feeling of working out and getting sweaty.
  • When you puff up and go red — you feel sexy in that place.
  • You don’t feel the need to hide the wobble anymore.
  • You deepen your understanding of your menstrual cycle and embrace exercise that nurtures it.
  • You know how to use your mind-body relationship to understand its signals and respond more wisely. Knowing where and why you have tension, how to move to release it, how to prevent it.
  • You can feel when you need to rest, to relax, to push, to challenge yourself. That balance point is something you cherish to prevent burnout or stagnation.
  • You appreciate and lean into the discomfort or challenge of exercise as something that helps your body as well as your mental and emotional wellbeing as we navigate a life that provides moments of discomfort.

Enjoying exercise feels playful and fun 

  • The foundation of how to enjoy exercise, is of course — joy!
  • You feel like moving for pleasure, rather than punishment.
  • You’re willing to try new things with your body because the idea of being a beginner again, and accessing that childlike state, is something that brings you great joy.
  • You relish movement as a chance to laugh at yourself, to giggle, to explore new things. 
  • You use exercise as a way to create new access points for creativity, rather than being locked into the same patterns and habits.
  • You can access the deep primal joy that comes from free flow movement, like rolling on the grass in nature.
  • You know how to explore thrill and excitement in a way that’s right for you, whether it’s a dancehall class or cruising down a halfpipe on a skateboard. 
  • You embrace your inner toddler by re-exploring basic movements like scrambling up a wall at a climbing gym.

Enjoying exercise feels like something to be proud of

  • You make progress and know how to motivate yourself in ways that aren’t damaging to your sense of worth. 
  • You can talk about your progress with movement without self-consciousness, understanding the balance between pride and humility.

Enjoying exercise feels like a way to connect with people and the world

  • You see exercise as a way to find your community where you can feel accepted and safe to progress in your own way.
  • You feel like you can ask this community for support, particularly on those low days, and you know it will be given.
  • You learn more about yourself for self-development – how you relate in groups and in competition. 
  • You have courage engaging with people, even when you are trying something you may not be good at. 
  • You can roll with wherever the world is heading by making the current global situation an opportunity – by joining team sports in the evening as a way of balancing your remote office job, or carving out space for yourself at home and cherishing that alone time
girl dancing and moving in her bedroom

This. This is how movement should feel – instinctive, playful, loving, connected, powerful.This is how you enjoy exercise.But, be honest with yourself. How many of these felt a bit impossible, a bit too deep, even?  If you felt any of those things, that’s completely normal. 10 years ago, I would have read this and laughed out loud. 10 years ago, the idea of being in touch with my menstrual cycle was eyeroll-worthy. 


But also, 10 years ago, the idea that I could enjoy exercise, that I could get to a place where I moved instinctively *just* for the pleasure and the challenge was inconceivable. The concept of being totally ok with my body wobbling and jiggling in front of others made me tense, anxious, and sick.

And now? 

I’ve gone through the process in my own individual way. I got angry at the narratives I was fed. I started to deconstruct them, research alternatives, and experiment with them. Then, I decided enough was enough — I decided to create my own story. I began the process of making myself believe that I was capable (and this really was quite the process!) and now, every day, I step into my power and I move to fully, wholly, and completely, experience my own life through my body.


Exercise makes us feel wonderful — it helps us live the rest of our lives. We have better relationships, eat better, have more energy, and are more focussed at work. But that natural impulse to move is missing for so many of us. Or at least it’s missing at the moment. We reclaim it by working through the process.

We’ve started 1 and 2 in this guide on how to enjoy exercise:

  • BUILD awareness of these narratives;
  • DECONSTRUCT what we’ve been taught and REIMAGINE what we want; 

Now it’s time to:

  • DECIDE to say no to the bullsh*t society has served us – it’s not our story;
  • BELIEVE that we have everything we need within us, and; 
  • STEP INTO our power by creating a new story and taking action on it.

All of these steps are what I call the Body Bliss Revolution. This Revolution is about us, as womxn, reclaiming what we want our lives to look like and actually doing the work to get ourselves there. No one else is going to hand it to us. This is what I do in my coaching. Not sure what coaching is, I explain it all in here.

We do this work for ourselves, but we also do it for each other. You inspire me; I inspire you; we inspire other womxn, especially those younger than ourselves.

We revolt against what society has fed to us. We rewrite our story. We learn how to enjoy exercise. We lift others up to do the same. We work through the discomfort, the frustration — at times, the anger. And we show up with compassion and support for ourselves and one another. Because that’s what womxn do.

Get started on the journey to creating your unique relationship with exercise

Photo credits DTS_Morning_Rituals_Foster_&_Asher, unspash and

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