Flip ‘Fitness Mindset’, 5 Ways to Love Your Body

Pilates private session, Lennox Head
Pilates Lennox Head

Written by Bridgid Pearse

September 18, 2023

Flip ‘fitness mindset’, what does that mean? Welcome to a topic I could speak about all day. I grew up with ‘fitness mindset’, it set me against my body from an early age. I grew up in the 80’s when exercise became a religion. Aerobics was everywhere and it was all about body sculpting and weight loss. Every afternoon I would race home to follow Jane Fonda on TV, pushing my body to make my abs, butt and arms sore the next day, so I knew I had done a good workout. In this way I would earn my food and be safe in the knowledge that I was on my way to getting smaller.

After leaving school and home, I was searching for new ways to be with my body. I discovered Yoga. I practiced for 2 hours most days and I loved the memorised flow of the routine, the breathing, the surrender to the practice. But I approached it in a similar way to aerobics, to reshape myself, to improve myself, to become different somehow.

My realisation – the moment it changed for me:

It wasn’t until much later that how I really felt about my body smacked me in the face. I was working in a corporate job in a city, I was on the bus on the way to work, looking at facebook on my phone and up popped a photo of myself from high school, it was from the swimming carnival, I was in my swim suit, with my back to the camera facing the pool, about to jump in. I saw my bum, I knew it was my bum, I’d know my bum anywhere.

The thing is, I was so shocked by how slim I was. At the time I felt like I needed to lose weight. I didn’t, but from my view decades later sitting on the bus, I could see that I didn’t like the shape of my body. And from the crowded bus I also knew that no matter how much I deprived myself food or pushed myself to exercise harder, I may lose weight but I would essentially have the same body shape.

This realisation hit me like a ton of bricks. In that moment I realised that I had been hating my body since I could remember. That made me feel sad, because I knew somewhere inside me that my body was a gift but I felt that I had never really even seen her before. I knew in that moment I had to flip my own ‘fitness mindset’ on it’s head to have a relaxed, accepting and happy relationship with my body.

I want to help you do the same. I want to help you get free of ideas that actually hold you back from moving your body and enjoying it. I want to help you flip ‘fitness mindset’ so you can move to nurture yourself instead

It’s exercise…why does mindset matter?

Full disclosure, I teach exercise. The reason why I became a Pilates and movement teacher was to create a place that is free of ‘fitness mindset’ and is based on what I call a ‘move to nurture’ philosophy. I teach to help my clients see their bodies clearly, sometimes for the first time. Once your eyes are open it’s possible to experience your body in new ways.

Moving to nurture yourself is so different than moving to reshape yourself. When you move to nurture yourself, first you accept yourself, your body, as she is today. Exercise and movement can then be an act of self love and self care, and it can become deeply pleasurable and fun.

Moving to reshape yourself is punishing and quickly becomes joyless, which is why so many people struggle to stick to a regular movement routine.

Yes it’s exercise, but how you approach it changes your experience completely!

The Benefits

Research now shows that regular exercise not only helps us live longer, but improves our quality of life more than any other intervention that you can do for your health. If there was a pill that improved your wellness in the same way, that exercise does, it would be the most effective medication you could buy.

Finding ways to remove barriers to movement and exercise helps more people move to nurture themselves.

This is my mission.

‘Fitness mindset’ comes with a few recognisable ideas:

  • 1. No pain, no gain
  • 2. We exercise to improve how our body looks
  • 3. Weight loss being the key motivation for why you would exercise
  • 4. Exercise and movement belongs in a gym or in a Bootcamp class or in a run club. Exercise and movement is somehow separate to the rest of your life. 

A move to nurture philosophy looks more like this:

  1. Pain and discomfort are our teachers
  2. Progress comes from practice
  3. Motivation for exercise comes from how good it makes you feel, we focus on the lifestyle benefits
  4. Exercise and movement is integrated as much as possible into your daily life.

Here is a summary of the key differences to help you flip ‘fitness mindset’ :

Flip 'fitness mindset'

5 Ways to flip ‘fitness mindset’ in your life

Integrate movement into your daily life:

You move everyday. From getting out of bed to getting dressed, getting to work, rummaging around in the fridge, hanging up the washing. See the movement you do everyday as nourishment for your body, any exercise you do is a bonus. The movement you do everyday is your foundation for strength and flexibility. Bringing awareness to your everyday movement gives your body so many more opportunities to benefit. Some of my favourite ways to be aware are:

  • Bringing my attention to where my weight is in my feet.
  • When getting down to a chair or the toilet, use a hip hinge
  • When lifting something from the floor, use a functional squat
  • Explore spinal extension when hanging out the washing

Be pleasure seeking

When ever you are exercising or moving, let pleasure guide you. Bring your attention to what feels good in your body and what doesn’t feel good. Go towards the sensations that feel good. Yes, sometimes our body needs what may feel uncomfortable, however if we are freeing you from ‘fitness mindset’ we start with movement that feels good. This helps your brain make new connections with your body that are infused with joy.

Explore your own breathing mechanics

Learn the difference between a deep breathing pattern and a shallow one. This opens up a deeper level of awareness in your body. Deep breathing allows you to regulate your nervous system and anxiety. Deep breaths give you opportunities in the day to become present, to flood your body with oxygen and strengthen your diaphragm and your pelvic floor.

Cultivate gratitude for your body as she is now

Judgement and gratitude cannot exist in the same space. If you frequently have judgemental thoughts about your body, begin a practice of reframing. If there is a body part you hate on, learn a little more about how that body part supports you to move well. I am happy to help you with this, if you have questions about different body parts and how they support your movement please drop them in the comments. Then practice finding gratitude for your body part. For example I have a long history of hating my bum and thighs, slurs like ‘thunder thighs’ are etched in my brain (accompanied by a slightly shameful nauseous feeling and a memory of a friends mum describing my body in this way when I was about 10). Now I focus on how grateful I am for my legs and bottom, how they move me forward in my life (literally!) and how lucky I am to have them. In this way I replace judgement with gratitude. Try it…..

Practice the compassionate hands meditation

Flip fitness mindset

This is one of my favourite ways to be with my body. Bring your attention to your hands, and the love you give with your hands. Doing laundry, making lunches, giving cuddles, cleaning, changing bed linen, growing flowers, you get the picture. Take a moment to feel the love present in your hands while doing these tiny acts of service everyday. Now bring your hands (and this love) on to your body, at your heart and your belly are good places. Imagine all the love you give out with your hands flowing into your own body filling you up to overflowing.

Welcome to the ‘move to nurture’ journey:

I am so excited you are interested in taking this journey, away from ‘fitness mindset’ towards moving to nurture yourself. Your relationship with your body is your primary relationship. Your body is your only real home. Welcome to a journey of coming home to your body, as she is, each day of the journey and moving to nurture her to feel stronger and more connected to you.

Every body is different. As you try these ideas out remember what worked for me may not work for you. I hope the explorations lead you to the things that do work for you. This is your journey.

Pilates Lennox Head

I am Brigid Pearse a Diploma certified Pilates instructor, Pelvic Floor Exercise Specialist, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. For more way to move to nurture your body sign up for my weekly newsletter below.

Pilates Goonellabah

Thanks for reading!

I am Brigid Pearse, comprehensively certified Pilates teacher, ex-dancer, and mid-life mum. In group classes, workshops and private sessions I help women learn to move well for life.

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  1. Mel Doriean

    Hi i attended chair pilates in Ballina last week and loved it but i am now travelling. You mentioned you had some you tube videos that would help me keep exercising while away. Could you please send me a link. Thanks


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