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Treadmills in the ARC
February 16, 2021
3 mins read

Discovering the healing power of movement

When was the last time you moved your body—not as a way to get somewhere, or to lose weight, or to do chores but because it made you feel good?

When I started going to the gym during my freshman year of university, I had a body in mind that I wanted to attain. I forced myself to go every day, with the mindset that I had to do X minutes of cardio and Y number of exercises in order to obtain Z—a slim body with abs. I thought this would bring me genuine happiness.

It didn’t. 

Fast forward a couple months: I had lost complete connection with myself, with my body, and with my own sense of worth. I felt tired, I felt weak, and I was constantly getting sick from not giving my body enough rest. 

So where exactly did I go wrong?

At the beginning. In my intention.

I had made movement my punishment for being different from the body I wanted. I'd latched on to a superficial outcome without regard to the journey.

I went into the gym with a certain level of dislike and rejection for what I saw every day in the mirror. I wanted so badly to become what I envisioned “perfection” to be—which, in my head, also resulted in appraisal. Appraisal from others that I looked good, validating the beauty I innately held.

I wanted to feel accepted, and I digested that as shrinking myself. I had succumbed to societal pressures, and I was oblivious to how detrimental it was for me to cookie-cutter another person’s body onto my own. 

I’ve overheard many conversations in the gym lockers, at family reunions, from my friends, and even now during COVID about wanting to start dieting and working out more to lose weight. But here’s the thing: if we didn’t compare ourselves with the “fitspos” we're exposed to all over social media, the mass advertisements that showcase a certain body type, the models that sport underwear and lingerie, would we still want to lose weight?

What if we started incorporating healthier habits and regular conscious movement—making time in our day to move and feel grounded in our bodies—because of how good it makes us feel? 

One night during the beginning of my second year, I fell into the abyss of YouTube’s suggested videos for me and landed on a video that elaborated on self-love. I burst into tears, realising self-love was the very thing I lacked.

I began to incorporate habits that cultivated self-love, such as saying affirmations (even when I didn't believe them at first) and expressing daily gratitude. I did things that brought me joy: journaling, reading books, and watching a whole lotta chick-flicks.

Not long after, I found myself missing the gym. I missed feeling sweat trickle down my face when it didn’t feel like an obligation, when I received the rush of endorphins and a clearing of the mind. And so I started incorporating movement in small doses, at my own pace. 

I started taking myself out on walks. I let my legs lead me, the fresh air purify me. 

I started stretching in the morning. I let my muscles ease me, my feet ground me. 

I started dancing. I let the beat flow through me, watching my hips surprise me. 

Finally, I went back to the gym. I looked at myself in the mirror and whispered, "I’m doing this for you, girl." I let each rep challenge me, feeling my heart beat...for me. I remember having the best sleep in a while that night—seeing how adequate rest strengthened me. 

I felt amazing. I felt…liberated. 

These bodies we have the pleasure to carry are worth honouring.

I’ve realised my self-love has sprouted from feeling connected and grateful with my body and my self. We spend our entire lives in our bodies—it’s the most tangible part of our identity and it allows us to intimately interact with the world and its inhabitants. However, it’s also saddening that we spend the majority of our days only using our bodies, but not honouring them, not giving them what they deserve. 

Movement, whether at the gym, outside, or just in my room, has allowed me to feel abundant in my body—abundant in resilience, in creativity, in peace. 

So I ask you again: When was the last time you moved your body because it made you feel good?

Student running on campus

There are many ways to move more—at UBC, or wherever you're studying from in the world. Throughout Move UBC month and beyond, try something new and find ways to move that make you feel good.