Why I exercise intuitively.

ahhh over-trained youth.

ahhh over-trained youth.


I became an intuitive eater long before I tapped into the notion of intuitive exercise.

For some reason I was able to trust my body’s “knowing” with regards to food yet was slow on the proverbial uptake with heeding its messaging about workouts.

I created a workout plan. I followed said plain. Period.

I do think some of missing the intuitive exercise message happened because of LOVE.

I met the weights.  I was smitten with the weights.  I felt strong and powerful when hoisting the weights.  I ignored my body’s cues to back off & rest from the weights. 

It took another kind of love (the groovy kind. the child kind.) for me to realize the power of intuitive exercise.

I changed.

I never looked back.

Here’s why.

  • It’s  how I already live.  Mindfully. Daily.  I start with meditationI eat.  I segue to work (my approach is still mindful).  Why would I change when it comes to exercise?  With hindsight this makes sense.  When I was deep in the throes of not deviating from my “program” no matter how fatigued it would have sounded crazy.  We know–when we’re honest with ourselves–if we wanna skip a workout because we’re feeling lazy or our bodies need the rest.  


  • Ive already done the over-training thing…and it sucked (technical term).  I didnt know much when I first started exercising.  I lifted & GREW. I lifted more more more & shrank (muscle) and held on (to body fat) and grew (exhausted, crabby, sleepless).  If Id have listened to my body back then Id never have over-trained.


  • The older I get the more rest I require.  This could just be me or it could be common—but all that matters is Im heeding my body’s signals.  Sure, Ive been tempted to get caught up in the internet hype.  Challenges! Competitions!  People exercising twice a day!! yet I force myself to stop, be silent and listen to what my body needs.  Life is my sport.  I might *look* better if I exercised longer/harder—but I wouldnt feel better & that’s what’s important to me.


  • Im a misfit.  A rebel.  Ive shed the MUSTurbation in favor of trusting myself.  Living intuitively is all about trust.  It’s creating a life routine which consists of doing/eating/whatever’ing a variety of things whenever your body seeks them.  Exercise is no different.



many days my body seeks playful, gentle fitness


None of the above means I love all exercise (although Im far more CARDIOsmitten since I discovered the Street Strider).

For me it means exercise —whether Im sluggish or super motivated–is never a punishment & always a gift to my body.

And you?

  • Have you spent time discovering what your body wants with regards to movement?
  • Do heed your body’s messages of exhaustion/pain?
  • Have you considered your WHY behind exercise lately?


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  1. says

    This is a pertinent set of questions for me right now. I’ve been trying to learn to run. Why? Because I would love to be able to but can’t (I struggle to run, even super slowly, for 60 seconds) and also because I am resisting being a quitter. But I hate doing it. It’s boring and difficult and I think maybe it is damaging my body. My shins hurt so much, during and after each session. I guess I’ve answered my own dilemma, and yet… I want to be the kind of person who pushes herself, who overcomes barriers and achieves success.

    I love dancing, which is also great exercise, and I feel like I am good at it. I feel graceful and skillful. Lifting weights (when I used to do that), even at my very puny level that gave me the lightest weights in the BodyPump room, made me feel strong and powerful. I am woman, hear me roar! Running makes me feel useless and clumsy. Arg! But the zombies are after me, I have to keep running!

    I’m not making a lot of sense, am I. This goes round and round in my head after every running session as I limp around the house with painful legs.

  2. says

    Every few months I’ll get this burst of energy and write up an actual exercise plan to follow for 4 weeks. I stay to it somewhat, but I much prefer to get up and just see how my body feels like moving that day!

  3. says

    GREAT post. Since I teach at the gym…I sometimes find myself needing a rest day when I can’t have one. Luckily, I’ve more or less figured out how to know what my body will need ahead of time and plan. I still do get that occasional cranky over done feeling. Always working, always adjusting!!

  4. Healthy Mama says

    AWESOME POST, Carla.
    Especially the aging and listening to how our bodies need rest.
    I’d missed the Street Strider post, too, and that video was hilarious.
    I think I’d master quickly because Ive skied. I’m jealous.

  5. says

    I’ve been thinking a lot about WHY and what’s next. Activity is a part of my day, but I’ve been less structured – at least long term. I may think in terms of the week, or even 2 or 3. But not long and complicated training plans. And I’ve been running more. No idea why. Just feels right at this place in my life. The closer I get to 40 the more comfortable I get with my body, giving it rest and giving it permission to push as well. It’s kind of fun. :)

  6. says

    Love this! You are SO WISE!! I think I must be the opposite of you. I never struggle with over-training… I struggle stepping away from Bravo :-) In all reality, I know myself and I’ve learned that I cannot make a plan. The second I tell myself “this is what I’m going to do for the week or for the month” I rebel immediately! I find that if I just do what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it, I end up doing what’s right for my body. I guess that’s intuitive? Most of the time I just think I’m crazy 😉

  7. Hannah says

    I could not do this because intuitively I want to not workout.

    What do you htink about that?

    • MizFit says

      I completely get this too as it is the same, in a way, as when clients would tell me I was crazy with intuitive eating. that they would INTUITIVELY EAT donuts all day.
      they did at first–but when they let go of the GOOD AND THE BAD with food (and here with exercise) and TRUSTED their bodies and intuition they craved real whole foods.

      it’s the same, I believe, with exercise too.

  8. Letitia says

    Interesting how you say you were over-trained in that first photograph.
    You look great, why do you say that?

  9. says

    I’m always learning from you! i do agree, i just need to practice it more, or unpractice conventional workouts. yes, that’s it!

  10. says

    i do love how exercise makes me feel… with that being said… i exercise how i want to. i don’t spend hours on the treadmill because even that thought sounds terrible! i do what i love!

  11. says

    I just love the feeling of working out. I’ve learned that some days it’s OK to go all out and other days don’t have to be as hard. It is really hard for me to take days off (but starting tomorrow I have to take about a week off – yuck!).

    Yesterday I was so excited to see someone in Topeka, KS on a street strider. He was zipping down the street (in the rain even) – looked like a lot of fun!!!

  12. says

    Rest and gentle exercise is good these days. Push when we can, pull back when we need to…focused on functional fitness here.

  13. says

    I used to follow my plan no matter what. And it wasn’t good. When I turned 30, I had planned to run a race and overtrained on a weak/previously injured ankle by taking lots of pain meds. I wish I could go back in time and point out to myself how crazy that was. Seems like a lifetime ago…

    I am much better at listening to my body these days, but I still have to be careful when it comes to “following the plan.” One thing is for sure however, I always look at exercise as a gift, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the day.

  14. says

    This is what I’ve had to learn–okay, STILL am learning–with respect to trusting myself to know when I’ve had enough. And when I’m just wanting to be a slacker. :)

  15. says

    As I just posted my own post about how my plan for last week’s training didn’t happen. This was very much needed.

    I am a Type-A planner, always have, and probably always will be. But I am learning how to be a bit more forgiving of myself and to go with the flow.

  16. says

    I cater to the path I’m on from season to season. Currently running and bodybuilding. Ironically, these will give way to Tai Chi in the Fall.

    Through it al, intuitive works. Regardless of my endeavor, the only routine in my routine is to act as the body speaks. BUT, you won’t hear it if you’re not listening…

  17. says

    I’ve learned over the years to start listening to my body first…then to my “plan” second. It took me some time but I finally can put my ego aside.

  18. says

    I love this thought: We know–when we’re honest with ourselves–if we wanna skip a workout because we’re feeling lazy or our bodies need the rest. Many do not make that distinction or just have not learned it yet!

    Me, I can overtrain & still grow. :) Good ole body type of mine! I do love my weights but I do listen to the bod & go easier if need be whether cardio or weights.

    Honest, it takes me anywhere from 15 – 25 minutes longer to do the same workout as 10 years ago – your age now… AND I still keep moving so I know I am slower yet still great for 55! 😉

    So funny that I have a note to myself to writ another post on why I don’t do challenges/competitions & all that. I did not too long ago but I wanted to revisit it. :)

    Great post!

  19. says

    Intuitive exercising is most definitely something I could stand to improve upon. I know I push myself to the brink all too often. I just love MOVING! I still have your post “Life is my sport” saved, because I loved it so much. That’s what I’m moving toward.

    I just recently rescued a dog, and going on our daily walks has been so good for me! It’s teaching me that exercise can be kinder on my body . . . and playful.

  20. says

    I like your point about you knowing the difference between needing a rest day for your body and being lazy. I find that when I am training for a race I beat myself up for what I call “being lazy” when my body is beat and I don’t run. As the years go by I need to be more and more mindful of what my body is saying versus what my training plan is saying if I want to be in this for the long haul!

  21. says

    I don’t exercise intuitively all the time. Most weeks I set a plan and I execute said plan. However on some weekends or when I am working from home, I get the urge to MOVE and I do it. However, with two small babies and a husband, I really need to get in where I fit in.

    Sometimes I still go when I am sore…but really its more for the escape than anything else.

  22. MizFit says

    THANK YOU. finally :-) I believe it yet it always makes me snicker like a ten year old boy….

  23. says

    I try to be more intuitive when it comes to exercising now as well. I have been down that slippery, awful slope of over-training and vowed never to let that happen again. I typically like routine, schedules. But when it comes to my workouts, I have a general idea of what I’d like to accomplish throughout the week. But I have Plan B, C, D and even E if I need it.

  24. says

    My weekly exercise plan is only a guideline. I aim for 5 days of working out a week, but give myself the flexibility to veer from those goals when I need to. I’m not training for anything except a better life; sometimes that means backing off.

    Love the term ‘intuitive exercising’!

  25. says

    I have a hard time discerning between being tired and being lazy. But I’m getting better at accepting when something is hurting and backing off the exercise, so there is hope for me yet, lol!

  26. Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family says

    I definitely listen to my body when it comes to exercise … in fact I have taken a little time off and I am LOVING it 😉

  27. says

    What a beautiful sentiment! Intuitively… listening to our body’s needs is something I rarely hear. Everything comes with a strict guidebook, recipe book and plan of action. And yes, I have found that I need more sleep as well! At 35 I care more and more about feeling good and being productive. Keep it up! You are rockin’ it.

  28. says

    I definitely have planned workouts 3-4 times a week, but the other days I try and feel what my body needs. Sometimes it needs a walk, sometimes a bike ride and sometimes it needs a nice long “do nothing” session on the back patio while I read a book! :)

  29. says

    Unfortunately, my body is a slug and would never exercise if i didn’t make it do so. Trying, still, to figure out why.

  30. says

    If I only moved when I FELT like moving, some days it wouldn’t be very much or very FAR.

    I need a plan. But I am the BOSS OF ME so I can not follow it if I want.

  31. says

    I like to have my exercise planned, but it is pretty fluid. If weather changes and I can get my bike out – I drop the weights and go do. If I feel really tired the day after lifting or riding, I will take it easy. When I was training for more events, I felt more stress about sticking to a schedule, but now that I don’t do many – it’s more relaxed.

  32. says

    I’d like to say I exercise because I want to, or because I’m setting the best example for my kids, but the reality is I exercise so my clothes fit, plain and simple

  33. says

    Great article i can definitely relate with needing more rest as i grow older. I think because of this ive made some of my best gains in the gym these last few years. Im sure a proper nutrition and supplement plan played a role in all of it but i know for a fact over training was not helping.

  34. says

    I am TOTALLY guilty of over training – OVER CARDIOING… But I cannot stop. Although as I have gotten older I have realized my body gets tired quicker. I still push through but I can tell my body wants a break every so often, sadly, my CRAZY BRAIN won’t ALLOW myself to! Maybe one day I will be less crazy, I mean, a few years ago I was FAR MORE crazy than I am now, so I see it as slow & steady progress. lol

  35. says

    With age comes wisdom! Funny, one of the posts I have coming up is all about knowing when to skip a workout. I used to be married to my schedules. I still am very consistent about them. But if I am hurting or really tired, I listen. Just last week I bagged an 8-miler b/c I was beat and had a cranky groin. This week? I am recharged and running strong. Lived and learned this one!

  36. says

    First of all, MUSTurbation…..Giggles.

    Second of all, THANK YOU!! I so needed to read this. I am in the same situation. I’ve done the challenges, the contests, the mustfollowtheplanprogramatallcosts, the overtraining….I’m getting older now though. (Wiser?) And I feel different. My brain knows more, but I still struggle with the connect between my brain knowing and my body doing (or not doing, as the case may be.)

    Last, no way could you look any better. Hot mama!

  37. says

    The “why” behind exercise. I have questioned myself on this lately. I’m just a little burnt out with so much focus on fitness goal setting. I just wanna show up, enjoy the freaking workout, push hard, and own it. The rest will take care of itself. My goals will be met in the process.

  38. says

    Wow. I NEVER thought of exercise this way before — I’ve worked hard to get to a point of intuitive eating (a two+ year project that I’m proud to say I think I’ve finally achieved for the most part), but I never thought about intuitive in terms of my workouts. Sure, I naturally gravitate towards physical activity that I LOVE and that makes me feel GOOD but do I always stop to think about whether or not I ‘need’ a workout vs. a rest? You’ve given me tons to think about, in a VERY good way. Thank you Miz!!!

  39. says

    WOW, I LOVE this approach and mindset. I too have felt like I’ve gone into the HARDER not SMARTER camp and once I learned it truly IS about SMARTER NOT harder, it became less stressful, less anxiety, and more happiness to being active and fit, not about punishment or more more more. LOVE your post!

  40. says

    I used to be a slave to the “plan”, too. What it said is what I did.
    Not sure if it’s getting older, or more mature, but I’ve just come to listen to my body naturally when it comes to exercise. Now if I could just get the eating to go the same way………
    Great post!

  41. says

    Intuitive exercise is definitely not something I’ve achieved at this point. I’ve been focused on eating, but not so much on exercising. I do try and be intuitive with exercise and I’ve cut back considerably on cardio (although more due to the fact that I’ve been injured for months…), but I still feel that MUST EXERCISE feeling most days and that pressure to stick to my plan.

  42. says

    Thoughtful post! I love the idea of exercising intuitively! That is certainly how my body is wired – I tend to wake up and see how my body feels or scrap and change the plan mid-workout. So for me, following a training plan for my first upcoming full marathon has been totally different! But the structure has also been good for me, and even within it I find myself changing things and going with the flow – as long as I get it in during the week. Makes me think about myself and how I train more; thanks for the inspiration to think about it!

  43. says

    I think I’ve slowly started to learn to listen more to my body. In the past, I’d ignore a feeling that I might be getting sick, push through it, and then get sick for weeks. I took two days last week, away from the gym, and felt better. Same with the last day or so, I’ve felt exhausted, so I’m taking it easy. Mental healthiness is a huge factor in my physical healthiness.

  44. says

    “For me it means exercise —whether Im sluggish or super motivated–is never a punishment & always a gift to my body.”

    What a great way of looking at it!!

  45. says

    I have definitely ignored my body’s attempts at telling me to slow down before. Of course, that just resulted in injuries would stopped me completely. I really try to listen more now too. Aging helps because you know you’re just not gonna bounce back as easily so you heed the warnings a little more.

  46. says

    I have finally gotten to that point! Intuitive exercising is such an amazing way to put it! Honestly, running is the only hard workout for me. Getting the motivation to do other forms or cardio or weights is easy. The drive to run and run well is STRONG! I’ve recently found myself mentally giving myself a beat down from not running well. I then turned around and told myself to shut up. If I’m out there and I’m running, the numbers (mileage and speed) don’t matter. This is a hard one for me. The biggest thing I’ve learned from running is discipline…in knowing when to push and when to take it easy. Great post as always friend!

  47. says

    This is timely for me. Lately I know darn well my body is not ‘wanting’ the exercise I am giving it. I know it’s time for a change. But my brain has a plan to finish. Crossroads for sure.

  48. says

    I’ve finally gotten to a place too where I completely listen to my body and its signals in terms of exercise. For instance, today I was completely exhausted–having just got back from vacation and then heading into work extra early (at 6:30). When I got home, I felt like I “should” workout–but all I could really think about was how amazing a nap would feel. I gave in to my exhaustion, took a 2 hour nap, and now I feel amazing. Back to my fitness routine tomorrow!

  49. says

    After dealing with injuries, I now listen to my body and rest when necessary.

    I workout because I love the way it makes me feel and how my body is changing.

  50. says

    Ah over-training…I was feeling this last week, but this long weekend trip to Houston forced me to step back, enjoy food, the company, and workout to just workout and it felt awesome. I feel so much more energized this week going into Saturdays half marathon run in Nashville. A weekend away can always put things in perspective and I like that…

  51. says

    I think I’m starting to. I’ve been feeling bad so started working out, eating better and I’m finally feeling good!

  52. says

    I feel like intuitive eating can be easier because a lot of people live by it. Intuitive exercise can be harder because when we have things like training plans (whether for a race or a competition) we feel like we HAVE to follow them no matter what. That is the hard habit to break I think.

  53. says

    ah. someone said I hear my body I just don’t always listen to it. touché. Im not where you are … yet. though I strive to be. I still don’t trust myself, my fitness or the plan which makes it a little tricky to be confident in my training … working at it though, and so far so good.

  54. says

    I need to listen to this message more. I refuse to acknowledge the fact that I need more rest as I get older because I refuse to acknowledge that I’m getting older!! But honestly, I’ve been better about listening to my body and I’m less likely to have a strict plan for the week.

  55. says

    It seed that you are having an ‘extraordinary’ way of exercise. For me, I think you are doing a great job because your determine your health and mind ahead by putting the healthy thought above all else. I wish you great luck on that!

  56. says

    I loved reading a little of your history. I never new this. There have definitely been times in my life where I have overtrained. I tried to learn from those times and not do it again. Sometimes I see the rigidity of my workout schedule creeping back up on me…This is a great reminder.

  57. says

    Great post! I know I am intuitive with my workouts. I do listen to my body when I feel I need to take a brake. What I am also intuitive about is overcoming laziness. There is a difference between knowing when to take a brake or just feeling like taking a brake. Not listening when my body says “just take tonight off”. It is usually then that I get my best workout!

  58. says

    I’ve definitely been through that phase of over-training. I used to workout for 4-6 hours a day 5-6 times a week. I enjoyed it, and I was losing weight, but I quickly stalled. It took me a LONG time to figure out how to get past that stall. It was clear that what I was doing wasn’t efficient or effective. Now I’ve got a new plan. I exercise less and I eat more – sounds strange, but I’m doing the right exercises that challenge my body, and I’m eating in a way that prepares my body for those challenges. Finally! Found a combination that works for me! :)

  59. says

    We have started to lose that ability to listen to our bodies and what they need. Look at our pets such as dogs. They don’t have to think “I need to go for a walk or a run”, they just do it and they love it! Because we have learnt to get so caught up in our minds, we have lost touch with that intuition that tells us what we need to do to remain healthy. Thanks for posting this article and reminding us.

  60. cheryl says

    Why? Fun. Flexibility. Energy for the 9 hours I spend with preschool kids daily. To stand on the podium. (least important) and to finish my next half Ironman in what I consider a respectable time.

    And to not really tell anyone about it during or after….’cause it’s just for me and I think sharing goals in this area is way overrated.

  61. says

    OMG I LOVED this post!

    “I might *look* better if I exercised longer/harder—but I wouldnt feel better & that’s what’s important to me.”

    That is my entire philosophy. How you feel is more important than how you look – and that includes how you feel about yourself. I remember those twice-a-day workouts – SO not worth it.

    What I’m having trouble with right now is heeding my body’s messages of exhaustion and pain. Since the onset of my fibromyalgia, I just can’t tell when to rest and when to push. I’ve been vacillating between two extremes – either doing very little or doing too much. I guess I’ll find the balance in time…intuitively. 😉

  62. says

    I agree, eating and exercising intuitively is more enjoyable and just makes sense. I broke my ankle quite badly when I was young and ever since it has had a habit of causing problems, especially by putting my hips and back out of place. I really have to listen to my body and do plenty of yoga to keep everything happy, but the results are worth it.

  63. says

    I LOVE this post!! There is so much out there about intuitive eating, but it seems that so many of us don’t apply this thought process when it comes to exercise. We get stubborn, we feel like we have something to prove, and we want to get our “A” on our plan and do everything by the book. So many of us end up injured because we insist on ignoring that voice telling us what our bodies need. You have this way of articulating so perfectly what all of us need to hear! Thank you for that!

  64. says

    Great post! I always try to pay attention to my body as much as possible. Especially when it comes to exhaustion, that is one time where I will try not to push myself because sleep is essential for a healthy functioning brain! Being mentally active is more important than being physically active in where I am in my life right now and although I’m a healthy weight, I”m not as fit as I should be but I’ve been trying my best to get back on my workout grind, it is hard to stay on top of everything with college finals, I feel like thats just when life hits the fan, lol!

  65. says

    I’m hoping to ‘get there’ when it comes to exercising (and eating) intuitively. I’m saying that I’m starting to live ‘intuitively’, making life decisions that feel right in my ‘gut’ no matter what my head might say.

    Like you I’ve done the over-exercising thing and sadly my anorexic years have tainted my feelings towards exercise forever. But… hopefully I learn to live with them better!

  66. says

    I’m an intuitive exerciser too. I believe in “first do no harm.” I see people at the gym push too hard and before long I don’t see them at all. I’m assuming they either burn out, or hurt themselves. Slow and steady wins the race. Like you, I recognize I might look more fit if I pushed a bit harder, but I am super healthy (knocking wood as I type) and that’s my number one priority.

  67. says

    I agree with most statements made here. The ability to understand Why I exercise intuitively. in this market will show your strength in the future. MizFit, What motivated you to call this blog “Why I exercise intuitively.”, not that the title does not go with the content, I am just wondering. Very valuable information MizFit.


  1. […] I could not love this post about Intuitive Exercise any more.  Heck, I could have written this post if a) I weren’t sleep-deprived and b) I were clever enough to recognize that this is what I have started doing.  In the reasons Carla provides for her shift away from “programs” and over-training, she says: […]