Having a rigid exercise plan may cause more harm than good.  Make it a positive experience to reap all its healthful benefits! 


Write it in on your calendar. Wake up before the sun comes up. Schedule fitness classes weeks in advance to hold yourself accountable.

These are all classic tips for how to make exercise fit into your day no matter what, and I’ll be the first to admit that I used to recommend them all. And while they are helpful for some, for others the exercise relationship is a little bit more complicated.

When I was in college, I went through a phase where I felt guilty if I didn’t get a heart-pounding, sweaty and exhausting workout on most days of the week. I took all of those mentioned tips seriously, and told myself that it was the only way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise was mechanical, usually boring, and simply lacking in variety.

The good news: I was at the gym a lot. The bad news: I was surrounded by a total diet and appearance-focused culture that I unfortunately participated in for a little bit too long.

Fast forward about ten years and my approach to physical activity is completely different, but I am still as consistent with getting active now as I was then.

How was this possible? I relaxed my attitude around exercise. Here are the 3 main lessons I learned along the way.

1. Focus on what you enjoy.

I found that I really actually enjoyed running and training for races. I discovered that walking did wonders for my mental health, and is accessible no matter what as long as you had shoes. Weight-lifting classes also added in variety and fun, helping me feel strong, confident and energized…especially when followed by an epic brunch with friends.

2. Skipping out doesn’t make you a failure.

If structured exercise isn’t going to happen on certain days, it shouldn’t make for a stressful situation. It just means that your body needed rest and you’ll be more excited to get moving the next day, whatever that physical activity may be.

3. Exercise shouldn’t add more stress to your life.

Exercise is highly effective for stress relief and relaxation, helps build and maintain strong muscles and bones, and keeps your heart pumping strong. It also helps you sleep better which is a pretty nice perk. If it becomes stressful, you’re counteracting its benefits.

Exercise should not be a punishment for your body because of what you ate or what you weigh.  This is an important step towards a healthier mind and body by focusing on whatever makes you feel just plain awesome.  While structure and goals are wonderful ways to keep you moving forward, relax a bit the next time you feel down on yourself about choosing to rest.

Your health will thank you for it.


Leanne Ray, MS, RDN is a Denver-based Registered Dietitian empowering women to sustain healthy lifestyles that are practical and realistic. By helping others find happiness and joy through delicious foods that don’t involve guilt or stress, she shares how healthy eating can involve satisfaction instead of boring, low-calorie diets. Visit her site to read more from Leanne.