I’ve thought many times as I’ve been writing this book, “What’s the point?”
I mean why am I talking about finding a new way to exercise when the world is literally on fire.
Why not spend more of my time resisting against government and corporations who continue to choose profits over my son’s future?
It’s a really good question. And the answer I’ve come up with so far is this;
Reverence for Mother Earth is mirrored in the reverence we show for ourselves. The stark separation of mind and body/soul that we see and feel within the toxic spaces of wellness and fitness culture (and of course in other arenas as well) is the same separation that allows us to remain untethered from our living, breathing oceans and forests and all the beautiful creatures we share this planet with.
When we as a culture are void of ritual and experience only a fraction of the sacredness and presence found through being in motion, we inevitably find ourselves seeking external motivation for ways to simply check “workout” off of our to do list. And then we move on just as unconsciously to the next item.
I believe God is in exercise, just not in the way most of us practice it right now.
And frankly I believe that it deserves more from us. That when we practice exercise in an increasingly intentional and embodied way and we use it as ceremony to honour nature or to match the music we listen to, to the music within, we heal.
For our ancestors, movement was so much more than just a healthy habit. Yes, it was about survival but it was also about celebration and prayer, joy and grief, balance, medicine and creativity.
The reason I choose to use the word movement so often in place of the words exercise, fitness and work out is because these concepts by been co-opted to such a degree by capitalist industry that many of us feel we aren’t able to engage with them unless we’re wearing the right shoes, belong to the right yoga studio or have a fitness tracker strapped to our wrist.
I want us to take movement back from those who use it to profit through shame, relentlessly insisting on selling to us what we have forgotten is available for free.
The healing I’ve done personally in relation to my body and exercise and the resulting liberation I’ve found in stepping away from mainstream wellness and fitness culture has changed my life. I’ve been able to create movement and rest practices on my own terms, ones that match my personal rhythms and needs and aim to meet no one's standards of health and beauty but my own.
It has revolutionized the way I engage with the world.
When I was constantly monitoring my food intake and experiencing exhaustive, obsessive thoughts about exercise, I was in no position to rise up. I couldn’t rise to parent my young son, I couldn’t rise to truly and deeply connect with my loved ones and I most certainly could not rise up against those in power who threaten the health, wellbeing and continued existence of our species.
I write this from a beautiful rented studio overlooking the expanse of what is for me, my life blood, the Salish Sea near my home. It’s not lost on me that I am extremely privileged to be able to gift this getaway to myself. My son is being taken care of by his wonderful father. I have a career that allows me to book these days off. I have the means to pay for this accommodation. I have a loving and supportive partner and good friends who are cheering on my writing endeavours. I have healthcare. I’ve had access to therapy. These things matter and not everyone has them.
Despite how luxurious this sounds, I spent most of my first afternoon here looking out at the ocean in tears. Grieving for the salmon population that has declined so drastically compared to the years I joyfully spent fishing from my row boat as a kid, for the orcas that are struggling to survive as a result of that decline. For the pressure our entire eco-system is under as a result of human behaviour and government approved cognitive dissonance. I shed those tears in the form of apology. Sorry for not waking up sooner. Sorry for spending so much time tangled up in the crash and burn, bigger, faster, more mentality that was my coming of age.
I have awareness now of my own privilege as a thin, white, cis gendered, able bodied female who is no longer pre-occupied with changing her body. This is not just me spouting the language of the day, this is actual power in my hands. Power that can be used for good; to be an ally to those who are marginalized, to be a warrior for this impossibly beautiful planet and those who inhabit it.
So I wonder and I hope. By writing about my leap to freedom from these fucked up shackles of patriarchy’s ideal female and the oppressive, capitalist structures within the diet and fitness industry, might I just liberate a few others so they are able too, to see what really matters in this moment in history. Perhaps they’ll feel well enough to come and fight alongside me.
So that’s my answer in this moment. I realize it might be deluded but I’m following my soul’s calling and crossing my fingers it’s the right path. I’m not writing to get famous or rich. I’m writing to share the peace I’ve found and to soothe my own aching heart.
Lori Race is a healer, health clinic owner and writer with a passionate message to share from her past as a fitness instructor suffering from compulsive exercise disorder.