Movement in Self-Care

I recently guest wrote for a new blog startup called Old Soul Wednesdays. The creator contacted me after a takeover I did on the Girls’ Night In Instagram about incorporating exercise in my self-care routine. Here’s my response to their open-ended prompt about movement in self-care. 

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There are so many staples that come to mind with the term, “self-care.”
Rose water, bath bombs, a glass of your most Instagrammable red. The recent self-care movement has reignited our love of showing love to ourselves, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. But one aspect of self-care that gets overlooked more often than not is the physical side- exercise.
When you dissect the current self-care space, the landscape is almost oversaturated with self-indulgence. And I don’t use the term with the kind of negative connotation it typically carries, but self-indulgence in terms of, “hell yeah, this is for me.” When we look at skin-care must-tries, candles we’re addicted to, athleisure we can barely afford but buy anyway, there’s almost a kind of self-love validation that comes with it.
Yet, these things are short-term fixes. Temporary manifestations of the appreciation we have for ourselves. And while they’re great and absolutely necessary (I love a “Treat Yoself” splurge as much as the next lady), they hold no power in achieving goals, changing our mentality, or challenging ourselves.
The recent shift to the effortless pampering type of self-care has made routines almost exclusively built around the cosmetology, spirituality, and “wine”-ology industries. If it can’t be done from under a furry blanket, with a mug in hand, or while plant-momming, we can’t help but question if it’s really self-care. This kind of exclusivity makes physically active time for yourself appear less worthy of the self-care space.
Exercise tends to have a bad rep. Challenging, sweaty, and full of expectations that feel unattainable. It requires full force, full steam, and full power for full reward. It goes against most of what social media and pop culture tell us about pressing pause and showing self-love. It requires no incense or bath shelves (pause for gasps). It’s about you, what you can do, and how it makes your body feel.
Spoiler alert: it can all be pretty great stuff.
Regular exercise has its scientific benefits. Bla bla bla. I’m not a doctor, consult WebMD if you want to know more. But something I am familiar with is how exercise plays a role in the way I take time for myself. A good workout has always been a priority for me; I was the high schooler skipping Friday night hangouts for a HIIT class and am now the college student late to lecture post-lift session.
But it wasn’t until I started learning more about the self-care revolution through my time interning with Girls’ Night In that I started to see the sacrifices I make for exercise as part of doing something for myself.
I think my love for exercise has always felt selfish. It was time I was stealing from other people and things I loved and the only person who benefited from it was me. I was stronger, happier, and achieving goals I’d always dreamed of, like becoming a spin instructor, but the way exercise imposed on plans with friends, getting work done, and more attached a feeling of guilt. I never saw it as something I needed for my overall wellness. It was just a routine, a hobby, the most enjoyable chore.
Recently I’ve set a couple of self-care goals for myself.
One, start a skin-care routine (no progress yet, here).
Two, say no to plans when you don’t have the bandwidth or the desire to make them (CHECK).
Three, treat mental health like physical health (still working on it).
Four, treat physical health as part of self-care and let it be a guilt-free way to love myself.
Allowing movement to be a part of your self-care routine opens doors to long-term changes. You have the ability to enjoy everything your body can offer you if you let it. And, by pairing physical force with positivity and optimism, you can inspire strength in yourself you never even knew existed.
Personally, I bring a yoga “let’s set an intention for our practice today” mindset to every type of movement I do. I find it helps me feel purposeful and powerful and gives me something to work towards. An easy way to do this is to replace single-focused goals, like losing weight, with more holistic ones. For example, turn “I want to run to get my bikini body,” into “I want to run to clear my mind and take on this challenge.”
It also helps us focus less on destination and more on each individual push. Every step matters, every stride takes you further, every drop of sweat makes the journey easier. Remind yourself that not every trip to the gym will be your best, but getting there is half the battle and if you showed up you’ve already won that.
When you bring a positive mentality to exercise, it contributes to a greater sense of caring for yourself and your body. It’s not just about what your body can do, it’s about what your body and mind can do together.
For me, the pros far outweigh the minutes of panting that follow a hard workout. Besides the endorphin rush, you may find yourself achieving beyond your goals. But all successes take time and hustle. And while other self-care routines are more about pampering and treating, fitness will have more self-doubt and challenge on its path.
It won’t be easy, but by seeing exercise as a self-care staple, we can make our moments of movement a little more sacred and a little more self-indulgent.
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“This is part of a series called In First Person, in which digital natives respond to an open-ended writing prompt.”
Find the original blog post here.

Stuck in my head: White Rabbit // Jefferson Airplane
Snap it: Fishtown, Philadelphia (before work… because I kept forgetting to take pictures to accompany the piece… this workout outfit has never seen the gym…)

Special thanks to Larissa from Old Soul for the feature. It was a dream and a half to work together. 

For Me & For You

Go ahead eat that cookie. No, this is not some cruel joke. 

There’s so much stigma around indulging these days. And believe me I’m not really one to eat a whole cake and be guilt free, but I am one to eat a whole cake, enjoy it, and pay for it later in the gym. Not simply to burn the calories, but to return to this place of balance in my life.

I really really hate the presentation of women in the media right now. While we’ve come a way from the blatant sexism of the 50s, the advertising and fashion industry continue to only promote promote skinny things for skinny people. Enter big problem: I would say 99.9% of women are not 100 pounds and 100 feet tall. I don’t want to look like the women on the pages of magazines, I just want to be surrounded by reality. The fact that this annoys me rather than hurts me makes me smile. Good job Buzzfeed & Refinery29, guess I’m starting to live body-blissfully.

Body positivity is feeling secure in your skin and being pro-your body type, no matter what the fashion industry or anyone else has to say about it. When I picture my dream body it’s Gigi Hadid (pre-photoshop), but I’m smart enough to know that A) that’s not a realistic goal for me to set for myself and B) even if I got there, Gigi still has days she doesn’t want to look like herself either. So, like when my parents would say when I was little and had nightmares (usually about mudslides or other natural disasters- I wasn’t very creative), “just change your dream.” Yeah it’s that easy. My dreams are more about visible triceps and painless lunges (I’ve been informed the second will never happen but I’m going to give it a shot) than tight tummies and picture perfect skin.

It’s taken a while, but at this point in my life I feel like I’ve found a happy medium between diet & fitness & improvement & satisfaction. Will I eat a cookie if I want it? Yes. Will I enjoy it? Double yes. Will go to the gym later? Probably. Would I have gone to the gym later even if that cookie didn’t exist? Definitely.

Maintaining this mentality is like an endless Soul Cycle class, but there are some cheats that still build you up, but make things just a little easier. 

Find some level of love for exercise. I see it as the foundation of a healthy life- both in mental health and (obviously) physical health. I mean, let me tell you, there is nothing more life saving than exercise endorphins to get you through that essay. Don’t live for the after workout rush, but don’t let life pass by without it. For me, I found that exercise brought me closer to my family too. Sundays became spin with mom and weight lifting achievements are bow-down worthy. Not going to lie, I still run home from school and demo all the new workouts I’ve learned since I’d last seen my parents. Getting a “go Jordan” for working out is almost as good as getting a “go Jordan” for good grades… I said almost.

Enough about my family love affair & back to finding drive- make this is one thing that you completely control. You want to run a half marathon? That’s on you. No personal trainer or slice of pizza can keep you from doing that. You have so much potential if you just get the ball rolling. Make it a contest, how fast can you do it, can you do one more. I didn’t get to 1.5 hours on the stairclimber every other day by doing nothing. Every time it was “can I add 5 more minutes.” And every time it was “you are stronger because of this.”

Mistakes happen. You can accidentally miss a math homework online because you thought it was due Friday (oops) or you could mis-write down what weekend your best friend from Israel is coming to visit you (double oops). Eating too much is not a mistake- it’s a decision. And sometimes it’s a good decision. Your birthday? Go for it. First home cooked meal at home in a month (I’m talking winner winner steak dinner)? Hell yeah. Whatever it is, prioritize. Find your weakness and make it a reward, not because you have to, but because you want to. A wise friend once told me “never say no to pizza” & I really live by that, but I’ve edited it. “Never say no to really good pizza.” Dining hall pizza? Not really good. DC pizza? Always worth it, never an ounce of guilt that comes with it.

And lastly screw all of this and just be thankful for who you are. Even if you’re a Marnie, (I’m definitely a Hannah-Shoshana mix, but maybe some day I’ll find my inner Jessa… I’m referring to Girls if I totally lost you. Look it up.) just embrace it and work it. To me, exercise was one of the keys to happiness but for you it could be totally different. There’s no one path to body positivity so maybe it’s time to find your own.

Still not convinced? It’s all good. Take your time. I’ll be there with that cookie for you when you’re ready for it. 


Stuck in my head: Clearest Blue // Chvrches
Snap it: Pete’s, Chevy Chase

Question of the day: What do Olivia and a roof have in common?