This episode is the first of a three-part series on “The Movement Capsule”.

Whether you call it movement, exercise, working out, that’s what we’re diving into. The how, what, why, and when.

In this episode, I’m going to talk about how to decide which type of exercise is right for you, depending on the season and your schedule.

I’ll give you examples of what my exercise routine looks like these days – so I can walk you through the decision process, how I’ve decided, what to include and what not to include.

Let’s make it happen.

Here’s a glance at this episode

  • [02:43] Understand the words & mindset we have around “exercise” and the joy of movement.
  • [06:05] How I figured out what worked for me in this season of my life – including what I enjoy for cardio, strength and mobility.
  • [08:07] Learn how to feel good effect your movement routine by asking, ‘how do you want to feel?’. Plus a hack to use the Peloton app without the Peloton bike.
  • [11:51] Expand how you see movement; as a way to connect with family or friends and do activities you love.
  • [14:53] How to be really intentional about the forms of movement you choose and things to consider before adding something in.
  • [16:33] Thinking about how to close the gap between how you feel and how you want to feel when it comes to movement.
  • [19:45] Questions to ask yourself and use as a filter for creating your movement routine.
  • Exploring types of movement in these categories:
    • [20:28] cardio
    • [21:57] mobility and flexibility
    • [23:49] strength
  • [25:33] Taking action without the all-or-nothing mentality.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

The Feel Good Effect, by Robyn Conley Downs

More Episodes on Movement

The Joy Equation: How to Use Exercise for More Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage with Kelly McGonigal, PhD

How to Cultivate Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff, PhD

How to Use the Peloton App without a Peloton Bike

light blue background with blue text that reads the movement capsule how to choose the right exercise for you

read the transcript

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:01)

You’re listening to The Feel Good Effect. This is the movement capsule. And by the end of this episode, you will know how to decide which type of exercise is right for you. Let’s make it happen.

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:15)

Radically simple and ridiculously doable. The feel-good effect will help you redefine wellness on your terms. Hi, I’m your host, Robyn Conley Downs. And I believe that wellness isn’t about achieving another set of impossible standards, but instead finding what works for you, drawing from cutting-edge science on mindfulness habit and behavior change. This podcast offers a collection of small mindset shifts that allow for more calm, clarity, and joy in everyday life and allows you to embrace the idea that gentle is the new perfect. I invite you to listen in, as we cut through the clutter and find the small shifts that create huge changes in your life. Less striving, more ease. It’s time to feel good.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:04)

Well, Hey, feel good, fam. I am so glad you’re here. This is the movement capsule. So whether you call it movement or exercise or working out, we are going to talk about that. How, what, why and when, how to measure success so that you can use movement in your life to feel good every day. In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to decide which type of exercise is right for you. Um, and how to know what’s right for you, depending on the season and your schedule and all of those things. I will be sharing the what of my exercise routine. So what I do, and then in the next two episodes, we’ll talk about the when and the how and the tracking and the measuring success and all those good things. Quick thank you to those of you who just take a few minutes of time to leave a positive review, whether it’s on apple podcasts, or even on

Robyn Conley Downs: (02:00)

If you make a recipe, if you’ve read the book, your reviews, help other people find this information, it’s one of the most powerful, small shifts you can make to help this information get out there. Like I said, I don’t make money from our views, but it helps me know what you like, what’s resonating so I can make more free content for you. And frankly, sometimes it just is a little drop in the positivity bucket of the internet and can make such a difference and it can make up for some of those nasty trolls that like to hang out on the internet. So thank you to those of you who have taken that small amount of time to spread some positivity. I really do appreciate you. So, first of all, let’s just get this out of the way. Are we calling it movement?

Robyn Conley Downs: (02:43)

Are we calling it exercise? Are we calling it working out? I would definitely recommend it. If you’re interested in this topic to go back and listen to this incredible conversation we had with Dr. Kelly McGonigal who wrote The Joy of Movement, and I’ll probably reference her work. It’s very been foundational for me and the thinking about exercise and movement. And she does distinguish between exercise and movement. I’m going to say that I, while I fully agree with her, I just don’t. I use those interchangeably. And as we kind of talk about what exercise is right for you, what movement is right for you and what I do, I’d actually like you to think about that word first. Now words matter, right? How we talk about things matters. And for some of you exercise, the word exercise is actually triggering. Whether it brings up good feelings, or if it’s triggering, it’s most likely bringing up a bad experience or a bad connotation, right?

Robyn Conley Downs: (03:44)

So if exercise for you has meant that you were bad at it, that you were excluded for it, that you felt like you didn’t fit in because of it that you didn’t have the opportunity to do it. Or maybe for you, exercise has been a form of, um, making up for, you know, what you’ve eaten and using it in that way. Maybe it’s over-exercising or elite exercise that led to burnout. And that’s not everyone’s experience, but I hear from so many of you that exercise, that word is a barrier. And if that’s the case for you, I really encourage you to rebrand it and call it movement. And that’s what I do when I talk about it. The same thing with working out that might have a specific, it might bring something up for you that you think to workout needs to look like.

Robyn Conley Downs: (04:33)

Something needs to feel like, something you needed to be sweating. You need to be wearing workout clothes. And I have just seen in this work over the years, coaching thousands of people writing the book, hearing from you daily, through the various platforms of real food, whole life, that the word can be the barrier. And so let’s reframe it and call it something else. So in this episode and this capsule, I’m calling it movement. And if that helps you to think about it more broadly, I encourage you to do the same thing. Okay. So I’m going to share my current movement routine. And I want to give you a couple of caveats, which is, this is not necessarily what you should do. What I’m doing is giving the examples. So I can walk you through the decision process, how I’ve decided, what to include and what not to include.

Robyn Conley Downs: (05:17)

Um, so you can do the same thing. So obviously comparison is not going to give us, get us anywhere. Gratitude is where it’s at. And so really using your own life experience. And what’s going to work for you to define your own movement. Routine is going to be so valuable here. The other caveat is that my routine changes and that’s something that I will mention throughout this capsule is that I rarely see and work with people who are able to set it and forget it when it comes to an exercise or movement routine. Um, maybe if you’re at a particular phase of life where you have very full control of your schedule and you don’t have to take care of anyone else, and you have no major life disruptions, and that can work. I do find that when people get too tied to, it has to be this way every single day, forever, that leads to all or nothing.

Robyn Conley Downs: (06:05)

And then it leads to nothing. So I changed my routine pretty frequently, depending on what’s going on, I’ve done a couple episodes on transition week. So what I do when something new happens. So like when I went back to school in person, I took a week actually to, to rethink my entire schedule, including how I was working out. And I’ve been able to refine that by trial and error after, you know, I thought, okay, here’s the things I’m going to do. Here’s the things I’m going to try. And then that worked or it didn’t work. And then likely when things change the next big change in our family, who knows what that will be. Uh, I will make adjustments from there as well. So next week’s capsule. I’m going to talk about when and how often today I’m talking about what, so what type of exercise I have done it all truly from back back decades, I can tell you I’ve done like in-person fitness, aerobics, step Jazzercise, Zumba, in-person spin classes, yoga, Pilates, what am I missing?

Robyn Conley Downs: (07:09)

Like mixed like boxing. I’ve run a couple half marathons. What I probably missed. I like done huge major hikes, um, out outdoor cycling, not so much a fan of that. And obviously I, like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge Walker. And so I would say I’ve tried all of the things and that has given me a really good kind of basis to choose from. And I think the biggest difference for me in how I approach choosing what exercise to do or what movement to do is that experience of trying different things. But what’s changed for me is my ability to listen to my body and ask, what do I need right now? That’s that self compassion, passion question. If you listened to our episode with Dr. Kristin Neff, or if you’ve read my book self-compassion is huge. When it comes to behavior, change habits, healthy habits, long-term sustainable change, and being able to tune into yourself and say, how do I feel?

Robyn Conley Downs: (08:07)

How do I want to feel? And what’s the kindest choice right now has been a complete game changer for me. When I think about my, what I’m doing for exercise. So right now I’m doing a spin class at home. I like a spin bike two to three times a week. And like I said, we’re going to talk about how often next week, but the spin classes are done on a regular spin bike using the Peloton app. And I have a very popular post on, which we will link to that gives my entire setup. If that’s something that’s interesting to you. So I’ve been doing that actually now for at least two years, it might be a little bit more. Um, I started that before March, 2020, and it was the best thing to have in the house in the last year and a half, but it’s a simple and magnetic resistance spin bike that I had changed out the pedals.

Robyn Conley Downs: (09:06)

So I have clip in cycling shoes that I use, and then a cadence sensor, which is tracking how quickly the pedals are going around. And that cadence sensor connects to my iPad, which I ran it just the regular Peloton app through. So, like I said, if that’s something that’s interested interesting to you, I have literally taken every question you could possibly have on it and written a whole long blog post for you. If you want to check that out, I know many of you have actually done that through my, through that post. And it’s been game changing for you. Um, it’s significantly less expensive than the Peloton. I know many people that love the Peloton and maybe I’ll switch over to the real thing at some point, all that to say for me, that spin is really, really connected to feeling good in my life.

Robyn Conley Downs: (09:56)

And so come back to that. So I do that a couple of times a week and then the other, and then three days a week, I do a more strength-focused Pilates or Barre class online. Um, right now I’m still doing all my, uh, movement on, on like online platforms. Haven’t been going into the studio for a variety of reasons, but it’s affordable. It’s really conducive to my schedule. And for me barre and Pilates, again, highly connected to how I want to feel. And also that strength component is really important to me. I think, especially as I’m aging, I just noticed a huge difference in all kinds of things. And when I don’t have strength added in, and I will say that at the beginning of the pandemic, I was doing like two pandemic walks a day, maybe three, I was walking like 60 miles a week or sometimes 70, because it was like the only way to get out of the house.

Robyn Conley Downs: (10:58)

And it was really a hundred percent necessary for my mental health. And because I was walking so much, I wasn’t doing some of these other, other forms of movement. And I just started noticing huge impacts on my overall strength on how my clothes are fitting injury, overuse injuries in my lower back and hips and my feet. Obviously, if you’re doing that many miles, you’re going to have an issue, lack of mobility, lack of flexibility. I’d lost a lot of those things because I was sort of all in on one thing and I’m not kind of balancing it with these other things. And also that lack of a strength focus was a big loss for me. So it’s something that I personally really think is necessary. And I’ll talk a little bit here in a second about why I choose strength via barre or Pilates rather than, you know, some of the other kinds of strength programs.

Robyn Conley Downs: (11:51)

Okay. So we’ve got spin, which is a very, um, more of a cardio focused form of movement. And then we’ve got barre and Pilates, which is more mobility, balance, flexibility, and strength. And I kind of, I alternate those. And then on the weekends, I like to just have it be open. We do a lot of movement as a family. And so that’s another thing I want you to consider. We’re going to get to those questions in a minute about how to decide what’s right for you. But I know for me having movement, that’s also family time is incredibly important. So we usually do, um, like a five to seven mile hike, adventure hike, or walk some form of that. If we’re out at the Oregon coast, visiting my parents, uh, we’ll definitely do a very long beach walk and or a hike. And so usually, like I said, weekends are for hiking really long luxuriously, slow walks, and really more about enjoying, just enjoying the, the movement and being outside and connecting with nature and connecting with my family or connecting with friends.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:06)

And depending on the weekend, if otherwise we’re pretty sedentary and sitting around the house, I’ll probably throw in a spin class and, or a place class and, or an online yoga class. So I really miss yoga. Some of you have listened a long time, know that I was a certified yoga teacher. I was teaching in-person classes. Um, I gave up my in-person classes when I wrote my book and I was going to go back and then the shutdown happened. So that didn’t happen. And I have found that I’m really missing those in-person classes. I really struggle doing yoga online. Unfortunately, I wish that it worked for me and it doesn’t. And so that’s something I had to learn by trying. And so I will try to maybe do like one yoga class on the weekend just to kind of keep myself in that, in that form so that I could go back to one day.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:56)

Now, I also do a 30-minute walk every day. That is for a couple of reasons, which I mentioned, but I, I usually take Obie our almost two-year-old mini schnauzer with me. He’s the worst walking partner ever. He hates getting his harness on. He hates getting out of his crate. He wants to sleep in with his, he has like little dog stuffed animal chew toys. And he will like barricade himself in his crate with his stuffies and refuse to come out because he doesn’t want to go get his harness on. And he hates the rain. So he’s not a great walking partner, but I do take him with me and it’s a good way for him to get out. And that’s a really good way to start my day. So that’s my routine, 30 minutes a day of walking pretty much non-negotiable and then a variety of spin and pilates or barre, and then hiking and throwing in some yoga.

Robyn Conley Downs: (14:53)

And what I want you to know is just how intentional those decisions have been. So I want to walk you through a little bit about deciding about that mix of cardio and strength and mobility and flexibility and fun and, and how, uh, that is going to that’s working best for my body right now and why you should never compare yourself to somebody else’s routine, but you could use these principles of how to decide to create your own. Some of you know, that I have, um, really severe endometriosis. I had surgery for it, uh, almost two years ago, and endo one of the few out of a chronic illness or injury, you know, that, um, it can cause incredible fatigue. So for me, I have to balance my exertion against potential fatigue. And so for me, I’ve also had issues with adrenal fatigue, which is one of the recommendations.

Robyn Conley Downs: (15:50)

If you have adrenal fatigue is to take it down a notch on exercise. And so I have to be cognizant of that of not like spiking everything really early in the morning. And I work full-time and a mama, and I do all the other things. So it’s like these things have to fit into my lifestyle. And most importantly, they have to connect with how I feel. So when you’re asking questions, I’m going to walk you through those different forms of movement that I’ve chosen. And I’m going to talk to you about how they connect to how I want to feel, and then also how I made the decision. So you can make that for yourself. So I’m always going to start with the feel-good effect question. I always encourage you to grab the book, The Feel Good Effect those of you who have listened all this time and never gotten the book.

Robyn Conley Downs: (16:33)

I think you’ll find that it just helps lock in these ideas and gives you all these suggestions and such a great gut go-to guide to have all the time to the feel-good vision is in the book. And when we’re thinking about exercise, we want to think about how do I feel and how do I want to feel and how does this movement close the gap? And that’s the first thing I want you to ask is if you’re thinking about like, should I run, should I train for a marathon? Or should I start cycling? Or should I, you know, what’s another popular, like go to Zumba CrossFit. How do I feel? How do I want to feel? And does this move, this, this action behavior habit close the gap. And this is where you create your own routine because for you, you may be feeling really isolated.

Robyn Conley Downs: (17:14)

And so doing online workouts is not going to help you connect to how you want to feel, because you really need to be doing more of those, you know, in-person kind of movement activities, or you know, that you need the accountability. Maybe you are a Gretchen Rubin obliger, and you know, you need some external accountability. In which case, going to an in-person class is going to make a huge difference for you. And it’s going to connect to how you feel and how you want to feel, or maybe doing something like Peloton, where there is a class and there’s other people in the class that you have told you are going to show up is really important. So I want you to take those factors into consideration. It’s not just about what you should do it should, this movement should be good. It should contribute to how you want to feel.

Robyn Conley Downs: (18:06)

It should be an overall benefit to your life, not something on your to-do list. So once you’ve thought about how do I feel and how do I want to feel like what of these movement types are going to help close that gap? So thinking about number one, do I feel good? Moving in by myself? So doing an online class, is that something I know that I can do? Or do I need some kind of external accountability, whether that’s going to a class or like I said, doing an online class that has some immediate accountability to it, does the movement I choose. Um, it’s an important to me to do it with a friend or with, have it be part of our family time, or is this a way that I can spend time for myself by myself, away from people? So for me, uh, so maybe, you know, I’m like a pretty committed introvert and I need that time by myself.

Robyn Conley Downs: (19:01)

So doing an online workout and doing the Peloton online is so life-giving because I want to be by myself. And I appreciate that alone time. I don’t need to be around other people. Some of you are the absolute opposite. And so if you can’t, if you’re just deciding what to do as a workout, without considering those factors, trust me, it’s not to be fun. It’s not going to be enjoyable. It’s not going to fill your cup. It’s just going to be on your to-do list. So really think about that. What do I need out of this? Is it connection? Is it being by myself, feels restorative. I balanced that out as well. Like I said on the weekends, I don’t want to be going and working out like in a studio or by myself, away from my family, because that’s such an important time for us to spend together.

Robyn Conley Downs: (19:45)

So part of my movement routine is making that part of our family time, hiking, walking, that type of thing. And then once you’ve kind of asked those questions, like, how do I want to feel, do I want to feel connected? Do you want to be around other people? Do I want this to be a time that I’m connecting with friends? Do I want it to be time with family or do I want it to be alone time? And then magically you’re filtering things just by asking those questions. Some things come in the bucket and some options go out of the bucket. Then I want you to think about the actual type of movement or exercise. So do you need to get your heart rate up now, for some of you, you might’ve been told by a doctor that you need to like, get your heart rate up occasionally, or you need to improve your cardiovascular health.

Robyn Conley Downs: (20:28)

So in that case, of course, I’m not a doctor and I’m not advising you on anything medical. I’m just like giving you some pointers about the questions to ask. Can you pick some things that help get your heart rate that you enjoy up, that you enjoy doing? So I know that I need to get my heart rate up a couple of times a week. For me, it’s less about a medical issue at this point. It’s about how I feel. I feel so great after that 30 minutes on a bike, I have to be careful not to overdo it because I do feel so great. I, in the past sometimes I’ve thought, oh, well, I’m going to do this every day. And I’m going to do it for an hour every day. And then I end up exhausted and burned out and it’s too much for my body.

Robyn Conley Downs: (21:05)

My body is very, very sensitive and she has done a great job teaching me over the years of what I can, what I can do and what I can’t. And she has let me know recently that like an hour, a day of intense cardio is just not it. And so I can still get that feeling of sweaty, good sweat, heart rate of cardiovascular, healthy kind of movement. And I just do that a couple of times a week, and that works for me. And there are so many, if, if knowing that you want to do a few, you know, add in something that’s cardiovascularly healthy and getting your heart rate up, there’s so many options. So dancing. Do you love dancing? Is there a way that you could do dancing? I think this is the best part of the conversation with Kelly McGonigal was, you know, we kind of took a set of rules of what’s allowed in exercise and that it has to be a drudgery like punishment, but you can find ways to get your heart rate up.

Robyn Conley Downs: (21:57)

That could be really fun. So dancing, um, like going outside and finding stairs, going on a hike, that hiking is definitely a way that I choose to have my heart rate up and I love spinning maybe for you that’s running. And so it’s do I want to focus on some cardio things that get me sweating and get my heart rate up. And if so, what are those things? And then I look at the sort of mobility balance, flexibility category of movement. So yoga, Pilates, um, I put barre in there as well. Is that something that would feel good for you now? We are, we can talk another episode, which we probably will about how it might not feel good at first when you’re first starting something, because your body’s not acclimated to it. But do you think when you think about how you feel and how you want to feel this, having something that’s going to increase your mobility and your flexibility, um, is that imbalance, is that something that you want to add in?

Robyn Conley Downs: (22:54)

Is that something you think your body could benefit from? And if so, which of those things sounds best to you? Which of them sounds the most fun, the most life-giving. And even within those categories, there’s all kinds of yoga. There is very, very grounding restorative, like Ian yoga, and then there’s really fast flow yoga. So which one are you looking for? And then, or are places similar? You can find a very slow pilates class or a fast place class and same thing with barre. So do you want to add in something that’s going to help with strength, with flexibility, mobility, and balance, and if so, which of those things in that, in that kind of category sound good to you? And then the third category I would say is strength. And so that could be Pilates, that could be barre, but it would be a Pilates or a barre that really focused on those strengths based activities.

Robyn Conley Downs: (23:49)

So for example, including some weights, either light or heavy, I tend to feel much better in my body when I do high reps, lightweights, I am not a heavy lifter and it doesn’t feel good to me to do that. Some of you would love doing that and also including like a lot of squats, lunges, lower body work, glute work. And so if that sounds like something that you might want to do then, which in that I would include CrossFit in there, I would include any kind of like specific weightlifting in that category. Of course, there are huge benefits of strength, including, you know, metabolic effects, including the overall health of your body aches and pains. A lot of, again, I’m not a doctor, but lower back pain is just often connected to weakness and the glutes and the lower body. So it has all these benefits, right?

Robyn Conley Downs: (24:44)

And so when you think about those three categories, the cardio category, um, just getting your heart rate up. So that would be also running outdoor cycling. There’s plenty of things in that one mobility balance and flexibility, and then the third being strength, which do you think that you need? Not because you should, but because it would be a good, not because somebody else told you, you had to, but because you think it would improve your life and not because it’s the latest trend that you think will burn the most calories and help you lose weight the fastest. But you think it’s something that you could consistently do over a long period of time and that’s, what’s going to make the difference. It really is. You’ve got to believe me on that. So to kind of bring it full circle and summarize, how do you make these decisions?

Robyn Conley Downs: (25:33)

But you asked the feel-good effect question. How do I feel on how do I want to feel and how does the way that I move my body and exercise, fill the gap and what within those three categories would help fill the gaps. So do I feel like I need to add some of that, getting my heart rate up, whether that’s for, um, improved health or whether it’s, because that actually makes you feel really good. The second one is adding in balance and mobility and flexibility, would that help you to feel better, more grounded, or would it help you to move better, to take care, to do the things in your daily life better? And then, um, strengths, like, would that help you in some way? And you may decide, like, I don’t, I only want one category right now. Like I don’t want to do cardio and so I’m going to do this more strength focused, or I’m going to do some more mobility focus, and then I might add on, or I might stick with one, the huge mistake here is the all or nothing mentality is that, you know, I can’t do cardio, so I’m not going to do anything cause it doesn’t count.

Robyn Conley Downs: (26:32)

And that’s absolutely false. So I really want you to sit with this one. If you can maybe take some notes, you could always connect with me at @realfoodwholelife on Instagram. I’d love to hear how thinking about this and think about how do you feel, how do you want to feel what’s the gap and which type of movement would fit best in that gap if fits one category or all three, and then within each, what would feel good in your body to do what sounds fun or what sounds like it would add to your energy, to your longevity, to your mental state, your emotional health. And that is how you decide what to do for exercise as always. I hope this is helpful. You can leave positive reviews to let me know. And I appreciate you. Thanks again for listening until next time here’s to feeling good. 

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