How to Build a Fitness Practice That Brings You Joy

If you are reading this blog, you are probably one of the following: a person who currently practices strength regularly, a person who is thinking about practicing strength regularly, or a person who coaches strength regularly.

Let’s get physical

However, this post isn’t just about strength training! It’s about setting up a successful core routine of strength while learning to embrace other modalities of movement, whether you are the client or the trainer, and celebrating other ways to be fit that don’t involve lifting.

In my opinion – and this is just my perception of the industry so by no means take this as sacred and please don’t crucify me, trolls – the strength training world can tend to get a little overly proud of lifting weights.

Obviously, I personally think lifting is the BOMB DOT COM. But sometimes we forget that there are also other really awesome ways to work out and move, and we can tend to think that our way is superior.

This goes for any form of fitness.

You practice what you preach! Most yogis probably tend to think yoga is the best way to live a fit life. Runners live for pounding the pavement. Lifters love to pick zings up and put zem down. You are partial to what you know and love.

But regardless of your sport, a regular strength training regimen ⎼ in addition to your usual mode of fitness ⎼ can help enhance that practice. I have personally coached many dancers and yogis who have actually gotten better at their craft by adding in a regular strength training program.

Embracing strength training doesn’t have to mean throwing away other forms of movement that you enjoy.

Because I come from a background in dance, a dance analogy here makes the most sense to me. I have always thought of strength training like ballet. As a dancer, ballet is the core of your training, setting you up with the proper technique, strength and skills.

Once you have a solid foundation from ballet, you can then confidently branch out and take a jazz or modern class. It just requires changing the shapes your learned in ballet to fit the new style, and because you have such a strong core of ballet technique to back you up, you can do so with integrity and strength and low risk of injury.

Strength training, to me, feels like having that core background in ballet. It can give you the confidence to go out and try other forms of fitness, knowing that you will always fall back on your strength technique no matter what.

Whenever I work with a new client, I like to get an idea of how they usually work out. I always start with this question, “What forms of movement make you feel alive?”  Sometimes it’s yoga, dance, boxing, running.  Regardless of the answer, I follow up with this statement:

No movement is bad movement, unless it causes you physical (or emotional) pain.

And I truly believe that. Now that doesn’t mean that all modalities are created equal in terms of reaching our goals. Why? Because that depends on our goals, bros and bras!

A bodybuilder prepping for a competition is not going to go for a 13-mile run every weekend to create the lean muscle she needs for competition. She would be better off focusing her efforts in the gym, with specifically loaded sets and reps and forms of cardio that will complement her sport. Just as a powerlifter focusing on PRing his deadlift is probably not going to get there by practicing yoga alone. LOL. The more specific our goals, the more specific our training needs to be, and that’s where enlisting the help of a sport-specific coach comes in.

However, for people who simply want to move more frequently and feel good about it (most of us!), they would do well following this approach: move often in ways that move you.

So what moves you?

If you hate a certain workout, let’s say, you absolutely hate the way Crossfit makes you feel, you don’t have to do Crossfit in order to get strong!

If you’re bored to tears in yoga class, you can achieve bodyweight strength, flexibility and mindfulness in other ways!

Additionally, you don’t have to only lift weights to live a healthy lifestyle.

How do you get to that fit lifestyle?

Here’s my formula for everyday empowerment and living that #fitlife.

1. Establish a consistent regimen of strength and conditioning

This will be your core of training. Training with resistance 3x/week is a successful formula for most people. If you are not working with a trainer, there are many awesome resources out there that deliver programming to you via the interwebz.

*BONUS: If you know a little bit about lifting, here is a quick cheat sheet to program for yourself on the fly.  Just plug in your favorite exercises and go!

  • A1 Squat or Deadlift
  • A2 Horizontal or Vertical Push (ex: push up/overhead press)
  • B1 Single Leg Exercise (ex: single leg deadlift or split squat)
  • B2 Horizontal or Vertical Pull (ex: rows/pullups)
  • C1 Core Exercise (ex: plank, deadbug, carries)
  • C2 Metabolic Exercise (ex: swings, battle ropes)

Go for 3 rounds of 5-8 reps of each exercise, or roughly 30 – 45 seconds of work.

2. Explore movement and find your joy

Once you’ve established a sustainable strength routine, sprinkle in other modalities of movement that you love throughout the week.

Maybe that means going for a run or taking a spin class. (The latter is personal hell for me, haha, but lots of people love it, proving that everyone is unique in what brings them joy!) Take an African dance class, or rollerblade through the park.

The only requisite is that it BRINGS YOU JOY.

3. Move more often than not

Aim to be active at least 30 minutes every day. Hike, bike, stroll, swim, dance, jump, hula hoop! Enjoy using your body and applying all that you are accomplishing in the gym to everyday life. And remember, not all movement has to feel “10-out-of-10 I’m pooping my pants” on a scale of effort to be effective.

Think of what you’d gain by climbing a steep trail at sunrise with a friend. In that moment, you’re prrrrrrrobably not focusing on glute activation and foot stability, even though that’s all happening.  You’re obviously focusing on #nofilter and hopefully also breathing in the glorious world around you.

Pro Tip

Now a quick word with the fitpros out there. Of course if our clients have a specific goals, let’s say fat loss or injury rehab, we want to move them toward a specific strength training program that doesn’t stray too much and tailors their extra workouts to complement their goals.

But for gen pop, people wanting to move well and feel good, I believe we can start to broaden our views by keeping in mind that no movement is bad movement unless it causes our client physical (or emotional) pain.

Because isn’t inspiring our clients to move more the end goal anyway? And to enjoy it?

Don’t judge me.

Scoffing at long distance running, for example, can be a popular default mode because as trainers, we see so many runners come to us in total agony and pain. But it’s important to remember that they are not in pain because of running. They are in pain because of running in poor form. This is just like how some people perceive deadlifts to be dangerous; they are only dangerous if they are done improperly.

As trainers, it’s important to educate the importance of strength training as a core practice and also celebrate other types of movement that make our clients’ hearts happy.

Own it

And you, the Ninja, should feel empowered to explore moving in all planes and realms, because our bodies are incredible machines built for experiencing the world around us, whether that be completing a 5k, doing a vinyasa flow under the stars, etc!

At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that we all want to move without pain, enjoy our workouts, and feel empowered by our bodies. The key to living a sustainable fit life is establishing a core regimen of consistent strength and conditioning, and wholeheartedly exploring movement that makes you feel alive.

Cheers, high fives and namastes to practitioners of all types of fitness. May your practice be filled with joy and self discovery, and always rooted in strength.

WANT 3 FREE VIDEO WORKOUTS FROM MFF? NEAT! CLICK HERE.


Elizabeth Stacey is a Certified Functional Strength and Conditioning Coach, former Ninja Trainer, and creator of Upstrength Fitness. She trains clients online, one-on-one, and in groups from her home in Orlando, FL. She’s also a StrongFirst Certified Kettlebell Instructor and a marathon finisher. You can find her online, on Instagram, and on Facebook at Upstrength Fitness.


Image #6 by Kyle Froman

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