"Exercise doesn't have to be painful" there's joy in intuitive movement says personal trainer Tally Rye

Lucy Donoughue
By Lucy Donoughue,
updated on Feb 25, 2022

Tally Rye is smiling to the camera while doing a leg stretch sitting down

As an advocate for ditching diet culture and embracing exercise that makes you feel good, Tally Rye is dedicated to spreading a message of self-love, intuitive movement, and incorporating adult playtime into our lives – and we’re here for it!

Everybody needs Tally Rye in their corner to set them on a better path with movement. She’s empathetic and real, partly owing to her lived experience of a problematic relationship with food and exercise, being sucked into a ‘fitspo’ social media spiral, and consequently educating her own way out of it. Now, she’s using the knowledge she gained to support and cheer others on, and she continuously hits the nail on the head when it comes to fitness stereotypes and outdated societal standards.

So when I speak to Tally for Happiful’s podcast ‘I am. I have’, I can’t help but furiously nod along as she discusses how fitness is perceived in mainstream media, the emphasis on certain body types, and the misconception that exercise needs to be punishing to be effective.

“It’s great to move, but if you’re told that for a workout to be ‘effective’ it should be painful, you should feel exhausted, you have to do a ton of burpees, and all of these things you don’t enjoy, of course you’re not going to do it!” Tally laughs.

Tally’s words really resonate with me. The joy of speaking with her is her honesty, passion, and the takeaway that we don’t have to accept a fear-inducing view of movement and fitness.

As an acclaimed personal trainer, fitness instructor, and content creator, Tally has the expert knowledge to back up her assertions, and she wants to share her positive message as widely as possible. She’s motivating people to move how they want, when they want, and in a way that feels good for them.

Here, Tally shares her thoughts on moving for your wellbeing:

Intuitive movement

Intuitive movement is an offshoot of intuitive eating, which is a framework created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s been around for more than 25 years, and helps people heal their relationship with food. I felt that there was a need to do the same with exercise, as it can be just as messy and complicated.

Intuitive movement is a conscious decision to stop using exercise to just change what your body looks like, and the focus moves to how you feel and your physical fitness

In my first book, Train Happy, I wrote about the nine principles of intuitive movement (there are 10 for intuitive eating). Each principle is designed to help you reflect, and give you tools and questions so you can re-evaluate where you want to be with exercise.

The first principle is to reject a diet mentality. You make a conscious decision to stop using exercise to just change what your body looks like, and the focus moves to how you feel and your physical fitness. Once we’ve taken that on board, we move on to the other principles.

Listen to yourself

The idea that exercise is painful and punishing is just a tool of diet culture that disconnects us from our bodies; we start to feel that we can’t trust ourselves, and that we need someone to tell us how to exercise, or shout at us to move. All of this means that we ignore our body’s cues for rest, and we push through injuries and tiredness when we shouldn’t. We should be honouring our body’s need for rest, and honouring its need to move.

Challenge the fitness police

There’s a principle called ‘challenge the fitness police’. People write down a list of all the rules they have around exercise, and figure out where they came from. When did you learn that you had to work out X times a week? Who said you must sweat and do cardio, otherwise it doesn’t count?

Tally Rye is sitting wearing exercise clothes and filling in her journal, she is smiling at the camera
"In my books, the artwork and imagery show that fit bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and all different abilities"

I’d encourage you to really break your beliefs down, understand where the rules came from, and then challenge them. We all know that rules are made to be broken! Breaking rules can be an important part of this process of switching your mindset.

Body acceptance

Fitness doesn’t have a ‘look’. I really like to drive home that fit bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and all different abilities. In my books, the artwork and imagery show that, and I point people in the direction of others who prove that people of all shapes and sizes are engaging with their fitness, not just people who look like they’re on the cover of Men’s Health or Women’s Health.

Have fun!

When we’re children ‘exercise’ isn’t a thing, it’s playtime! As we get older and we have to start paying to go to the gym, it becomes exercise – a formality. There’s then a sense that if it’s fun, then you’re not working hard enough. Sadly, this strips all the joy away from it.

If we re-engage with our inner child, then movement can feel like adult playtime. You get to do your favourite class with friends, or get outside in nature and take it all in! It should feel like a positive experience, and something that we can look forward to.

Therapeutic not therapy

I believe that exercise shouldn’t be our sole self-care tool. We should have many tools, including movement, in our toolbox. When we use just one thing to soothe us, that can often lead us into unhealthy territory.

Exercise gives me the strength, resilience, and opportunity to get my courage up, to then address the deeper stuff. During Covid, I was feeling all kinds of anxiousness, and I needed to get it out of my body, so I went for a run, which is a big deal for me as I don’t like running! When I came back, it wasn’t that the run had solved the issue, it was still there, but I was able to have my virtual therapy session, and really go into how I was mentally feeling.

I like to help people understand that movement isn’t going to solve your problem, but it might help you with the resilience and strength to face it, and feel it.

Tally Rye is in the background smiling, she is holding out her new book The Train Happy Journal
The Train Happy Journal: 30 days to kickstart your intuitive movement journey’ by Tally Rye (Pavilion, £11.99) is out now. Follow Tally on Instagram @tallyrye

If you need to talk, connect with a professional using counselling-directory.org.uk.

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