I've always loved movement. Exercising has never really felt like a chore for me. It's something I enjoy and something I look forward to, particularly when I get into a nice routine, but over the course of my twenty something years I've endured periods of time when my outlook and attitude toward exercise became warped and unhealthy.
For a big stretch of my life--adolescents into early adulthood--I exercised to be skinnier. Burning calories was my primary goal with toned abs coming in at a close second. (I have a feeling I'm not alone in this, ladies.) I saw any workout that didn't burn hundreds of calories an hour as essentially pointless, particularly since I figured I was already getting all the strength and flexibility training I needed in dance class. I was wrong.
After wading through various body-image issues, eating disorders and compulsive overexercising, I now like to focus my workout energy on getting stronger not smaller. I don't want to take up less space--I want the muscles I have to be as healthy and capable as possible so I can, you know, live my life. Feeling more confident in a tank top isn't a bad side effect either. Primarily, though, I exercise because it makes me happier. It's an act of self-care (and also of family care because no one likes to live with the cranky monster I become when I go too long without moving enough).
I've been teaching a lot of barre fitness classes lately, which I love, along with Pilates and heavier weight lifting on my own. It's sometimes challenging to balance my teaching workouts with my personal ones and I'm now trying to negotiate the line between keeping up with a routine that makes me feel good and the possibility of over training. Part of the "self-care" attitude I've taken regarding exercise means paying attention to the signals my body's giving me. Sometimes this means I skip a workout and take a long bath or trade a planned gym visit for some gentle stretching at home. Other times self-care means fighting my desire to stay inside in my pajamas feeling sad with a short walk around my house. It's a balancing process that I'm still trying to figure out.
In conclusion, exercise. Exercise for the right reasons. Get stronger, feel better. Take care of yourself. The end.