Approaching Exercise with Compassion

May 31 / Emily Spillman
In the world of fitness, it's easy to get caught up in the "no pain, no gain" mentality. However, approaching exercise with compassion can lead to more sustainable, enjoyable, and effective workouts. Exercise modification is a powerful tool that allows you to adapt movements to fit your unique needs, helping you stay consistent and injury-free while honouring your body's limits. Here’s how you can improve your workouts with compassion.

Understanding Exercise Modification

Exercise modification involves adjusting exercises to match your current fitness level, physical capabilities, and personal goals. This could mean changing the intensity, duration, or form of an exercise to ensure it’s safe and effective for you. Modifications are not about making a workout easier; they are about making it appropriate for you.

The Benefits of Compassionate Exercise

Injury Prevention: By modifying exercises, you can prevent injuries that might occur from overexertion or improper form. Compassionate adjustments ensure you’re not pushing your body beyond its limits.

Consistency: When workouts are too challenging, it’s easy to feel discouraged and skip sessions. Modifying exercises to suit your level helps you stay consistent, which is key to long-term success.

Mental Well-being: Exercising with compassion reduces stress and anxiety related to performance. It shifts the focus from competition to self-improvement and enjoyment.

Inclusivity: Exercise modification makes fitness accessible to people of all abilities and backgrounds, fostering a more inclusive environment.

Tips for Compassionate Exercise Modification

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after workouts. Discomfort and pain are signals that you may need to adjust your approach. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to modify or stop.

Start with the Basics: Master basic movements before progressing to more complex exercises. This ensures a solid foundation and reduces the risk of injury.

Use Props and Supports: Incorporate tools like resistance bands, blocks, or chairs to assist with balance and stability. These props can help you maintain proper form and reduce strain.

Adjust Intensity: Modify the intensity by changing the weight, number of repetitions, or duration of an exercise. For instance, if a full push-up is too challenging, start with knee push-ups or wall push-ups.

Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with a fitness trainer or physiotherapist to learn how to modify exercises safely and effectively. They can provide personalised advice based on your needs.

Be Patient: Progress takes time. Celebrate small victories and be patient with yourself. Compassionate exercise is about long-term health, not immediate results.

Examples of Exercise Modifications

Squats: If full squats are difficult, try seated squats using a chair for support. Gradually progress to bodyweight squats and then add weights as you build strength.

Jumping: Reduce the height you jump, or power up into a heel raise or stomp instead of jump. Increase your tolerance over time. This is a great approach if you leak urine. We want to challenge the pelvic floor but not too much.

Running: If running is too intense, start with brisk walking or interval training, alternating between walking and jogging.

Yoga: Use blocks, straps, or blankets to make yoga poses more accessible. For example, use a block in forward fold if you can’t reach the floor comfortably.

Building a Compassionate Fitness Routine

Creating a compassionate fitness routine involves more than just modifying exercises; it’s about cultivating a mindset of self-care and respect. Here are steps to build a routine that honors your body:

Set Realistic Goals: Establish achievable goals based on your current fitness level and progress gradually. This prevents burnout and keeps you motivated.

Incorporate Variety: Mix different types of exercises to keep your routine interesting and well-rounded. Include strength training, cardio, flexibility, and balance exercises.

Schedule Rest Days: Allow time for recovery by scheduling regular rest days. Your muscles need time to repair and grow, and rest is crucial for overall health.

Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing into your routine. This helps reduce stress and improve your connection with your body.

Celebrate Progress: Recognise and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This positive reinforcement encourages continued effort and self-compassion.


Exercise modification, driven by compassion, is a powerful approach to fitness that prioritises your well-being and long-term success. By listening to your body, making appropriate adjustments, and fostering a positive mindset, you can create a workout routine that is sustainable, enjoyable, and effective. Remember, the journey to fitness is personal, and embracing compassion along the way makes it all the more rewarding.

My Stronger YOU membership is full of videos that mirror this ethos to training and no one is cheating if they modify the workout. I fully support you honouring and respecting your body. It's the greatest gift you can give yourself. Join our growing community today.
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