Reframing Your Relationship with Exercise with Lauren Leavell

Here at Balanced Black Girl we believe wellness is so much more than having an exercise routine (or ritual). It is truly  just one part of the big picture. When we can start to measure our progress by how good we feel rather than aiming for a number on the scale, we’re taking our power back with movement. 

The start of a new calendar year has many of us feeling excited and ready to establish new routines around movement, but before diving full-on with a new fitness program, let’s gain clarity on how we can maintain a healthy relationship with fitness. While keeping in mind, the benefits we’re going after, and how we can keep movement a joyous part of our lives.

On this episode of BBG we are joined by Lauren Leavell. She is a fitness coach and instructor who’s practice focuses on weight neutrality with classes that prioritize finding comfort and joy in building a movement practice.

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Lauren Leavell

That’s when it just becomes so unpleasant I feel like for a lot of folks. “I’m doing all the things.” And you just see the life drain from their face. Like, they’re not happy. So you’re doing all of the things, but you’re not really reaping the benefits of them because you’re not a machine. So you don’t get benefits from that data and those numbers. You get them from the qualitative things – like feeling good in your body. And if you’re going so hard that your body isn’t feeling better, then what are the benefits?


  • Confusing fitness for wellness.
  • Skipping lofty goals + expectations.
  • Building safety both mentally + physically.
  • Incorporating play + joy with your relationship to movement.


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Our society is obsessed with looks. It’s unfortunate that many people believe  you can measure someone’s health with the way they present themselves. Because of these biases  it can be challenging to understand the real meaning behind what it means to be well and to feel good in our bodies. Now, we are going to say something that may feel a little controversial but stay with us, being fit does not always equate to feeling well

You can be someone who is lean, has high endurance, and may even be the owner of the coveted six pack, but if the mindset work isn’t being done to tend to the multiple aspects of wellness it is still very possible to be fit and unwell. Because of social media, as consumers we receive a curated feed of people’s lives as well as poised images of their physiques. 

Hashtags such as ‘#bodygoals’ and ‘#fitfam’ have us thinking there is an ideal body type to aim for when making our movement goals. This can have many of us feeling insecure and fearful of participating in group fitness or workout programs. This is because we are trying to shape our bodies in ways that don’t feel good and are not obtainable.  


When chatting with Lauren about her history and personal experiences with exercise she shares that her relationship with body movement has been evolving but has also stayed consistent. What she means by this is, once she started exercising and enjoying what she was doing  she has made sure to keep  a practice that involved some sort of  movement ever since. 

A key component to her longstanding healthy relationship  with exercise and movement has been her commitment to staying away from lofty goals and removing expectations. 

We often see folks set  goals around exercise that can be unrealistic or extreme. It’s a fairly common occurrence to go about creating rigid structures around a workout routine like saying for example “I am going to workout at the gym 5 days a week every week for 3 months.” When that goal is missed for whatever reason,  it often results in completely falling off with any form of movement. This creates a nasty cycle that can bring forth feelings of inadequacy and shame.  

Lauren’s teaching style removes that pressure. With focus on just showing up as you are, and  feeling safe to move in a way that feels good for however often you want. 


While Lauren has been lucky that her personal experiences with exercise haven’t been unhealthy, she recognizes that often, the people that join her group fitness classes are healing their relationship with movement. 

For some, exercise can be a triggering event. It is not news that society places heavy expectations on us to be thin, super fit, and to workout to the point of exhaustion. The term ‘no pain, no gain’ has been branded into some of our minds. Leading us to believe that if we are not in pain, or pushing ourselves to our breaking point during a workout that it isn’t worth it. This mental terrorism has traumatized people to the point that they avoid any type of workout routine or class for fear of underperforming. 

During our conversation Lauren emphasizes the importance of a healthy mindset when it comes to exercise. There is infinite power in reframing the way we think about body movement and detaching ourselves from the ideals of what exercise should look like to mainstream society. She encourages her students to participate in forms of movement that feel good, and to allow themselves the grace and space to take breaks whenever they need. Changing the way we approach exercise and releasing ourselves from the mentality that it has to hurt to be effective creates freedom. 


A recurring theme that comes up during our conversation with Lauren is her dedication to keeping movement joyous and playful. It is well known that if something brings happiness we are going to do it more often. Exercise isn’t a competition and you don’t have to be the best at something to be able to enjoy it. 

If you dread your daily 40 minute treadmill walk, change it up, go walk outside, or  do something completely different like a water aerobics class. The best part about movement is there are so many different ways that we can exercise our body. Allow yourself discover what works best, and to maybe even be bad at it. There isn’t a finish line to fitness or wellness, we are on a journey of discovery and revelation. If you need guidance find someone to help you on your journey, and if they aren’t a good fit it’s ok to go back to the drawing board. People like Lauren are literally changing the industry and revolutionizing how we can approach our fitness journeys. 

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Balanced Black Girl as much as we did. If there is a group class out that you have been hesitant to try,

this is your sign to go for it! 

Letting go of the expectations we place upon ourselves around movement and remembering to incorporate joy into whatever practice we establish is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

As always hit that subscribe button if you want to be part of our community. 


  • returning can be the hardest part to building a relationship with movement
  • do what’s accessible, often choosing to the movement at all is brave enough
  • take breaks during your workout and say something nice to yourself
  • find the spaces you trust, not every trainer can help every body type




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