To be honest,
The last thing to go for me was exercise. That is, my unhealthy dependence on it. I was “recovered” but I held a death grip on exercise for years because it was my security blanket. It made me feel comfortable.
Did I ever want to change this? No. Not in the least. That was one place I was not willing to go.
Plus, I had let go of my obsessive food ways… what more could my body possibly want from me?!
A lot more. My body wanted more freedom. More flexibility. More breaks. More love. More rest. For years I did not listen.
Now I will have to say: My exercise journey has come a long way. A LONG way. You can read more about my journey here. I use to be a cardio bunny. These days I do mostly weight training with some HIIT. I workout in the gym 3-5 days a week verses the 7 days a week in the old days. Nevertheless, when your body wants rest… it wants rest. It doesn’t matter how many “rest” days you had. When you feel a rush of panic when you don’t get to workout when you had planned… time to check yourself.
This was me. I’ve been guilty of over working and over exerting my body because I thought “gains” were more important than rest. Habits are great, but when they lack flexibility without mental stress, they are more like potentially destructive obsessions. I, for one, am all about less stress in my life, and if I’m stressing out about something that is suppose to reduce overall stress and contribute to wellness, then what is the point?
What did I fear would happen if I skipped a day or two? What about if I skipped a week? Rationally… I’m not sure. I guess I thought I would gain weight… my muscles would atrophy… my metabolism would crash. Of course, all of this is irrational. I know my body- OUR bodies, are much more resilient than that. But I was too scared to try it out. I had finally reached this point in my wellness journey where I felt… wonderful. And happy. I was honoring my hunger, not worrying about my weight, not stressing about calories— I had made it: complete food freedom! But in the fine print, I believe I had a clause that said: “dependent on that you do not skip a planned workout”.
I was subconsciously continuing to live in shackles. This time it was gym shackles. Not that I was technically working out too much… but that skipping a gym session was non-negotiable. I had no flexibility in my routine without suffering mentally by stressing out over it.
I am happy to say today that those shackles are truly gone. How did I finally shake it?
I went on a trip earlier this year that did not allow me to workout for over a week. Did I freak out? Yes. Was it challenging not to beat myself up over it? Yes. My mind ventured to all of the extremes (as I tend to do). But through that experience, I realized this:
Just like when recovering from an eating disorder, it is imperative that you challenge yourself to do things you are scared to do.In some instances it might be food related. In this instance, it is exercise related.
The more you bend your own rules, the easier flexibility becomes. You will also most likely find what I found: NOTHING CHANGES. My assumptions of what would happen to my body were wrong. I realized that if I can skip over an entire week without working out with no consequences, I can most certainly provide myself more grace in my everyday life.
Flexibly reduces the stress you have when you do not always meet your intentions. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: extremist thinking robs us of joy. If we are too busy trying to be perfect, we miss out on the good. We do not have to be perfect. Our bodies are more flexible and resilient than we give them credit for. In fact, sometimes the best thing you can do for you body is to do nothing at all.
Intuitive eating goes even further- to intuitive living. That includes intuitive moving. If your body asks for rest- be sensitive to that. Honor that. If your friend asks you to go get a drink during happy hour when you were planning on working out… HONOR THAT S*** TOO! This “no excuses” mentality gets a lot of us in trouble. It creates more stress in our lives and detaches us from what our body truly needs. The body recognizes stress as stress- it does not differentiate just because it is exercise. If your body is beat down- honor that. And rest. Doing this will support your adrenals and modulate the stress response in your body. A healthy stress response lays the foundation for hormonal regulation. And hormones lay the foundation for weight maintenance, your sleep cycle, your menstrual cycle (ladies), your mood… you get the idea.
Well that was a tangent…
Anyways, this past week I was blessed enough to have the opportunely to travel again- this time to Ecuador. Between travel and being sick when I got back, I’ve only worked out once in the past 18 days. Yes, I am ready to get back to my gym routine… but wow! When I was in Ecuador, any guilt from not working did not burden me. How liberating! I believe I have finally learned to honor my body by allowing it to have times when I do not “work it out”. While yes, exercise will always be a habit for me, I want to relive myself of that burden when I need to so that I can focus on other things I love- like travel! Just like life and wellness isn’t all about the “clean eats”, its not all about exercise either.
Rest days (or weeks) and self love are not mutually exclusive.
What about you? Do you have struggle with finding that balance with exercise? Have you found balance? How did you do it?
If you are struggling with finding balance with food and exercise, reach out! I work with clients to achieve food freedom while also pursing wellness in my private practice, Nourishing Minds Nutrition.
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