Working out is a tricky subject. I feel like so many times we're put into two camps: the obsessive gym rats who are working out every day or the couch potatoes. But, can't there be a middle ground? My answer is 180% yes, and today I am going to tell you how I've found that middle ground.
I used to be SO hard on myself when it came to working out. I had to go to the gym on the DAILY. My workout of the day had to happen. Rest days? They were torture. I used exercise as a way to "earn" my food and always felt the need to "burn it off". But, that's no longer the case. The first step to improving my relationship with exercise, food and my body? I had to stop working out.
I Stopped Doing My Workout Of The Day
Here's the deal: This? Drastically cutting back on my workouts? Was TOUGH sh*t! I won't lie to you. Working out honestly became an addiction to me (I have another post on the specifics of how to stop over exercising!) and cutting back was uncomfortable. Mentally and physically, to be honest.
What helped me a lot was having someone to talk to about it, having support and guidance. I told a few close friends that I was going to stop working out. What I found the most helpful was when I found other girlfriends who were struggling with the same thing- needing to improve their relationship with food, body and exercise. Having people who UNDERSTAND is so key, I can't tell you guys enough!
What Happened When I Stopped Working Out Every Day
Okay, so, ya girl stopped working out every day but what happened? Here's the scoop: Like I said, it was tough mentally and physically. But all of those things that I feared like feeling like I lost my identity, that I'd never be able to workout again, I'd become "unhealthy", didn't happen.The hardest part was dealing with the weight gain (I have another post on how to handle weight gain here! Note weight gain may or may not happen to you- neither is bad. What your body needs is what will happen.)
I'm so glad that I stopped working out every day. During this time was when I truly started to break my food rules. When you're excessively working out AND trying to work through your food rules it's kinda like you're running in place (lol at that workout analogy). You're putting all of this energy into breaking your food rules, but you aren't getting anywhere because the body image piece isn't happening, you're still trying to control the way your body LOOKS. Also, if you've been super restrictive, you may be dealing with extreme hunger and adding an additional calorie deficit to that is not going to help.
When we over exercise our hunger and fullness cues are SO thrown off! And, if you know anything about my no food rules philosophy you know that I'm all about dem cues! So, in order to truly get and understand those, ya neeeeed to cut back IF you are overdoing it in the gym (or the pavement, or your basement, or whatever!). I have a whole other post on how to get hunger cues, be sure to give that one a read too!
How I Got Back In The Gym
There is no cut and dry set of time that will be best for you before you get back in the gym. You just have to feel it. Like I said, I found a group of girlfriends to talk this out with who understood what I was going through. Using them as a soundboard, like we do in the SociEATy, really helped me understand where I was at with my relationship with exercise, food & my body. When I no longer felt the need to "earn" or "burn off" my food, I felt confident I could re-introduce exercise.
I started with just some lighter workouts like walks/very short jogs and started with just a few times a week. I did use my time off of exercise to stretch more, this helped me connect with and appreciate my body. Then, I added a group fitness class (LOVE THEM!) and when that still felt good I new I could add on. It was a slow progression, I made sure to be very careful and be HONEST with myself.
Sometimes, you might try something and hear that voice of needing to "earn" or "burn" come out. In that case, pull back. Use mantras and affirmations (I have a whole post on mantras and affirmations here!) and re-group. Recovery from anything is not linear. And that's okay! That's normal.
What My Workouts Look Like Today
Today, I enjoy working out again. About 4-5x per week and it's a mix of things. It's not always a huge run or a tough workout class that leaves me dripping in sweat. But the key is that I do it because I ENJOY it and feel no ounce of need to "earn" or "burn" my food. I'm the strongest I have EVER been in my life. I enjoy the workouts WAY more than ever. I understand when my body needs more rest, and I give it that. I don't freak out if I miss a workout. I'm FLEXIBLE! My gosh, you guys, life is SO much better when you find BALANCE!
A lot of people, my past self included, feel like if you have no food rules and stop working out you're going to become a couch potato for the rest of your life. That is just not true. I've always been passionate about health and fitness. And, like I said, I'm honestly stronger than ever. I do have goals in the gym, but they're not based on how my body looks and they're flexible. I want to get strong. I want to FEEL strong. I do love that feeling of appreciating what my body can do! And that? That can be done at any size or weight. That is not determined by how my body LOOKS. But I also love my body, and know when it's reached it's limits.
Now, maybe you find out that you HATE the workouts that you've been doing and don't want to go back to them. Totes fine! Do some experimenting with new forms of movement and even expand what you consider movement! It doesn't have to be hitting the gym. You can go for a walk with the dog, take a bike ride with friends, or even play with your kids at the park (or in my case nephews!)
I know this has been a long post, but, well, it's been a long journey! But I can't tell you enough how crucial taking that time to stop working out was for me. And like I've mentioned, that supportive community is truly what allowed me to get through it.
Be sure to follow along on social media (Instagram and YouTube are my jam!) and hop on my e-mail list (you can do that here and also snag yourself a copy of my 5 Step Ultimate Guide To Food Freedom!) to stay updated! The big announcement is going to happen just in time for the New Year!
Leave a comment with your thoughts on this post. Was it what you expected? I want to hear it!
Happy food rule breaking you gorgeous human,
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