So. As I talked about in one of my insta posts – I took the month of August to slow the F*CK down. The only forms of exercise I participated in were low impact walking and biking, yoga, Pilates, LOADS of Melissa Wood Health workouts and it. was. great.
Now, it was great for a few different reasons and I want to start off by explaining what even brought this on. Like, why do you need a full month to take it easy? And wait, why is it such a big deal? Don’t tons of people only walk and do yoga? Well, yes – but I am not one of those people. I have been active my whole life – like – since I was 8 years old, 6 days a week, multiple hours a day kind of active.
Even after I graduated and became a washed-up college athlete, I gave my body NO rest. I think I took off maybe a week after my senior season ended and then I was off to the races. I was so excited to finally workout for myself and not have to complete a team workout packet. And this eagerness turned into the start of my all-consuming workout regimen. From fall 2015 – May 2018 – my time in the gym looked something like: 6 days a week, 30-45 minutes of cardio warm up and then about an hour of weight training split into upper and lower body days, finishing up with 15-20 minutes of core work.
I was working toward some idea that eventually I could get my body to look a certain way – and that once I achieved this look I would be happy. (LOL). After 2 grueling years of putting more pressure on myself to be picture perfect fit and increasing my work load each week – I began to feel my body give up. My hips getting tighter than ever. It hurt to run. I was at the chiropractor 2x a week. What I once loved to spend hours doing was giving my anxiety just thinking about it. I can’t say I didn’t love it, because at the time I truly did. But I am not that person anymore.
Within the past year – this new feeling of anxiousness around fitness was something I had never felt before. It forced me to make a change. For the past year (since moving to Portsmouth, May ’18) I began to plan my workouts for the week and make sure each one was less than 45 minutes. I made a big effort to workout outdoors again like I would when training in college. I would focus on higher intensity and not on heavier weights. This allowed me to drastically cut down the time needed in the gym, it let me have more flexibility with the types of workouts I was doing and in turn, settled some of my anxiety. But, shortened session or not, my body was still suffering.
This past summer I was smacked in the face with a new reality. Every time I would attempt my usual 30 min HIIT, or 15 min sprints, or 45 min weight sessions which I had been loving – my body would put up a massive fight. I mean, I would physically feel ill thinking about having to work out that day. When I would try lunge my legs wouldn’t work. I could barely use 5lb dumbbells. I was so confused and so upset that my body was not doing what I needed it to do. But thankfully this past year has also provided me with a f*ck ton of self-growth, and, more importantly, self-awareness. I have worked painstakingly hard to be accepting of myself at any stage or time in my life. I sat and I listened to my body and I heard it ask me to slow down. It asked for a break. So here we are.
I truly listened to what I felt my body was telling me, day in and day out. I listened to the aches and pains. I decided that the entire month of August would be dedicated to helping my body heal. To giving myself a break, a reset. And BOY am I glad I did.
SO HOW DID IT GO EMMA???? (goddamn get to the point!!)
Okay to start I must remind you all that part of the reason I had always been so active was out of fear that if I stopped for even a day I would become morbidly obese……literally. Fret not, this is no longer how I view things.
Week 1 – I think I averaged 3 total workouts. One was a long walk, then a lower body focused Pilates and finally yoga. I can’t lie, this first week brought on a ton of anxiety. “What am I doing?” “Why are you letting all your hard work go down the drain?” “You are probably going to lose all your muscle and get fat” “You aren’t one of those girls who can only do yoga, you need to work 2x as hard” – oh yeah, my inner mean girl knows how to get me going. Thankfully I have learned how to tell those voices to shut the f*ck up. I reminded myself why I was doing this, and I moved on to week 2.
Week 2 – a total of 5 workouts this week! 3 Melissa Wood Health workouts and 2 long walks (about 3-4 miles each). I began to look forward to these little doses of fitness. I wasn’t as concerned about how many calories I was burning but instead on how it made my body feel. I noticed pure energy following each workout. While journaling I found myself pouring words onto the paper, talking about how amazing it is not to stress out about working “hard enough” during my workouts. It was freeing. The other big discovery this week – my appetite had dropped. My body wasn’t under constant stress and being worked at such a high intensity and so, I did not require the same amount of fuel to keep up. This I have to say, was a pleasant surprise. And it makes all the sense in the world.
Week 3 – I started the week with yoga, long walks, and taking it easy. I was loving it. I was wayyy less anxious, wayyy less stressed and the best part of that week? On Tuesday I had planned on a MWH workout before lunch – but I ended up running around all day and by the time I remembered I never worked out it was 10pm…and I went to bed. This may not seem like a big deal to some people but for me – FORGETTING to work out!? This has never happened to me before EVER. Working out has always been at the front of my mind. I think about it all day. I typically structure my day, clients, errands, plans AROUND working out. I can now admit that it was taking over my sense of freedom. I was bound to this idea that my day wasn’t productive unless I got in a good workout. So, having this day (which was followed by a few more) where working out wasn’t the most important task, it was barely thought about? I was ecstatic.
Now, by the end of week 3 leading into week 4 – I began to get antsy while working out. I felt the desire to turn up the intensity and get my sweat on!!! But, I didn’t. I held strong and stayed with my low impact easy breezy movement.
Week 4 – by this point I had numerous days where working out fell to the side while other priorities came to life. I was moving, I had new clients. I had new connections to make and things to sort out. In the past when I knew my day would be hectic I would stress out – but WHEN will I work out?! Happy to say I did not stress out about working out ONCE. This is and was the biggest and most amazing victory that came out of this month of mindful movement.
As week 4 was nearing its completion I can honestly say I was excited to get back into my HIIT and weights. I got the rest I needed. My mind was given the opportunity to focus on other things besides burning calories. I felt this massive release. A release from something that I thought would have a hold on me my entire life. This entire summer I knew I was beginning to shift my beliefs on fitness and what it meant to get a “workout” in.
Working out had been like a ball and chain around my ankle, I took it everywhere with me. I don’t mean I took the actual task of working out with me – but the mental energy and anxiety it created – thinking of when, where, what, how I would get my workout in every day – it came with me everywhere I went. It was this constant loop of stress. I could not get working out off of my mind. I had no idea how all-consuming it was, until now. I guess you could say I had an obsessive and disordered relationship with exercise….who knew?
But now, for the first time in my life, I have days where working out isn’t #1 on my priority list. Now, whether I work out or not does not make my day successful or unsuccessful, productive or lazy. Working out is something I love doing because it makes my body feel good. I love the way weights makes me look and feel. I love the intensity and adrenaline of HIIT. I have a newfound respect and love for all forms of exercise. I discovered I love walking. Yoga doesn’t have to be in a studio. All movement is great movement.
The week 2 realization that my hunger was connected to my activity levels – is something I knew, being in the wellness field…but it hadn’t clicked that it also applied to me. So my body composition after these 4 weeks? Pretty much the same, but now with a stronger core, a healthier outlook on fitness and a whole lot of excitement.
Moving forward – I foresee myself lowering the amount of high impact training during the week. Including more walks with a audible book, more stretching and far less stressing. I have this new sense of freedom. I have the choice to move mindfully, or not at all. Exercise is always a choice, and in my opinion it is usually the better choice. Through this month I realized I never really gave myself the choice before – it was workout or be worthless. I am so relieved to move away from this, to have fixed what I never knew was broken – my relationship with movement.