When I get personal and share my story I must be honest I sometimes wish my health and fitness journey was a little more black and white.
Like I wish I could say I lost 40 lbs post baby or I use to be overweight and unhappy and today I am healthy and confidence as can be. It feels like it is more inspiring to see someone drop 5 sizes or show up with 6 pack abs then me telling you about how listening to my body was key in my own personal healthy transformation.
And I am not talking about listening to if my body is hungry or not, I am talking about a true and dire need to slow down and do less, to get more. You see I have a had a HUGE transformation, it is just not as clear to the eyes of others.
The other day I came across that quote that you always see floating around online, “ I really regret that workout said no one ever” and it made me laugh because I used to share that bullshit. But you know what? I most definitely have had workouts that I have regretted. And pushing through workouts or running myself into the ground just to breath hard is not always the best answer or most effective way to train.
When more is not better.
One Saturday morning in the summer of 2013 I found myself in tears sitting in a slumped, crossed legged position on my yoga mat, trying to do an at home workout. It consisted of 10 birddogs alternating, 10 air squats and a set of 5 kneeling push ups. I vividly remember it and you know these exercises are far from high intensity. But I was experiencing extreme fatigue and extreme and chronic back pain. I had not had an intense workout in weeks.
But I just couldn’t get my heart rate up and if I couldn’t get my heart rate up how would I stay in shape? How would I exercise? Would I gain all this weight? All I had done all week was walk. I gave myself a rest (for 7 days) and I was still in so much pain. What is wrong with this picture? I just couldn’t bring myself to allow time for my body to heal.
Fast forward to the present and would you guess I have finally have felt some reprieve in my adrenal fatigue type exhaustion (the only thing I can compare it to). Yes that is nearly 3 years since I began my rest and recovery journey.
I would say from the years 2010-2013 I did NOT listen to what my body truly needed in terms of my health. I ignored it time and time again, giving in to the notion I so easily accept now. More is not better. I thought more willpower, more discipline, more restriction and more working out was the answer to not only my body goals and success but to my happiness as well.
Now I know it is the exact opposite. The more you try to use willpower, restrict and talk down on yourself the harder it is to get where you want to go. You absolutely do need to put in work and effort, just not in the ways you think.
You body hears everything your mind thinks.
The trouble with me personally with my health, was that my mindset was completely screwed up and during those years I had a mini health breakdown where my emotional stress was manifesting itself physically. Though I was at a healthy weight and body composition, I experienced what I can only compare to as some sort of adrenal fatigue or excessive exhaustion.
No doctor would diagnose it as that of course and every test I ran came back normal. Iron was good. Nope I didn’t have celiac disease. My thyroid was fine. But I wasn’t.
I would take naps at my sisters house when we had bbq’s and get togethers with friends. I would wake up exhausted after 10 hours sleep. I would start workouts with the feeling I typically should have mid workout, heart racing. My adrenaline was on overdrive. I tried taking a few days off. Didn’t help. Tried taking a week off. Didn’t help. So I did the next best thing. Started up CrossFit (insert sarcasm).
For someone who loves to workout as much as myself, it was so very difficult to grasp the idea of rest and recovery. I thought if I could just push through it I would be ok. If I just took a couple days off my body would thank me.
But this whole exhaustion concept is kind of like weight gain. You don’t notice it right away. You don’t gain weight from eating one double bacon cheeseburger and you don’t ruin your metabolism with one intense workout. But at some point, it could catch up. And for me it did.
My saving grace was an odd one. A miserable one actually. It was what I now affectionally refer to as my 365 days of back pain that saved me because I was in too much pain to do anything but walk. I had no choice but to rest and let my body heal.
Here is how I did it.
I did not have a diagnosis of anything in particular so it was kind of up to me to decide what to do.
I stopped all intense exercise. CrossFit. Long runs. Anything that got heart rate up quickly or for prolonged periods of time.
I started focusing on rest and recovery activities in equal parts to my workouts. Walking, yoga, massage, and hot baths.
I kept moving in ways that my body allowed. Slow air squats, weight machines. Walking. Basic yoga. Exercises prescribed by my physical therapist.
I started training from the inside out. Mindset and emotional well being first. Physical second.
I started focusing less on willpower, discipline, restricting and doing more exercise and started focusing on why I do things, habits, moderation and making peace with my body.
What you need to know.
You don’t have to run yourself into the ground.
We think the answer with exercise is more, more, more but I like to say the answer is not more exercise but smarter exercise. Smart exercise is exercise that you don’t have to add more time (hours) just to get results. Smart exercise is exercise that encourages a healthy metabolism. Smart exercise is exercise that gives you the most for your time. Smart exercise is finding ways to move that you enjoy, or can at least tolerate.
You don’t have to workout everyday.
You do not have to commit to a hard, intense workout everyday to get results. Though for me personally I commit to some type of movement everyday. That could be a walk, 10 minutes of yoga, or maybe a 15 minute workout just to get moving or a foam rolling session. I find that this helps with my productivity, well being and keeps my health priorities in the forefront of my mind.
I find that most people do great on 3 strength training days a week and then anything on top of that is bonus. IF you are challenging yourself enough in your 3x a week workouts, your rest days will be crucial in your recovery.
Challenge is all relative your journey.
What is challenging to you may not be to someone else and challenge can come in different forms. Currently I challenge myself with lifting heavier but give myself tons of rest. Breathing hard for extended periods of time or even short bursts is not the only way to create a demand on your body.
If you don’t have control of your exercise you still have control of your diet.
If your workouts have to lessen this does not mean your health has to go out the window. If workouts and exercise are reduced for a period of time you can always balance that out with your diet.
If we can just slow down and listen to what our bodies truly need we will find that we are able to get stronger, leaner, happier, whatever it might be, with more ease. You supply the action and the universe will provide the time. You just need a little patience and self trust.