This was not going to be the subject of my next post.
I was going to be all organized and talk about the workout I’m doing and give a breakdown of each DVD and what it contains, and then have a post talking about ‘month 9’ and how it went and how I’m now on ‘month 8,’ all setting up the stage (so to speak) for semi-regular posting about my progress with all of that. I clung to that plan, making time to write it all up. It was going to be so structured and… blah blah blah.
But then today happened.
Actually, this week happened, and all of those plans went right out the window. (For now.)
What happened today?
I decided NOT TO WORK OUT.
*cue record coming to a screeching halt*
I’m on a journey to lose weight and get in better shape and I deliberately chose not to work out? How is that possible? That’s not how this works! I have to get off my butt and get moving! I’m such a lazy bum!
As with most things in life, it’s more complicated than what it seems on surface level. Since I’m all about digging past the surface level, I’m going to talk about why it’s more complicated. At least, why it’s more complicated today.
Complications and Choices
I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I’m in school, I’ve taken on an extra class which means more homework and less time to get it all done, and this week was midterms and projects due. (Tell me again why I decided to go back to school? How did I ever do all this 20 years ago?) I’ve also been nervously anticipating a certain complicated conversation regarding a work issue (that part’s private); as a result, I haven’t been sleeping well, feeling anxious and upset about dealing with that. On top of that, I’ve been very focused on getting my workouts in, no matter how tired I am. Though it’s not always easy, I do it as faithfully as I can and acknowledge it’s part of the process I need to do in order to reach my goals.
I managed to make it through the week and even kept up my workouts in the process. For the most part, those workouts helped keep me sane. There’s something about the physical activity, the movement and energy expended, that helps release some of the stress I’m feeling. That’s good. Even though I don’t love working out, I appreciate that benefit.
But this week was especially exhausting, both physically and emotionally. By last night I felt drained. Just wiped out. Nothing left in the reserves.
I don’t mean to wax melodramatic here; I just want to fully convey how tired I was last night and how tired I still felt today. Running ‘on empty.’
Normally, that wouldn’t be enough to stop me from doing my workout. I’m tired plenty of the time, especially with this school stuff to get done, but I try to get in that exercise anyway.
The point today is: sometimes it’s more important to listen to your body and when you need to say STOP.
Learning to listen to your body is important anyway. For losing weight, for taking better care of yourself, for living your life in so many ways.
Most of the time, we listen to our bodies and we learn when to keep pushing ourselves. Whether it’s to help a kid with their homework, or stay up and get our own projects done (whatever they may be), or pushing ourselves to strive more, reach farther, run that extra mile, do those five extra reps, all of that and more… we try to listen to our bodies and know when we can handle more. It’s certainly an important part of the challenge in losing weight, knowing when to push ourselves to do more in order to reach those physical goals.
When it comes to losing weight or generally being healthy, we also learn to listen to our bodies in another way: whether or not we’re truly hungry. We can learn that it’s okay to be hungry and actually eat some damn food already. To give ourselves permission to enjoy it. We also learn when we’re not hungry and that we’re filling ourselves instead because we’re angry, upset, distracted, mourning, or just plain bored. We listen and learn so that we can stop those patterns of behavior and realize that it’s good to find other outlets for those feelings. This is a tough one for me. This is one of the things I work on with a therapist, because for me it’s not about physical hunger; it’s about emotional hunger and fear. That’s a whole other topic I’ll definitely be getting to, but for now the point is, whether it’s emotional or physical hunger, this is another area where we have to learn to listen to our bodies and realize what they’re telling us.
But I think an important piece of this puzzle is also learning to listen to your body and acknowledge when you’re burned out and need a break. Not a forever break, but a much-needed mental and physical break. People take mental health days, and there’s a reason for it. The solution is not always to keep pushing yourself harder. That’s the usual reaction, I think, to push through and get it done anyway, and if we don’t manage to do that, we tend to punish ourselves mentally for it. Like we’re being lazy and pathetic in some way. We’re all supposed to be superheroes, active and going going going, doing doing doing, be all you can be, blah blah Army awesomeness blah blah, so on and so forth. There’s nothing wrong with pushing through when you listen to your body and know you can handle it.
Conversely, I think it’s important to be able to listen to your body and know that you’ve pushed yourself to the limit and it’s okay to stop.
If you push yourself too far, you can burn yourself out. Small wonder so many people give up on their workout regimes — so many of us jump into new routines and run ourselves ragged for a few weeks, or a few months, we beat ourselves up to do it all as perfectly as we can, and then we run out of steam. We run out of energy for it, we run out of interest, we run out of confidence in ourselves, we run out of patience that the program will work for us (especially if it doesn’t change or ‘fix’ us immediately).
There has to be a time when it’s okay to say, you know what, today is a day when I need to be kind to myself in a different way. It’s good for me to work out; it’s also good for me to rest and give myself a mental and physical holiday.
It’s about being able to make the choices for yourself, in either direction, and understand the benefits you will gain from making either choice.
For me, today, I had nothing left. All day I kept telling myself I’d get to that workout, I’d do it eventually; I always find a way to squeeze it in. I stressed myself out, trying to find it in me to get it done. But I came to realize it wasn’t going to happen and I made a definitive decision to let it go. I decided it would be better for me, just for today, to let go of the need to get everything done and in that exact order.
Sure, I could force myself and maybe I’d feel a little bit more energy because I’d gotten that workout in and the endorphins would eventually kick in.
But at what cost?
There’s a time for pushing yourself and there’s a time to allow yourself to get some rest. And today I needed the rest.
So I gave myself permission to make that choice, no punishments, no chastisements. It felt good to give myself that. Tomorrow may be an entirely different choice, but no matter what, it’s MY choice. Today I made a choice to take care of myself and give myself the much-needed break my mind and body required.
And it was good. 😀
What choices will you make today? How will you be kind to yourself?