Like the other areas in my life, I’m starting to question if an intense fitness routine is beneficial in my self-efforts. For the past few years, I’ve beaten myself up physically and mentally all in the name of “strong is the new skinny.”
I constantly felt drained and in need of a nap. I felt heavy and uncomfortable in my body. My jeans stopped fitting me, but when I went shopping for new clothes, I discovered that jeans of every size stopping fitting me. I hated what I was doing, but worried what would happen to my strength and the respect my clients had for me if I took a step back.
Here I thought that my desire to move away from intensity was my body dysmorphia at work and that I had to cast these feelings aside. “I should want to be strong,” I thought. “This is healthy!” Thankfully my therapist assured me that my feelings were reasonable. It’s okay to choose feeling comfortable in your body over beating it up. It’s okay to perform exercises that give you energy, rather than drain you, even if it means sacrificing your ability to do Rx in a WOD. And it’s okay to want to fit into your clothes, as long as you aren’t trying to fit into an unrealistic size.
But man, if pushing ourselves to the limits every day is what good health has become, why is it devoid of any fun? Are we all supposed to stay on this track, feeling depressed and obligated for the sake of doing what’s best for us?
I think getting involved in an intense program could be good for you if you continue to love what you’re doing. If it’s helping you feel empowered for the first time in your life and allowing you to foster a healthy relationship with your body, you should totally do it. But if you’re doing it because you don’t like who you are and you’re filled with high exceptions for future you, then maybe you need to take a step back for a moment and ask yourself if this is what your body really needs, or if something deeper is causing this unnecessary self-pressure to occur.
And while it’s okay to diet strictly and workout intensely, it’s important to ask ourselves if we’re doing this for our health, or because it’s become another fad. It’s perfectionism and shame telling us what we’re doing is good for us because we aren’t good enough now. It’s skinny, repackaged as strong.
Now that I’ve made this realization, my newfound calling as a coach is to remind people that true mental health is being mindful of our body and what it needs day to day. That a balanced lifestyle is one that is sustainable, gives you energy, makes you feel good about yourself now, and prioritizes happiness and longevity. That physical results are a bonus to sustained health. And that the part of ourselves that keeps saying that we aren’t good enough doesn’t serve as motivation to “hit it hard at the gym,” but instead needs to be told to shove it.
Personally, I’ve scaled back my more intense workouts to three times a week. On those other days, I’m going to do whatever feels best. Whether that’s cycling, yoga, or nothing at all. Gone are the days where intensity is my only option.
And you know what? For the first time in a long time, I feel strong again. I feel amazing about myself. I feel like me. And I’m better for it.
Have you ever found yourself in a fitness rut? What do you do to stay centered and happy in your fitness regime?