what i learned from shutting down exercise

It may seem strange to follow up a post about a yearlong fitness challenge with an essay on what I learned from stopping exercise, but since when did this blog ever follow a logical pattern? Bear with me, it'll make sense.

After my second fracture in less than a year, it was clear that something was up with my body. And while I'm very relieved that all of the tests showed it wasn't anything biological (nothing says party like finding out you don't have degenerative diseases!), that means it was most likely the product of pushing myself too hard, too soon. So after the second fracture, I was ordered to give myself a complete break for a week or two, and then stay away from cardio for a month or more. No problem, you're probably thinking. Sounds nice.

Except it was a problem. It was a big one. And it uncovered an even bigger issue - somehow, along the way, my internal dialogue about fitness has become completely skewed.

I am really, really hard on myself. At least once daily since I had to back out of Boston again, I've heard a small voice in my head informing me that I'm a failure. And having to shut down exercise, even if it was for my own safety, seemed to enhance the negative self talk to a point where it was scary and dangerous.

In the age of social media, comparison and a constant barrage of media focused on bodies, it's easy to constantly wonder if you're enough. I think it's more common than we all think to doubt your own ability when it comes to fitness and wellness. What I know is that discussing your fears, doubts and harsh treatment of yourself is somewhat taboo. Everyone feels ashamed about it, so no one talks about it.

It was almost easier for me to write a post telling everyone I struggle with normal eating habits than it is for me to write a post that confesses that on a regular basis, I struggle against a really critical voice in my head telling me that I'm not enough.

So, in the interest of ripping off the bandaid, here's a list of things that I question frequently :

  • Are people judging me because I've gotten injured twice in a year?
  • Do I even look anything like someone who is vocal about loving fitness? (also known as the "do I look fat?!" panic attack)
  • Do people judge me in group classes for not being the best one there?
  • Should I even be talking about how much I love fitness and wellness? Do people look at me and think 'no way she actually works out.'
  • If I'm not working out, how am I going to eat?
  • If I'm not working out, what am I going to wear?

And on, and on and on and on and on and on... it's exhausting. It's made me this pretty sad, very critical, shell of myself. I don't feel like me. And it's okay to wonder! It's okay not to always feel super confident. It's okay to go through a rough patch. What isn't okay is wallowing, staying there, and not asking for help. And I get it, that's scary. It was scary for me. But when I decided I wanted to undertake a yearlong fitness challenge, I also decided it was time to get serious about changing the way I relate to myself.

I want this blog to be a space for inspiration, workout discussion and wellness tips and tricks. But I also want it to be an honest place for some #realtalk - and sometimes that real talk is opening up the floor to talk about unhealthy self criticism. I didn't realize how often I was doing it until I took a break from trying to outwork it. And I think it's important to try to raise the taboo on discussing that.

At one point, I thought : wait a minute. If I had a daughter, this isn't how I would want her to relate to fitness. It's not how anyone should relate to fitness! 

Right now, my truth is that taking some time off revealed that I've started to lose my ability to shrug off the comparison and self doubt battles. So I'm going to get a little help regaining my stride. And I just wanted anyone reading this, nodding along, to know : you're not alone! It's okay! Me, too! And tell yourself what I am as I prioritize righting my mental health :

Things will never be perfect. But hurdles make life interesting. Asking for help makes hurdles bearable. How we respond to the challenge shapes us. And raising the lid on subjects that are commonly considered taboo - like scrolling through social media, or looking around in a group class, and quietly wondering if you're "enough" - can end up being a powerful way to fight back against the criticism.