I recently went through a long period of time (about 5/6 weeks) where I wasn’t running and I wasn’t even going to volleyball.
When I miss a planned workout or opportunity to exercise, I get a lot of mixed feelings. I feel good that I’m letting my body rest or, as is often the case, investing time in my personal projects and intellectual growth instead. But I also feel guilty about not exercising, and then guilty for feeling guilty – like I’m doing a bad job being body-positive or self-loving enough.
And then I feel guilty about feeling guilty about feeling guilty because I shouldn’t expect myself to be 100% self-loving all the time. So it’s rare for me to actually feel guiltless about missing exercise – usually, I’m judging myself under the surface and just ignoring those feelings.
I also know that if I miss one opportunity, I’m more likely to skip the next as well. I think that’s in large part because of the guilt cycle I get into. I start to feel defiant, like I shouldn’t even have to “force” myself to exercise if I’m not feeling into it. Because I’ve always been an athlete on sports teams, I’ve rarely had to make the decision to work out myself – it was simply demanded of me by my responsibilities to the team. Now, on my own, I have to actively make the choice to exercise each time and that’s way harder than I expected it to be.
The defiance also comes from the feeling that I don’t want societal pressures to look a certain way, or pressures I’ve put on myself to be seen as an athlete, to control my actions. It’s good to be aware of those pressures, but if I react so strongly in the opposite direction, am I acting any more independently?
Ultimately, I believe it’s good to take breaks and not beat myself up too much about “skipping days.” But it’s also really important to me to exercise. Exercise has a lot of benefits past my physical strength. It makes me happier, more energized.
The first challenge is recognizing when I’m taking a healthy break vs. feeling defiant and making an unhealthy, guilt-driven choice. Although, there might not always be a strict division between those two mentalities.
The second challenge is choosing the best action: do I “force” myself to do some kind of exercise even if I’m not really feeling it, so that I can have more motivation to work out tomorrow? How can I ensure I do workout the day after I take a break?
It’s a lot easier to think through these issues when I have been exercising. When I haven’t, I feel pessimistic about my ability to fix the problems. When I start exercising again, it’s more obvious that I can fix them – hey, I already started working out again, right?
This week, I ran on Sunday and Monday, played volleyball Monday night, and went rock climbing on Tuesday. That feels good, although I’m a bit worried I’ve swung too far in the other direction. Today, I’m planning to just go on a chill, short run when I get home from work or do a yoga session, depending on the rain situation.
I’m proud of myself for ending the exercise drought. And now I’m trying to figure out a strategy for getting back at it earlier in the future.