I’ve seen a few of my favorite “fitness” influencers take a break from fitness. Wait… their chronic hypervigilance of calories and reps was taking a toll on their mental health. Say what??
That’s right. I said it. In a probably unnecessarily sarcastic way I am telling you there is a point where health becomes unhealthy. And I also unnecessarily confided in you that I follow fitness influencers – whoops. But it is what it is. And it somewhat mysteriously brings me to the lovely topic of setbacks.
A fitness enthusiast’s favorite word.
I myself have taken many “breaks” from fitness. Most are accidental – very. A few lucky exceptions were intentional – or at least that’s what I tell myself. Luckily our cardiovascular and muscular endurance can take a week or two break without much consequence and we’re really not going to lose muscle tone overnight. The problem occurs when one week becomes one month becomes three months and after that we find ourselves with serious setbacks. I hope I’m not saying “we” but only referring to myself here.
Sometimes, taking an intentional break can be good. If we push ourselves too hard we risk injury and burnout. As great as exercise is for our mental health, and I cannot stress those benefits enough, sometimes a leisurely walk in the sunlight or seeing a friend is a perfectly acceptable substitution – I’m talking to all you introverts and gym junkies out there.
Sometimes, the breaks are unintentional. Before COVID, I was getting in 4-5 workouts per week on average. And I maintained that for an extended period. For the first time I was getting into a consistent routine, something I struggled with when I was a full time student with varying class and school organization schedules. But I was doing it. Me. A miracle.
And then boom. Along comes a global pandemic, and home workouts aren’t really my thing, so I took a forced break for a few months. When I came back to train I trained my ass off and started getting into the best shape of my life. And then boom. I sprained my ankle and couldn’t run for well over 6 weeks. Then I eased my way back in with yoga and group classes and eventually back into my normal lifting routine. And then boom. I got COVID, and I haven’t been able to breath great for about a month now.
This entire blog post may sound like one long rant, and for that I apologize. But I want to clarify how setbacks are not a bad thing.
First, it has taken a huge toll on my mental health, since exercise is my go to antidepressant and the only effective coping mechanism I have found that truly helps me feel ok. But in my quarantine depression I have been addressing my needs that exercise is only a distraction from, not a solution to – as painful as that can be. And I have reanalyzed my relationship with fitness and if my body goals fueled by instagram motivation are truly healthy. I have had the time to rethink my definition of health.
I do have plans on getting back into the gym soon, and I know when I do I will have set realistic, achievable goals that are healthier and will make me happier.
So for anyone in the same boat as me, struggling with a fitness setback for whatever reason, look at it as an opportunity for growth, a pause before a push forward, and a time to sit back and refocus.
As difficult as it may be, you will get through it.