I love fitness. I like to think of myself as a fitness guru, if you will. I never did sports in high school (I was a cheerleader, but it’s not quite the same) or college.

I actually discovered fitness while working for Costco. I had to sprint to the back of the store, lift really heavy boxes and cases of soda and push stinking heavy carts for eight hours at a time.

I lost about thirty pounds working there and felt inspired to see what else my pudgy, slow body was capable of. I joined 24 Hour Fitness seven years ago and haven’t stopped moving since.

I have tried it all from P90X to Crossfit. I have lifted weights, taken spin classes and run myself into the ground. I pushed my body to its limits to see just how far I could go and boy did I find out.

After doing CrossFit for nearly two years, I had to walk away because of a lower back injury (surprise, surprise). I was so miserable that I tried recreating my own WODS and continued to burn out.

I still heard that nagging voice in the back of my head that said “you have to work out.” I am a personal trainer for goodness sakes! “I can’t not work out”, I thought desperately. But, I finally made the decision to stop working out after nearly seven years of pushing as hard as I could.

It was hard at first. I felt so many emotions pop up inside me ranging from sadness to complete angst. I felt guilty and ashamed and grieved the loss of a motivation and will to keep going no matter what.

I had to work through each one, speaking truth into the lies of the gym culture. Lies like “if you don’t work out, you’ll get fat” and “if you don’t work out, you’re lazy and not good enough.”

Ouch.

I spent about a month not working out at all except for occasional walks and the mandatory workouts during trainer meetings (which I did begrudgingly).

As I “let myself go” I began to realize that I used exercise to define me. I used my accomplishments in the gym to motivate me and when those were gone, what was left? A person who hated their body and felt mad that the best days were behind them.

Three weeks ago, I ended my strike on exercise by joining a yoga studio. I intended for it to be a means to reduce and manage stress in my life, but it has been so much more.

As I spent time in the stillness and quiet, stretching my overworked and underappreciated muscles, I realized that I didn’t hate my body. I was proud of it. I wanted to take care of it and honor it, not beat it and break it.

Taking the time to breathe deeply allowed me the space to process the emotions behind why I exercised and to find a new mantra for myself: to find new purpose for using my muscles and redefining what strong looked like to me.

I was able to let go of others expectations, my own beliefs and the pressure of society and to embrace my own desires for fitness and what I want it to look like.

Today, I had the best workout I have ever had.

I lifted weights with the intention of feeling my muscles lengthen and strengthen. I challenged myself with a heavy overhead press just to feel the power I had inside of me. I ran because I wanted to feel the wind in my hair and to embrace the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement. I listened to motivating music and took my time with my movements.

It was beautiful. I am still smiling!

Taking time off from working out was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It helped me to refocus and redefine my fitness and to make it my own and no one else’s.

Maybe it’s time for you to do the same?

Maybe it’s a day off or a week or a month or even longer. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate why you work out and to consider the health and longevity of your body and to seek out exercises that make you feel strong, powerful and beautiful. What does that look like for you? Tell me in the comments!

Comments

  • will mangar says:

    This is a change of culture completely and 180deg change of mindset, i dont think the conventional world is ready for the truth WRT to excercise. For me, i have been a long term endurance athelelte, elite cyclist and triathelite. I am currently changing the mindset as i know endurance moderate intensity=stress=cortisol derrangement=eatring disturbances….
    will mangar

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Definitely Will. I know when I was a runner back in my early twenties I was a wreck when it came to hunger — ravishing hunger. And I was sleepy all of the time. It takes a major toll.

  • Kay Rea says:

    In the past year after graduating college, I have started to explore other types of fitness. The two that are my current favorites are pole fitness and anti-gravity aerial yoga. It took me a long time to get into pole fitness, but immediately I realized that it is hard and allows my body to become strong and powerful. There is also an element of grace, beauty, and dance. It can be quite pretty, but it is very painful (bruises are part of it). I totally support exercises that make people feel strong, powerful and beautiful! I hate when I push my body too far and all I want to do after work out is sleep. Exercise that supports the body is important! Great article!

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Thanks for your input Kay — what’s anti-gravity aerial yoga??? Sounds awesome!

      • Kay Rea says:

        It is yoga where you are in hammocks that are hanging from the ceiling. You get to hang upside down. It is great for aligning the spine and allowing blood to flow through your body. I am also able to stretch without gravity in a sense because the hammock is supporting me. Google it to see some pictures.

      • Kevin Geary says:

        Nice, I will — thanks.

  • Adam Pegg says:

    Probably not many people train to the point of exhaustion and burnout that you’re talking about. I know exactly how you feel, and sometimes a week or two off is completely necessary to light that fire under your hind end again.

  • Kristen says:

    I absolutely love this article! I’m 28, lost 30 lbs when I was 20, went from a size 8/10 to a 2/4, then became paranoid of gaining the weight back. I learned how to lift and trained myself into oblivion. Last year I weighed in at 134 with 16.7% body fat and I’m 5’5′, but I hated my physique. I lost my boobs, I had a boyish figure, I took it so past the point of healthy that it has owned a part of my life. Recently, I’ve moved to yoga and I love it! My body is more feminine, I’m curvy again but still very toned, my boobs are back (sorry tmi).

    We all have to have purpose around what we’re doing, or we’ll take it too far. I want freedom in my life and not bondage to a gym.

    Thanks for writing this, very inspirational.

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