December 3, 2012 by mybattlebuddyfitness
So there I was. Three quarters of a mile from my house, hunched over, hands on my knees, out of breath, and coughing. “What the F?!” How could this be? Just three short weeks earlier, I clocked a 6:45 mile. There was NO way that I was on pace to hit a (gasp) 10 minute mile. So what did I do? I pulled out my iPhone and turned off my Map My Run app, took out my headphones and put them in my pocket. I stretched my hip flexors and my hamstrings, took a deep breath, and started jogging…very slowly.
For the entire week leading up to this run, I had been sicker than I can remember being in recent years. There was a 48-hour period where I barely moved from my bed to the couch. My entire body ached, I was sweaty and cold with a wicked fever, and my throat felt like a furnace of hot coals. Worst of all, I came down with this sickness just days before we were hosting our very first Thanksgiving. My husband’s family was coming down from Wisconsin and we had friends and co-workers coming for dinner as well. It was the biggest meal of the year and I was feeling the pressure to produce something the guests would really love.
I could bore you with an entire post about the preparation of the meal, but I will keep this part short. The meal ended up being a terrific success, especially considering it was our first go at it. I am already looking forward to next year.
Suffice to say, I felt miserable and all of my non-existent energy was being spent in the kitchen and preparing the house for guests. I didn’t work out for an entire 7 full days…I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that. It’s probably been over 4 years since a week went by without me doing some kind of workout. Granted, I was so sick that everything felt like a workout. I broke a sweat just pulling our Oreck vacuum cleaner out of the closet. Having said all of this, the slow and painful run is put in better perspective.
I am not writing all of this to garner sympathy—I promise that I have a point here. Stick with me.
This past week has been difficult in terms of workouts and good nutrition for me. I am still fighting some lingering sickness and after taking a week off, I feel sluggish in the gym. It has given me a lot of cause for thought. I think sometimes we get so caught up in doing and performing at a level that we think we need to be at. This unnecessary pressure that we put on ourselves can make us miserable. If you already don’t feel well, the idea that you need to bust your buns at the gym and run an 8-minute mile on the treadmill can be enough to keep those buns glued to the couch.
I have decided that sometimes you just gotta lean into it. If you’re having one of those days, don’t make yourself miserable by setting the bar so high. Just get out there and do what you can do. Consider it a win that you left the house and got some movement in. If you start running and it feels awful, slow it to a brisk walk for a few minutes. You might get a burst of energy and feel like jogging again, or you might not. Either way, listen to your body. Being disappointed with yourself at the end of a workout is the surest way to make you dread exercising.
After being so sick, I decided that I would give myself two full weeks of just working out. For fourteen days, I didn’t set any expectations for myself other than putting in an hour of sweat every day. No timed runs. No being disappointed that I wasn’t lifting my normal amount of weight. No feeling bad that I wasn’t up to my normal double-digit -mile runs. And definitely NO stepping on the scale. You know what? This little experiment worked really well for me. Each day I woke up feeling a little bit better. As the sickness moved to my rear-view mirror, my motivation to kick ass in the gym increased. I am finally feeling almost completely back to normal now, and my usual zest for exercise has returned. I think if I would have pushed myself too hard and beat myself up for not performing like I thought I should, I would probably still be dreading my workouts. All in all, I am pleased with my progress. In fact, this past Saturday, I did a local 5-mile fun run, and you know what? I placed 1st for females and 3rd overall. Not too shabby.
Now of course there is a caveat to this advice. I encourage you all to listen to your bodies and not beat yourself up when you know that you are struggling, BUT certainly don’t let this continue for too long. If it’s been weeks since you felt motivation to work hard in the gym, then it’s time you need to examine your entire routine. Perhaps your nutrition needs tweaking? Are you hydrating enough? (Yes, sometimes the answer is that simple). Maybe you’re just burnt out with your current routine. Try something new! (I know I sound like broken record on this one, but I swear you’ll thank me). Get outside and get some fresh air. If it’s cold, bundle up. The cold air can be invigorating.
I would never encourage you to adopt this “leaning into it” strategy as a long-term solution. That would mean that you would likely never reach your goals. Because let’s be honest, if it were supposed to be easy, they wouldn’t call it working out.
We all struggle from time to time. That’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up. Remember that we can’t be at our absolute best 100% of the time. Do what you can do TODAY. Tomorrow is another day.