It’s been five days since I set foot in a gym. Five days since I broke out in anything but a nervous sweat. Five days without having my trusty heart rate monitor tucked under the girls like the worst push-up bra ever. Okay, so that last one is really kind of nice.
Anyhow, in honor of five whole intentional exercise-less days I give you…
Five Things I’ve Learned (because some might wonder if I ever do)
1. I really was over trained. I’m guessing from the deafening sound of hands smacking foreheads that no one but me was surprised by this. I’ve spent the past five days sleeping nine hours a night plus daily naps. During my wakey time, I’ve been eating everything in sight which, surprisingly, has not caused me to gain any more weight (not that I’ve lost those stupid nine pounds either though). And in case I needed further evidence that my body was tired, I’m still sore. Everywhere. My lats are so tender that I keep poking them just to make sure they still hurt, like one does with a bruise or a loose tooth.
2. Lots of you have also been over trained. The response I got to my confession was overwhelming. I literally sat at my computer and cried reading all of the thoughtful, kind and gently reprimanding comments. (It’s been a weepy five days, what can I say?) I am constantly amazed at the wealth of knowledge you people are. Such fitness luminaries as Nickel, MizFit, Gena, Lethological Reader, Molly, Fitarella, Bethany, Gym Buddy Mike, Rachel, Godivagirl, Susan and the recalcitrant Kirez all (mostly) ‘fessed up to falling into the same trap I did. Thankfully they all recovered and came back the better for it.
3. You guys are smarter than I am. All of you had supportive, interesting and enlightening things to say so I have to highlight some of them:
AT22 – “You are very familiar with eating disorders, so what is your take – is this basically the same mind set? Is our push to exercise hard and get “fit” a control issue or have we moved past that into something else – fueled by media and a fitness industry fixated on looking good? Is it related to OCD (and is that a control thing)?” My answer: Um, yes and yes.
2bestrong – “Think about your personality for a split second. You won’t let your body ‘go’, you just wish and want it to disappear immediately. The single hardest part of all this is having the patience and discipline to simply do nothing (something you just can’t compute).”
Rachel’s Boyfriend – “Getting in shape is a JOURNEY. EAch day you learn more about yourself and what you can do. If you need to rest one day, you rest. You have your whole life to get in shape.”
Lethological Reader – “Finding a balance in life isn’t always easy, but sometimes our bodies have a way of herding us in the right direction.”
Molly – “I’m currently in a state where I’ve overtrained myself into low iron, low bone density, and a couple of stress fractures. Why can’t we be easier on ourselves? (this is not a rhetorical question) I exercise because it “makes me feel good” and “is good for me” — but you know what, it’s not really, anymore! Taking a day off training involves something like a multiple-personality conversation in my head: “You’ll feel better if you rest.” “But I’ll gain weight/lose endurance/feel crummy!” etc ad nauseam. Have I learned anything about listening to my body? I’m petrified the answer might be no.” I’m right there with you, Molly. And I’m sorry that I don’t have a good answer to your question.
Kat – “And at the end of that week, I discovered that I’m better off now than I was. The rest really did me some good! Starting up again felt fabulous and I have more energy and stamina than I did before. I also noticed, believe it or not, some muscle gain. I think resting gave me time for some growth.”
Kirez – “In the spirit of purism, I’d like to point out that “overtraining” is better referred to as “under recovery”.” As always, your distinction is correct.
Alice – “Maybe we’re just normal, maybe we are the only 2 nut bags, but at least we are not alone.” So glad to have company, girl!
4. I have to change. I’ve got to rework my whole exercise mentality before I go back to working out or I’m just going to do this to myself again. I may be a slow learner sometimes, but hopefully I’m catching on now. Lucas, in speaking of his own over training experience, summed up this paradigm shift beautifully:
Since then, I’ve changed my mindset when it comes to exercise: Exercise destroys your body. That’s what it does. It rips up your muscles, ligaments and tendons, stresses your bones and basically screws with every important system you have.
Exercise is only good because it leads to recovery. Your body repairs all the crap you did to it, then does a little extra work to make you fitter because it knows you’re just going to keep on trying to destroy it with exercise.
So the point of exercise is to give your body a reason to do good things to itself while you rest. Without rest, exercise is pointless. That mindset has helped me be much more reasonable in my approach over the past few years.
Godivagirl actually suggested getting this as a tattoo. It’s not a bad idea. A little long perhaps. But hey I’m not using my back for much these days;)
5. Overtraining is actually two words. Over training. Every time I reread my post, I get irritated. Who makes up compound words willy-nilly like that?? Only a girl who is not in her right mind;)
So Tuesday will conclude my Great Non-Fitness Experiment. Although I’m not sure if I’ll be ready to go back then. On one hand, I’m already going crazy without exercise. But on the other hand, I feel like my body is still actively recovering. I guess I’ll see how I feel then. In the meantime, I’ve had plenty of time to read up on new experiments so when I do go back I’ve got some fun ideas! Thanks again to all of you for making this less difficult than it could have been.