From September 2018 to January 2020, I said a polite "no, thank you" to all forms of formal exercise.
I stopped the CrossFit workouts I was previously doing up to six days a week.
I stopped running, lifting, and scheduling time for a workout each day.
I gave myself the full permission to do only what I wanted to do and for a solid year that meant nothing more than a restorative yoga pose (or two) and a walk around the farm with my dog.
After 12+ months, I can officially say: a year off from formal exercise was one of the best things I've ever done for myself or my health. (Yes, ever.)
If you've known me for a while, you'd probably be surprised to hear that, at the moment, I don't work out regularly. You'd probably be surprised to find out that I don't go to the gym, I hardly work up a sweat and I no longer care about how much weight I can lift or how fast I can run.
You'd probably also be surprised to learn that I haven't felt better in years.
On the other hand, if we're just know getting to know each other, you'd probably be surprised to hear that I swam competitively all through college. That after college, I trained for a half-marathon, took up Crossfit and barely gave myself more than one day of rest each week.
You'd probably be surprised to learn that I went from two-a-day collegiate swim practices to daily 60-minute Crossfit workouts to the 30 minutes (or less) of restorative yoga I do now.
I promise, I'm not sharing this to discount the value of formal activity or a good daily grind at the gym. That type of repetitive movement and pushing of physical and mental limits was all I did for years -- and it was one of the greatest forms of self-care I could have possibly imagined.
Instead, I'm sharing this because there came a time in my life where my love for a good workout was no longer helping my body (or my health). There came a time where the desire to push my limits and move in traditional ways didn't leave me feeling well. I'm sharing this because I had to rewrite the beliefs I held about exercise, health and what makes a workout "good" -- and sharing because maybe you do, too.
This is for you if you find that traditional exercise advice isn't all that practical for the season of life (or health) you're in!
Ever have a day where you're mad at your body because it won’t do what you want it to?
Because it won't heal fast enough.
Because it won't run as far, lift as much, or work as hard.
Because it won't let you go to the gym or meet up with friends.
Ever feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain bitter when you have to change your plans because of your autoimmune disease?
Because you can't eat whatever you want (without a reaction).
Because you can't work as much as you want (without flaring).
Because you can't go to the gym for a little stress release (without feeling worse).
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at age 14. As I've tried a variety of treatments and management plans over the last 15 years, I've been upset with my body (and disease) on numerous occasions.
Mad because my back hurt.
Mad because I couldn't braid my hair without taking a break.
Mad because I was always falling apart.
... And mad because I couldn't do what I wanted to do at the gym.
It can be frustrating to feel like your body is attacking itself (and therefore attacking you). It's hard to feel like you don't have any control, that you can't do the activities you used to do (and love), or like your body is constantly changing (always without your consent).
On top of that, it can be really hard to feel like the one place you used to go for relief isn't actually a thing anymore. Because when you're struggling with autoimmune disease, your body might not let you go to the gym, head out for a run, or take your frustration out on a punching bag. Or, if you can make it to the gym, you might not be able to do everything you want to do once you're there.