Feb 20th, 2015
I recently took FOUR WEEKS off from working out. That is the longest break I have taken from working out in probably 20 years, if you count dance and sports as a kid. It felt great to be back in the gym sweating again. But the lessons I learned during this break felt even better.
I had to take a month off from exercise because I had double hernia surgery…not fun. What was even less fun was the pain I felt every time I taught a class or did too much exercise before having the surgery. My body was crying out for help and I needed to do something about it. The crazy thing? I wasn’t scared about having the surgery (okay, maybe a teeny weeny bit)…I was terrified that the doctor said I could not work out for 6 weeks after!
I was definitely scared of what would happen to my body–would I gain weight, lose all of my muscle, and reverse all of the changes I’ve made over the years?
But something else was also plaguing me…what if I got used to this new sedentary lifestyle and lost my mojo for exercise altogether? What if I liked all of this extra time I now had and decided I didn’t need to go back to working out?
As it turns out, not all, but most of my fears were definitely unfounded. In fact, the craziest thing happened–I LOST weight and at the same time, experienced a new found love and appreciation for exercise.
You see, a few things start to happen physically and mentally when you never take a break from exercise:
1. Metabolically, if you are exercising like crazy and also constantly in a caloric deficit, your body will start to hold on to everything you consume. This makes it harder and harder to maintain a low body fat. I never used to think this was true but I experienced this firsthand with my surgery recovery. I was still eating healthy but oddly enough, I didn’t have to deprive myself as much as I thought I would without exercise. It was like metabolism was resetting and my natural hunger cues were springing to life again. How many of you have worked out for two hours or more a day and found that the next few days you can’t ever feel “full”? Your appetite is out of control and you tend to overeat. I’ve had this so many times I can’t remember. Take exercise out of the equation and suddenly I wasn’t hungry for more than 3 meals a day and maybe one small snack. And I was satisfied. And I could cheat more and not see it the next day. Crazy. For more about metabolic resetting go to http://katedeering.com/archives/1045
2. Physically speaking I realized I never entered the maintenance stage of exercise. There are a few theory’s out there about this and I realize it’s a bit controversial. However, for someone who just wants to stay lean and toned and not necessarily make huge changes in my structure, the extreme amounts of exercise felt like they were doing more harm than good. For example, I don’t need more leg muscle. Yet the amount of exercise I was doing was seriously making me have crazy superwoman legs. Which is fine if you want that, but for me, it was unnecessary. The new me only exercises 30-60 min a day and my physique has never looked better! I’m maintaining the muscle I already have and burning enough calories to stay in shape.
3. Mentally, I have never felt better about exercise than now. Coming from a month break, I am looking forward to and having a new appreciation for exercise. It is something I CAN do now instead of something I MUST do. It’s also fun to challenge myself with exercises that used to be easy for me. Building the strength to run again is exciting and new again! And it reminds me of how my clients must feel .
4. I have a newfound thankfulness for what my body is capable of. I know I said earlier that the doctor said this would be a 6 week recovery. Well when I went in for my 2 week check up, the doctor said he hadn’t seen such a quick recovery in a long time and I was ready to start doing walking and light exercise. I know that’s because my body was super strong and conditioned before I went in for the surgery. It was used to muscle tear down and recovery. I was proud of this and thankful to my body for responding in such a great way!
All in all, I am so grateful for this imposed break that I was forced to take. My body and my mind needed it. Sure I lost a little muscle and maybe I didn’t look as toned as usual, so that fear was definitely valid. But I was able to bounce back and get that muscle tone back easily and this time, intelligently.
One fear that was definitely not valid was that I will never stop loving exercise and the way it makes me feel. But I am now trying to have a more balanced approach to exercise. A little rest does the body, and the mind, GOOD!