You might recall that back in the spring I decided not to run a marathon or half-marathon this fall. It’s the first time in about 9 years I decide not to train for a race. It was a big decision but I felt that it was important to enjoy the process of planning my wedding and getting married. I knew that there was no way I could manage it all without being stressed out. I always take my training and races seriously, even when I say it’s just for fun, and felt it was a stress I could eliminate. I didn’t think that by changing things up in this way I’d learn valuable lessons and re-shape my relationship with my body but I did.
I feel like I’ve taken a stress away from myself and let go of this fear of not working out like crazy. Part of my drive to train for races was that I had worked out and trained at such a level for so long that I was fearful of how my body may change if I stopped. Now I know that with moderate exercise (2-3 workouts a week) and portion control I can still look good. I feel empowered knowing that when I’m ready to train for a marathon again my body can handle the demands of a training schedule and more frequent workouts. And I feel empowered knowing that when we are ready to start a family or take on life changes that require big time commitments I’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight with a few workouts a week and a healthy diet.
To that end, I’ve learned that sometimes working out can be stressful- like when you are training for a race and need to get your miles and workouts in so you are prepared for race day. And sometimes it’s really just fun and stress free. I’ve stopped viewing workouts as something I NEED to do and started viewing them as something I WANT to do. I no longer hear myself saying, “I need to go for a run” instead I hear myself saying, “I want to go for a run tonight”. It’s a little shift in words but mentally it’s a big shift. You make time for the things you WANT to do and you do it happily. You’ll make time for the things you NEED to do, but it’s not always happy and sometimes it makes you more stressed. Wanting to do my workouts or go to barre makes them fun and setting aside or finding the time is that much easier.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to be a “cardio junkie” to feel and look good. I’ve always felt that I needed to run or spend time on the elliptical to burn calories, maintain my weight and feel good. But with no race to train for and my hip pain I’ve been running much, much less. I’ve been hitting the barre and taking yoga more than running. To my surprise, I am at my lowest weight in years. I’ve taken enough trainings and read enough to KNOW that I don’t need that much cardio to maintain my weight but it’s another thing to prove it to myself. I’ve also proven to myself that I don’t need running alone for mental clarity. The yoga mat can provide that to me just like running can. And for that matter, barre can too. It feels so good and it can be so mind clearing to zone out to the music and tune into my body as we do the exercises.
Most of all, I’ve learned that when I stop putting so much focus on working out I take the focus away from my own judgements on my body. When I was running and working out upwards of 5-6 days a week I felt so critical of my body. I’d always be judging myself- was my butt toned enough, were my abs defined, did my arms look toned. The list goes on. These days I find myself catching a glimpse in the mirror and giving myself compliments-my legs look great, my butt looks so toned. When I tried my wedding gown on for my first dress fitting I couldn’t help but compliment myself on how good my arms and back looked. The last time I had the gown on was in the store and I remember silently criticizing myself for my arms. Granted I’ve been taking more barre in an effort to tone up so I’m sure it’s paying off but the point is I know I am less focused on workouts and less focused on their results. If feel and look good I’m happy. I feel like I need a workout, I’ll make the effort to fit one in. Somewhere along the way I took away the pressure of working out and looking good and replaced it with a more accepting relationship of both workouts and my body.