A few weeks ago, I decided to stop working out. If you’ve ever broken up with someone you loved because you knew the relationship wasn’t healthy and/or sustainable and/or he stalked you, and though he never threatened you, your dad and brother did express the desire to inflict bodily harm on him… That’s how it feels. I miss exercise terribly, but I know our relationship needs a break.
I write a lot about staying motivated to work out. For me, motivation comes easily. Working out is a habit. It’s part of who I am. I don’t wonder if I’ll work out, I plan when I will work out. I consider myself disciplined because I work out. I think of myself as healthy because I work out. I think I’m a good example for my kids because I work out. I am less likely to eat junk food because I work out. I shower on a regular basis because I work out.
Three weeks have passed since I exercised, other than a little bit of bike commuting, and I feel unmoored. I’ve never taken a voluntary break from working out before. I’ve also never had a year in which I birthed an enormous baby, was diagnosed with an abdominal separation and Bell’s Palsy, and enjoyed a total of five nights of uninterrupted sleep, while caring for a baby and a toddler, and staying married. This year I replaced my undereye concealer three times. Up to now, I’d bought a replacement tube once, ever. Though running has been my sanity, I have been injured in some way or another for months. My body has been begging me to rest. I was determined to stifle every message it tried to send me with massage, physical therapy, ice baths, stretching, cross training, but it just wouldn’t heal.
So I finally decided to listen.
It’s so much easier for me to listen to the loud voice in my head than the quiet one in my heart. My head screams, “Try harder! Don’t make excuses! You can do this!” My heart speaks in hushed tones. It urges me to prioritize sleep. It assures me there is no linear relationship between miles logged and self-worth. The quiet voice gently reminds me there is nothing to prove and no one to prove it to. I was moving quickly through my days, never slowing down enough to hear the quiet little voice in my heart. That little voice wanted to shake me by the shoulders and yell at me to slow the hell down, but my mother got to it first.
My pace wasn’t sustainable. Every athlete knows the temptation to go out fast and just try to hang on. I’ve ruined many a race, from the 5k to the marathon with this approach. And that’s fine in a race. You pick yourself up, drag yourself to the finish line, wait a week, sign up for another race, and promise yourself you’ll be smarter next time.
But this is no race. This is my life. I probably won’t have another baby, and even if I do, there will never be another another time when Lady Bug is my baby and Sweet Pea is three years old. I have one chance to choose which version of myself I give my girls during this short season of our lives. I want to give them the one who breathes deeply and who trusts the little voice in her heart, even when it’s hard.