As some of you might know, recently I decided to take a break from the gym. While to some this might not seem like a big deal and maybe even relieving not to HAVE to workout everyday, it was a much different experience for me. I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a B R E A K. Actually, I can it was when I was obsessively working out, not eating enough and needed to stop before my health went plummeting downhill. I’ll save that story for another time. This time was different, this time was because I simply wanted to experience ME. Not the me that depends on the gym everyday, not the me on a high from working out every morning. Simply me, in all my endorphin-less glory.
So here’s the story- I started feeling super stressed with school and pressed for time to workout everyday. I took a few days off and decided maybe I’ll keep this up for a while, you know stay up a little later (studying, hanging out with friends, reading) and sleep in (meaning 8am HA). The first week was fun really, I didn’t have to wake up and meet my demanding daily 7am appointment. But then something interesting started to happen, I stopped focusing as much on my body and more on the way I felt. I ate when I was hungry and admittedly, I let myself eat “non-clean” food every once in a while. AKA PIZZA. And to be honest it felt great. I truly felt that I was tuning into my true self and not this person constantly masked by the effects of working out (good and bad). I believe there are positives and negatives to just about everything, working out included. As great as it is for the mind, body, metabolism, heart, etc. there IS a point of diminishing return. Meaning the constant pushing, mental and physical stress is doing more harm than good. While I have not been to this extreme in a few years, a break was fully warranted and FULLY beneficial.
Fast forward a few weeks and everything began to go downhill. A little back story: when I was in middle school (and a litttttle bit in high school) I used to have SEVERE anxiety in classrooms, only at that time I had no idea what anxiety was. I would be in class and when the teacher closed the door I would feel trapped. I would get myself so worked up to the point where I thought I was going to be sick. I remember having to calm myself down and continually reassure myself that I was fine, and everything was fine. The class would be over before I knew it and I would be able to bask in the fresh air of a crowded middle school hallway (not as appealing now if you ask me). Anyway…the point of this is I haven’t had that feeling in YEARS and honestly I completely forgot about those minor panic attacks until recently. Recently because it happened again. About two weeks ago I was sitting in class, I had gotten up that morning walked to Starbucks and studied for a few hours instead of going to the gym. It must have been a combination of the unmatched strength of Starbuck’s caffeine and a lack of my daily endorphin release that sent me over the edge, but it was happening. I felt a lump in my throat, sweaty palms and a sudden feeling of sickness. I couldn’t stop my thoughts. Over and over I kept thinking what is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I’m going to be sick. I couldn’t stop the shaking, discomfort and 100000mph thoughts racing through my head. After a mental battle with myself I got the courage to get up. I walked out of the classroom straight to the bathroom where I looked at myself, took a few deep breaths and told myself I WOULD be fine. Needless to say I didn’t learn much in class that day. What’s even worse? It started happening more. Not just in that class but in all my classes. I was constantly having to leave the room, go to the bathroom and give myself a pep talk to make it through a 50 minute lecture. What was wrong with me? As time went on I noticed various changes in my thought process, the way I felt and most apparent, my attention span.
After worsening anxiety and some contemplation I decided I needed to get back to the gym. What had changed since now and middle school? Well a lot, but one thing I know for sure is my healthy habits, particularly working out. Just a few days after being back in the gym I noticed a change in my attention span. I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and I didn’t find myself daydreaming as frequently. Most importantly my mood shifted. I was reminded of the empowering endorphin rush I get just after a workout and how beneficial it is for my mental well-being. Not only that but WOW it feels good to sweat. My body was giving me signs that I needed to be back in the gym. I was craving that rush and quite frankly could use some release to tackle my anxiety. While a break was just what I needed at the time, it had run its course and served its use. Moral of the story- workout addiction is real. It is a problem and there CAN be too much of a good thing. Taking a break has allowed me to come back with a fresh start, a new outlook and new goals to work towards. It has taught me that there are aspects of my workout routine I need to focus on and improve. One of the most important things I have learned is the importance of a break. Taking more days off than anticipated is okay. Staying up late one night to hangout with the people you love is okay. Eating that piece of pizza and having that extra piece of chocolate is okay. If the mind isn’t healthy there is no use in focusing on the body. Working out provides me with confidence, ease, and release. It gives me something to work for and something to indulge in other than studying. The benifits of exercise are immense, any research article will tell you that. But a little time off is important too. Know your body, listen to the signs and honor yourself with whatever your needs of the day might be.