I’m Taking A Little Break From Exercise. And, Damnit, Even That Involves a Whole Slew of Emotions.

I’ve had a tough few days, but I’m working through it. Sharing it will help. So here goes!

I’ve been noticing, for a few weeks, some changes. I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard, workout-wise, for a long time, and I’ve been feeling worn out. Perpetually. I’m normally excited about my exercise plans for the day, or later on in the week, but not as much recently. And completing my workouts hasn’t been fun – it’s been more of a chore.

I’m ready for a break. I understand that now, but it was a hard thing to accept, mainly because I have races lined up on my calendar. It’s not good timing. I’m in the middle of a five-races-in-six-weekends blitz, and I already have races on the calendar beyond that. But my body needs the break now. It doesn’t care about my calendar.

My trainer friend Tom Holland hosts the Bowflex Breakfast Club, a weekly fitness Q and A show that’s live-streamed on Facebook (I was a guest, back in February!), so I sent him a question about taking breaks, and he ended up devoting much of last week’s show to the topic.

Tom advocated a full-stop, guilt-free break, and that my body will tell me when I’m ready to return. It’s a hard thing to embrace, because when I think of breaks, I start worrying, mainly about these three things:

  1. If I take a break from exercise, I will lose my competitive spark, no longer be interested in racing, lose my desire to exercise at all, and end up 400 pounds and covered in Cheetos dust.
  2. If I take a break from exercise, I will find ways to justify poor food choices too, and my entire healthy living train will be derailed, and everything I’ve worked for during the past eight years will dissipate and I’ll end up 400 pounds and covered in Cheetos dust.
  3. If I take a break from exercise, my mental health will take a hit too, and I’ll fall into a depression, which will only exasperate #1 and #2, so not only will I soon be 400 pounds and covered in Cheetos dust, I’ll also be utterly miserable and hopeless.

Yes, I know, I’ve taken these worries to extreme ends, but it’s really just an exaggeration of a point that I know is true: maintaining my weight loss is like walking along a ridge at the top of a very slippery slope. It is so easy, once you deviate from what works, to deviate more, which makes it harder and harder to recover.

We’ve all seen that happen, all around us. It’s happened to me during previous weight loss efforts in my life. It’s why I suspect most people, most of the time, put weight back on after they lose it.

One small unhealthy moment happens, happens again, becomes habit, leads to more, leads to weight gain. Richard Simmons used to say, referring to cake, “a slice leads to a slab leads to a slob.” (Cake isn’t an absolute no-no for me, but it is something I plan for, because spontaneous consumption of sweets can lead to that exact chain of events.)

So deviating from a lifestyle that’s been working for me – one that involves lots of rigorous exercise – is terrifying. It just is. The stakes are high, and I really don’t want to lose everything that I’ve worked for.

But I also know that I can’t continue like I was. So I’m taking a break. It’s not the full-stop break that Tom suggested, but it’s a compromise, and one that makes me feel good.

My only exercise will be walking. Just walking. A casual daily walk, 45 minutes. Nothing more intense than that.

The walking has a couple benefits. First off, it’s activity. It’s not hard, but it’s something, and since my day-to-day is pretty sedentary, I welcome a little movement. Secondly, I use exercise as a mental and emotional release, too. I feel good about myself when I’m moving, so I think walking will help my mental health.

So far it has. Ever since coming back from San Francisco, I’ve been walking every day (except my first day back, before this walking plan was enacted, when I lifted weights). I’ve done 45-50 minutes each day, during which I cover 2.4-2.7 miles. One day I walked to a friend’s house, who later gave me a ride home. One day I walked around a cemetery and found a comedy legend’s grave marker.

I don’t know how long my walking break will last. I’ll listen to my body. But I don’t want to put any undue pressure on myself, so I’ve also made the decision that I’m bailing on my next race, scheduled for this weekend. This will be the first time since 2015 that I won’t be attending a race that I’ve registered for, ever since a foot injury prevented me from doing a stair race in Oxnard.

It’s a shame, because I was looking forward to this race, because it was going to be a big ol’ challenge: a 10K trail run that’s up and down a mountain. But I know I’m making the right decision.

There are other races on the calendar, and for now, those will stay on the calendar. The other May race is a stair race in Denver, and I still plan on attending, because I have travel booked and sponsors and am doing it with my sister. When the race is closer, I’ll formulate a plan, based on how I’m feeling, about how to approach the race.

Lastly, I’ve been celebrating my successes, and focusing on the fact that this break is well-earned and deserved. And there’s a lot to celebrate – and I started the celebrating in my last post, so check that out!

I did three races in April – one 5K and two stair races, and I just got cool photos from those stair races that I can share! Here I am crossing the finish line on the roof at the Los Angeles Fight For Air Climb a few weeks back.

And I have even better stairwell action shots from the San Francisco Fight For Air Climb last weekend. I climbed that stairwell twice. Here I am, on the 46th floor, one floor below the finish line, on my first climb (when I achieved my PR):

And another one, taken a second later.

Then, I climbed a second time with my nephew Eddie. I knew the photographer was going to be there, so I let Eddie go first, so he could get a good solo shot, and then I followed.

I love these photos!

We’re only four months into 2018, and I’ve already competed in EIGHT races. I’ve set PRs at three of them. One of those races was one of the most prominent stair events on the planet, at the Eiffel Tower. Another involved racing up 200 stories, and my first race of the year involved racing up 600 stories.

Furthermore, I’ve done at least one race every month for the past nine months. The last month that didn’t have a race was July, 2017. I’ve done 19 races in the last 12 months. Holy crap – it’s exhausting just typing this! No wonder my body is screaming for a break!

Keep it up, David.

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12 Responses to I’m Taking A Little Break From Exercise. And, Damnit, Even That Involves a Whole Slew of Emotions.

  1. Mom says:

    Another suggestion is to refocus and commit yourself to something that is consuming enough that you don’t stew about not exercising, and involved enough that you don’t go into the Cheetos bag. You have lots of interests that fit that bill.
    xoxo

  2. Audra Baecker says:

    I agree with Mom says. Perhaps daily Yoga and Meditation. Sunset yoga is amazing so is pressure point yoga. Just sit in Yoga positions and apply coconut oil to the pressure points in your feet and or
    specific muscle groups. OMG- they will love you- and if you do this at night, you’ll sleep like a baby. Why not do the race anyway? But walk it- take your time, get your steps for the day, relax doing it, knowing you earned the right to just walk- cause you a bad ass!!!! Whatever you do- Enjoy your rest and recovery time—-

  3. Audra Baecker says:

    btw, I meant to mention that your stair climbing photos are awesome. Legs and arms look chizzled! You so deserve your break, so no guilt! And if you have to have Cheetos- grab a bag of Barbara’s- they are the healthiest version you can find that are enjoyable. Baked-organic no hydrogenated oil or food coloring!

  4. lunchmuffin says:

    I have many thoughts on this.

    First, you are right about walking. I was thinking that very thing the while I was reading the first few paragraphs even before you mentioned it.

    Over training is a real thing. People who don’t take breaks are at serious risk of burnout. I follow trail ultra marathons. There are two types of serious long distance trail runners. Those who go like gangbusters, maybe even win a number of races along the way, then a few years later their body is trashed, they can never race again. The second runs middle of the pack a lot, limits the number of runs they do, but keeps running for decades.

    As for weight gain, yeah, I am in the same boat. I don’t burn nearly the calories you do when you are very very active, and this is a concern for us during layoffs. You can do walking, and other light cross training, but you need to recalculate your in v. out calorie needs carefully. I believe that you can use this time to actually lose weight. Some of it would be muscle but you will gain that right back as soon as you start heavy training and higher protein intake again. when you start back your muscles will thank you for the break with renewed enthusiasm and it will only take as long as your break to bounce back even stronger.

    a cheetos binge will never satisfy but if you want a small bag have some because imo it is better to eat a few handfuls to remind yourself how gross they are instead of denying the urge until you buy a huge bag and eat them all at a sitting. Good luck!

  5. lunchmuffin says:

    sorry, wrong video above (very female-centric). that lady had the best explanation of the endocrine system, adrenal fatigue, and cortisol over-production i’ve ever heard but that isn’t it. try this one (start at 1:30):

  6. lunchmuffin says:

    okay, she talks about ed at the beginning (boring). Start at 5 minutes through to the end. good luck!

  7. Amy G says:

    David, great decision on taking a break! Your body and mind will thank you! Please let me know when you are in Denver for your race. It would be great to catch up with you and Sarah and family! Good luck! You can do this!
    Amy

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