The Next Steps In My Exercise Break, and My Fight Against the Negative Voices

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I started my much-needed exercise break. Although I didn’t know what to expect when I started it, I had some vague thoughts that by now I’d be back at full capacity. And I’m not. Ultimately, I’m fine with that. I’m staying active, and my thinking has evolved.

This post is about how it’s all going, what I’m doing now, and the nasty voices in my own head.

My exercise break was never about completely stopping all exercise. I started by committing to only walking – nothing more intense or rigorous. So, for a month, I went on near-daily walks, for roughly 45 minutes. Then I started feeling antsy for more – a feeling I was happy to experience – so I decided that for two weeks I would replace two walks with more intense workouts.

Those two weeks morphed into three, and last week I started noticing some other positive signs. One of the indications that I needed the break was that my workouts were feeling stale, boring, and downright loathsome, but last week I realized that my desire for exercise exploration and experimentation was coming back. Hurrah! My recent Laguna Beach hike and Calabasas stairway workouts are perfect examples. I love going to new places and finding new workout venues… and have another one planned for this weekend, which I’m already looking forward to.

I’m also starting to feel more desire to amp up the intensity of my workouts. I’m weary of going from 0-60 too quickly, though, so this week I’m trying something new. Instead of replacing two entire walks with more intense workouts, I’m trying to incorporate some intensity into every workout. For example, I went to the gym the other night and did 20 minutes of high-octane cardio on the Arc Trainer, before cooling off with 25 much lighter minutes on the elliptical. Or I can hit the sidewalks and start with 15 minutes of running and then walk for the rest of the time.

This system gets my heart beating a little faster each day, and I think it can lead to a nice gradual return to training for my fall races. As I feel myself getting stronger and able to handle more, I can up the ratio of high-intensity work in each workout over time.

The other reason for the strategy switch is mental. I found myself in a rut of negative thinking, where I was telling myself, over and over, that I was losing control. That I was a failure. That I would never return to the very active lifestyle that I enjoyed for years before starting this break. That I wouldn’t ever race again at the competitive level that I was at earlier this year. (I’m ranked 97th in the country for competitive tower running, and since I reported that, I actually jumped up to #91!)

Guess what? It’s terribly exhausting beating yourself up, day after day after day. And there’s absolutely no benefit whatsoever. No one has fun at a pity party. I started my Laguna Beach post by saying that I needed a change of scenery, but I what I really craved was a break from my own inner naysayers, because those jerks are nasty. And relentless. That day trip worked wonders – I came back feeling invigorated and ready to fight back.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. I remind myself that I need to stop holding myself to high, unreasonable standards, where anything short of perfection is a complete and utter disaster. I remind myself to breathe – just breathe – and focus on all the fun, good, healthy choices I’m making, instead of focusing on a bad choice until I’m miserable.

Mostly, I remind myself that this is all part of the journey. There will always be highs and lows and easy parts and hard parts. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, and there will be a lot more hard work in the future, and continuing to tackle that hard work makes me strong and brave. I deserve to be happy.

I will stumble again in the future. It’s unavoidable. Part of life. But stumbling means I’m moving forward. No one stumbles when they’re standing still. The key is not to fixate on the stumble, but instead, continuing that forward momentum. Always and forever moving forward!

Keep it up, David!

OH! ONE MORE THING! I mentioned at the end of my cabbage steak post that I had already bought a green cabbage, and the other night I steakified it.

While the cabbage steak was roasting in the oven, I browned some ground turkey, mixed it with sauteed mushrooms, onion, and a tamarind and ginger sauce (from a bottle), and voila! A tasty, healthy dinner.

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3 Responses to The Next Steps In My Exercise Break, and My Fight Against the Negative Voices

  1. I have found Kristin Neff’s work with Self-Compassion to be really helpful when interacting with my inner critic. Keep it up, David! And don’t be afraid to seek counsel/therapy.

  2. lunchmuffin says:

    The negative inner voices are probably the addiction talking. Exercise junkies have withdrawals just like substance users. Those voices can be bad but if people constantly over train and keep pushing they can experience an injury and that can lead to a cold turkey depression which is far worse. Recently I have been nursing a calf thing after trying to bump up my weekly miles too fast. Here’s hoping we can stay healthy and keep our demons at bay until the (more even) highs come back.

    Best

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