How Striving for Healthy Left Me Exhausted

For the first ten years of my health and wellness journey, I have been driven and motivated to the point of driving almost myself crazy. I prided myself on never missing a workout, building training schedules weeks in advance, putting everything on my calendar and letting very little get in the way of the plan. Even though agility is a quality that I pride myself on in my professional life, this did not translate to my health and well being. There are countless times that I can remember setting my alarm for an early morning workout class even when that would mean getting less than six hours of sleep. I prided myself on following through on the commitment to myself and upholding my reputation of being a “devoted morning workout person” who preferred breaking a sweat before work than after work.  There were days when I had accomplished so much before starting work at 8 AM that I would find myself exhausted and worn out.  While friends and colleagues would comment in awe at my commitment to my health, deep down I was feeling anything but healthy.

For years, I pushed these feelings down and told myself that it was weakness that I should ignore while I continued pushing through any exhaustion.

A few weeks ago, I had a breakthrough of sorts which helped me realize that my body and mind needed a rest. It wasn’t a dramatic family intervention or Jessie Spanno like breakdown that caused this revelation. Instead, it was one 48-hour period in particular when I happened to enjoy a combination of the following:

  • No evening work, blog, workout or social commitments
  • Seven hours of sleep
  • A morning workout that took place at 7 AM instead of 6 AM

Typically, I schedule every moment of my day to ensure I am being efficient and productive. However, during these two days my evenings were completely unscheduled – including only home cooked meals and time on the couch.  I felt relaxed instead of exhausted when I walked upstairs at night. I woke up refreshed and finished my workout excited for the day versus already feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Over dinner the following night, I explained this feeling to Bo and told him how amazing it felt. He smiled, and told me that for years he and my parents have been trying to help me see things from their perspective and hoping that eventually I would slow down.  Over the years, my quest to be healthy had actually negatively impacted my mind, emotional health and mental well being.  I took the next few weeks off from training and took a step back from the rigid workout schedules, social calendar and activity planning that had ruled my life for the past ten years. I allowed my body to sleep until it woke up on the weekend, enjoyed morning coffee while reading the paper and said no to social invitations. I didn’t do this to be rude or to become a hermit. I did this for me. I did this as an experiment.  I went from a place of feeling overwhelmed but empty to a place of living a fulfilling life that was filled with things that nourished my mind and body versus commitments that lacked reason, rationale or benefit.


Now that a few months have passed, I am slowly emerging. I referenced it in an earlier post this month, but found that my body and mind needed this month to ease into things.  But now, I am ready.  I miss having a training plan and workout dates. I miss the rush of endorphins that make me smile throughout the day. I miss the sweat and hard work that leads to race PRs or new achievements and milestones in workout classes. But, since I know I am a person of extremes, I don’t want to fall back into my non-stop lifestyle. I want to workout and complete my Fall half marathons feeling strong. I want to lose a few pounds, but do so in a smart way versus a quick, extreme fix. I want to continue focusing as much on my emotional and mental health as I have my physical health.

Here are the goals that I have for myself to help guide me in the right direction.

  • Seven hours of sleep at least six days per week.
  • Enjoy 15-30 minutes of reading before bed each night instead of television or social media.
  • Only one 6 AM workout per week unless my work schedule requires differently.
  • At least two weeknights without plans.
  • Lace up my shoes for three runs per week.
  • Workout with a friend at least two times per week.

The items on this list have brought me happiness over the past few months and allow me to feel like my healthiest self. It may not be easy, but I have shared these goals with Bo and with you guys in hopes of staying accountable.

Your turn: Can you relate? If so, what are your tips for ensuring  you don’t end each week exhausted and overwhelmed? 

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  1. heather @ life in leggings July 29, 2016 / 12:19 am

    I love your honesty in this post! I seriously don’t know how you keep up with early morning workouts SO often. I love starting my day with a 6 a.m. workout, but I almost need the next morning off to balance it out and get enough sleep. At least this is what I learned when I worked full-time. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before I get schedule-happy again, but it’s so good to hear that you have found a balance that works for you and that you can go into training feeling good. I’d love to catch up and workout together soon! 🙂

  2. Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales July 29, 2016 / 12:51 am

    I can COMPLETELY relate and have thought about this a lot the past few months. I wake up at 5 am 4-5 days a week to make a 6 am group training class. I love the class and it starts my day off right, but it can also leave me exhausted and drained at work. I know that feeling of accomplishing so much by 8 or 9 am, and wanting a nap! I have definitely tried to implement some of the things you say above. It’s a work in progress, but getting 7-8 hours of sleep, getting rid of commitments that just weren’t serving me, prioritizing sleep over workouts, and making sure I have time to myself, are all ongoing goals of mine!

  3. Cate July 29, 2016 / 1:22 am

    Thanks for sharing — you couldn’t have picked a better point of reference than Jessie Spano! 🙂

    • ashleyd July 29, 2016 / 12:23 pm

      Thanks Cate! She is always the first one that comes to mind! 🙂 I was definitely a Saved by the Bell kid growing up!

  4. Clare @ fitting it all in July 29, 2016 / 1:24 am

    TOTALLY understand. I have moved away from that place I was in (of strict healthy schedules) for quite a while now but I am CRAVING it again. Craving the workouts the make me feel accomplished and sweaty and energized. I just need to find the right balance so it feels GOOD and not like an overwhelming obligation.

  5. Clare @ fitting it all in July 29, 2016 / 1:24 am

    TOTALLY understand. I have moved away from that place I was in (of strict healthy schedules) for quite a while now but I am CRAVING it again. Craving the workouts the make me feel accomplished and sweaty and energized. I just need to find the right balance so it feels GOOD and not like an overwhelming obligation.

    • ashleyd July 29, 2016 / 12:18 pm

      Clare thank you so much for your kind words. I thought about you and your journey when I wrote this! I would love if you’d share it as I know so many of our readers are on the same journey. I’m glad you’re feeling better and hopefully we can BOTH find balance soon!

  6. Katie @ Live Half Full July 29, 2016 / 2:34 am

    Man I am right there with you! I’m fitting in workouts, cooking, etc but it’s just so exhausting to do it all every single day. I have been thinking a lot this week about what would happen if I focused on getting rest as much as a I did with everything else. Maybe I should follow suit!

    • ashleyd July 29, 2016 / 12:16 pm

      Katie I’m sorry you’re feeling this way as well. It’s so tough isn’t it? Definitely give it a try – rest is so healthy!

  7. Dietitian Jess July 29, 2016 / 11:52 am

    I’m defintely a big scheduler too- I like to have a rough plan of my workouts for the week. A good rule of thumb for me is to put plans with family and friends first- I hate saying no to something and my excuse being a workout. Also it helps to remind myself missing 1 workout won’t change my fitness or training. Glad you have found a schedule that eases your mind 🙂 Happy Friday!

    • ashleyd July 29, 2016 / 12:16 pm

      That is a great rule of thumb Jess! I am feeling so much better but still have some headway to make. Now it’s about finding that right balance so I can get my speed and strength back a bit. 🙂

  8. Julie @ Running in a Skirt July 29, 2016 / 12:25 pm

    I sooooo understand this! I went through something slightly similar with my career. I left my job at the TV station two years ago because my schedule was insane– I got up at 2AM and worked until 1PM. I was sick all the time and started getting chronic health conditions that would not go away. I decided that my health was more important!

    • ashleyd July 29, 2016 / 12:46 pm

      I am glad you prioritized your health Julie! Thank you for sharing xo

  9. Nicole July 29, 2016 / 1:25 pm

    i totally relate to this. you can move this quickly and intensely for short periods of time – when you really need to – but it’s a really tough way to live long term. i travel alot for work, and i try to not let my workouts slip, bc i think of myself as the “kind of person” who can make it all work. but even “that kind of person” needs to take a knee sometimes and relax. running on empty can’t be good for you (or me). really enjoyed this post. xo

    • ashleyd July 31, 2016 / 4:39 pm

      Thank Nicole! So glad you were able to relate and appreciated it! I hear you – it’s so tough because I pride myself on this type of “go-go-go” mentality but slowing down is improtant!

  10. Nicola July 30, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    Oh, boy, can I relate. I have a habit of jumping into new things with both feet only to find it leaves me overwhelmed at the commitment. Like you, I find that reading every evening before bed rather than watching TV or going on social media is HUGE. I’ve always been a big reader, but when I have a lot going on in my life I’m more likely to not read because I need plenty of time to sink into a story, not just 15 minutes once a day (so I read before bed AND at lunch or after work).

    One of the things that makes the biggest difference, though, is to clearly delineate ‘work’ time and ‘relaxing’ time. I have a 9-5, so my ‘work’ time is really anything from housework to my blog to working out. When it’s ‘work’ time, I focus on one task at a time until I’m through my to-do list or it’s time to prepare for bed. When I’m relaxing, I’m not allowed to tinker on my blog or stress about all the things I have to get done or feel like I ‘should’ be exercising. By setting myself clear limits like this, I can truly relax during my leisure time because it’s not time I ‘ought’ to be working on something, leaving me feeling refreshed the next day, and I get so much more done during my ‘work’ time because I know if I work hard tonight I get all tomorrow night to relax.

  11. sarah August 3, 2016 / 9:41 am

    I can SO relate! Until recently I felt really tired but didn’t want to admit that getting up really early every day to workout and having a demanding job was too much for me and my body. I wasn’t looking to running anymore even on beautiful summer mornings. I also lack iron which doesn’t help with the exhaustion! Today I went by foot to the train station and walked by the lake. Maybe I didn’t sweat as much as usual, but it was so relaxing.

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