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?