This spring, I started a new, high-intensity, circuit-style workout program. For the first month or so I felt great after each session – out of breath, yes, but also energized and stronger. Then, I started my new job. Suddenly, I was under-rested, stressed about all of the new responsibilities, and getting home late each evening. I’d drag myself to the track after work to complete the workouts, expecting the same results, but suddenly my body no longer felt strong or energized. I felt weak, overworked, and even bloated, which often happens to me when I’m not exercising in a way my body likes. I realized it was time to check in with my internal cues and reevaluate my routine.
Exercise is a funny thing. It can pump you up, or tire you out. It can make you stronger, or leave you feeling weak. It can be a great stress-buster, or can stress your fragile body out even more. Exercise, when practiced right, can help your body and mind feel its very best. But there are so many times exercise – the actual physical act, and the planning and worrying that surrounds it – really stresses us out, tears us down, or makes us feel guilty. For this very reason, it’s important to listen to our bodies and trust ourselves to know exactly what type of movement we need on any given day.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” when it comes to exercise. I should be running 5 miles each day, or I should make it to that early morning spin class. Give yourself permission to forget about those shoulds, because the only thing you should be doing is exactly what your body tells you it’s craving. The movement you need will depend on so many things: how busy you are, how much sleep you’ve gotten, whether you’re well fed, what season it is, or what season of life you’re in. Let these factors and your intuition, rather than some regimented workout plan or misconceived shoulds, guide your decision to lace up your running shoes, pull out your yoga mat, or even take the day off and sleep in.
So that’s why, for the next few months, I’ve put aside that circuit routine in favor of walks, jogs, and any other exercise my body tells me it craves.
*Let me know in the comments below: what types of exercise are you enjoying most in this season of your life?*