Give Yourself a Break: Embracing the Seasons of Your Health Journey

This summer was an "off-season" for me. Did I see it coming? Not really. I had other goals and plans. But summer travel, weddings, house work, family visits and something called life took over, and my training and diet took a backseat to other things. If you've bee following She Thrives for a while, you may remember a Periscope we did on this concept of "seasons" a while ago, and I recently spoke about it again on my Snapchat- I received such an overwhelming outpouring of feedback that I decided to write a whole post on this topic to get all my thoughts out more eloquently (or try to, anyway)!

If you’re a human with a body, the scenario I described above might sound familiar, like you’ve been here before yourself. These cycles and seasons of our lives are perfectly normal, and today I wanted to talk about the reasons we should embrace them instead of fighting them. Because of the last couple months, I am currently not my leanest or strongest or fittest, and I may be a little “fluffier” than I have been in a while, but you know what? Ain’t no thang. In fact, I love it. I love the summer I had; the amazing memories and meals and parties, and I even love my slightly softer body. I mean, what’s not to love? I also love that it granted me the ability to get excited about fitness again. Instead of feeling burned out and like I’m spinning my wheels, I now feel rested, reenergized and pumped to start setting and chasing some goals in the gym again. Let's dig in:

You’re on a roll. You’ve been making it into the gym regularly, been keeping a close eye on your nutrition, and you’re starting to feel the results of your efforts. You wake up with “Eye of the Tiger” pumping in your head, and then organize your entire day around the things that will get you closer to said goal. You prioritize it. You give it your 100%. As you should! It’s your goal and you’re almost there! You are unstoppable! You are a rockstar! Fuck yeah everything is awesome! 

Then, injury strikes. Or school starts. Or a trip happens, or you get pregnant, or work takes over, or a family situation arises. All of a sudden your diet and fitness start to take a backseat. You can’t train like you used to, your nutrition isn’t as dialed in as it once was, maybe you even put on a couple lbs. Oh, the horror. Now what? 

Are you getting after it or taking a breather? They are both valuable.

Are you getting after it or taking a breather? They are both valuable.

Here’s the truth, friends: we cannot (I repeat, cannot), be “on” 100% of the time, all the time, day in day out, until the end of time. There is bound to be an ebb to our flow. We cannot hit our peaks without wandering (happily) through some valleys, and we cannot expect our bodies to support our all-out effort all the dang time. In fact, if you repeatedly ignore your body’s request for rest, it will remind you who’s boss and force a rest upon you with an injury. Or as my friend Steph Gaudreau says, “sometimes you have to go slow to go fast”.

We all have these off-seasons- whether they are optional (feeling burned out or stressed and opting to step back) or forced (injury, work), they WILL happen. And in my opinion, they are just as awesome as the Eye of the Tiger on-seasons, and can be just as powerful, special and loaded with personal growth.

Every body is different and the length, style and definition of your “off-season” will be unique to you and depend heavily on your own personal journey and what your body needs. Maybe instead of weighing and measuring all your food you estimate your portions or eat intuitively for a while. Or instead of lifting heavy you spend a couple weeks stretching and doing yoga. Or instead of running a few days a week you just walk a couple days. Or maybe you don’t run or train at all for a couple weeks!  (Gasp!)

There is no right or wrong way to take some downtime- it’s your life and you get to live it however you see fit. Just be wary of slipping into these mindsets while you reset:

 

THROWING YOUR SELF WORTH OUT WITH THE TRAINING BATH WATER

When that deadline or injury or schedule-change throws you off course, do you feel defeated? Like you failed, like you’re a loser, like your dreams are crushed, like you don’t even know why you tried in the first place? If so, let me then ask you this: is there a chance that you might be tying your self worth to your gym attendance, your nutrition choices, or your sport?

When we’ve been on a roll and hitting those goals and dancing to Eye of the Tiger all damn day, some of us take this feeling of rock stardom and morph it into: I am worthy, I am lovable, I am perfect. Which, at a glance seems harmless and even good (what’s wrong with some self confidence?), but you can start to see the issue with this when all of a sudden that sport or diet or fitness gets taken away or compromised. That feeling of worth goes with it, since it was superficially tied to it. So with your sport gone and your worthiness gone too, you sink into a funk and stew here for a while.

Tough love time: stop the moping. Stop complaining. Realize and appreciate the fact that you are simply in an-off season, and utilize this time to do some soul searching. Spend this time refocusing on yourself find your value in traits that can never be taken away from you (like your good heart, or your strong will, or your loyalty, for example). Your worth and happiness should be firmly grounded in the authentic and intrinsic qualities that make you YOU, not what you ate for dinner or how many times you trained this week or your current dress size. 

 

Sometimes you're on...

Sometimes you're on...

And sometimes you're not.

And sometimes you're not.

 

THE "USED TO" TRAP

Ok. Fine. You accept where you are right now, that you’re in an off season... but do you really? Because every time you’re in the gym, you comment or think about all the things you used to be able to do at the height of your last on-season. In the name of avocados, stop! Stop comparing yourself to a previous you and feeling bad about it. See what happens when you start living in the NOW. Be grateful and happy with where you are right now, at this moment, today.

Because after all, aren’t we all just doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are? “I used to be able to..” is so out. “I am grateful for..” is in. Get with it, sistah.

 

YOU'LL NEVER GET MOTIVATED AGAIN

Are you worried that taking a break will throw you off track for good? Like you’ll never be able to find your motivation again? I would actually argue that in fact, welcoming and embracing these seasons of life will make you MORE likely to be able to succeed and stay healthy in the long run. Getting bummed or depressed about your knee injury or pasta-heavy vacation and feeling like you failed, it’s over, and why bother, will do nothing but put you in a negative headspace, stress you out, and make you resentful.

If instead, you embrace it for what it is, knowing that this is simply a season of life (that you likely needed, anyway), you’ll have a lot easier time kicking it into gear when you’re ready to go again. Stop associating these off seasons with “failure” and see how much easier it is to excitedly dig into your next on-season. 

 

THE YO-YO

It is important to note here that I am not advocating a full-on, month long binge-eating fest. I’m also not advocating a yo-yo dieting habit, or anything else that will fuck with your mental and emotional health just as much as it will your metabolism. This is not a “I hit my goal weight now I can quit the gym and eat a case of Oreos every night” kind of pass. After all, training and nutrition should never be a punishment - it should be a celebration of your body, and you should always remember that.

I’m simply suggesting that taking a little pressure off yourself or taking things down a notch on occasion can be valuable, and is part of honoring your body, not punishing it.  I hope you can see the distinction. After all, health and fitness and “living your life” are not mutually exclusive. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing type of deal, but rather a gentle give and take and pursuit of balance.


So. Blast Eye of the Tiger, get focused, give all you’ve got, and chase the hell out of your goals when it feels right. Push yourself, crush it, dominate, and feel the power of a woman on a mission. Or, don’t. Spend time with your family, enjoy that vacation to the fullest, choose happy hour over the gym, earn that promotion or degree, rest your body and mind.

Whether you’re on a roll or taking it easy or somewhere in between, thoroughly enjoying and embracing whatever iteration of life’s seasons you may be in at the moment will ultimately make you a happier, healthier person.

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