How to cope with feeling lazy or “unhealthy” when taking a break from exercise
Reducing and rethinking exercise is a core pillar to address in recovery. Even if you significantly improve your relationship with food and stress, you’ll still be stuck in quasi recovery until you address your relationship with movement.
Something which many women struggle with when it comes to redefining their exercise patterns and behaviours is a feeling of being lazy or unhealthy whenever they reduce or restrict movement. While, in reality, taking a break from working out for a period of time absolutely doesn’t make you lazy, nor unhealthy, it’s a difficult mental hurdle to overcome. The discomfort and resistance that these feelings can create is a difficult obstacle in recovery, but it’s also one you can conquer, by learning to find comfort in the discomfort – along with the following tips.
1. Develop alternative coping strategies.
For many of us, exercise has become our way of coping with or suppressing difficult emotions over time. The more we come to rely on it, the more difficult we find it to imagine a week, or even a day, without a workout to help us feel more centred.
Have you ever felt like the productivity or success of your day is determined by your workout – whether you completed it, how intense it was, how challenged you felt, how much you sweat during the session? If so, you’re not alone. But guess what; your workout routine does not define you or your worth, or determine whether you’re lazy or accomplished. A workout is just a workout. Let’s stop attaching our self-worth and perceptions of our health and abilities to it.
Instead of determining your own worth, health and productivity based on your daily exercise, find other ways to cope with challenging emotions, to allow you to take the pressure off your workouts. If you have healthier, more effective means of coping with difficult things, you’ll rely less on your need to workout, and be more able to take a break from exercise as needed.
Great ideas to consider include journalling out your feelings (either as a daily practice, or just as you need when you’re looking to process an emotion or experience), meditation (guided or otherwise), or breathwork, all of which can help ground and centre you, and help you to move through challenges and emotions you’re struggling with.
Listen to this podcast for more tips on breaking the cycle of exercise addiction in recovery.
2. Redefine what health means to you.
In recovery, it’s really important to unlearn a lot of the diet culture and damaging messaging you’ve likely been exposed to for a long, long time. In doing so, you need to redefine health, and what it means to “be healthy”.
While you might have built up this definition of how health “should look” – including an intense daily workout, following the perfect “healthy” diet, etc – it’s time to rethink this. In reality, ‘healthy’ requires balance – and part of that is being able to take some time away from movement without it impacting your self-worth or your overall health.
If you feel the need to exercise to burn off or earn your food, check out this blog post.
Because truthfully, there’s no room for “perfect” in the true definition of health. Health is flexible, individual, it ebbs and flows. It doesn’t require you to spend hours slogging it out in the gym every single day, or eliminating a bunch of “less nutritious” foods from your diet.
Health refers to everything you put into your body and mind – including the people you surround yourself with, the content you consume, the mindfulness tools you practice, the balance with which you live your life.
So let go of the need for perfection, and begin to think of “health” as a sustainable, enjoyable way of life, where nourishing your body and mind so you can be your happiest self becomes your priority and definition of what healthy truly looks like. This is a much more accurate reflection of what health and productivity truly looks like, than the expectation that you have to workout and eat perfectly day after day.
Want to understand if it’s unhealthy to stop exercising in recovery? Listen to this podcast.
3. Fight the thoughts.
If it’s the voice in your head popping up telling you you’re lazy or suddenly unhealthy because you’re taking some time away from exercise, fight back! Your thoughts are not reality!
Instead of succumbing to these damaging thoughts, choose to focus on your ‘why’, the reason you’re working so hard to recover. Whether you’re wanting to restore your period, health, fertility, energy, freedom, or all of the above, rethinking your exercise habits is a crucial step in getting you there!
In order to fully recover, you need to take this break from exercise, so focus on what you’re working towards. And remember, the thoughts aren’t telling you the truth, you’re doing the healthiest and most productive thing possible by making the recovery-aligned decision to step away from your workouts for now!
4. Fill your extra time with things which bring you joy.
All that time you’re saving on working out? Fill it with things you love, or which make your soul smile!
If you’re particularly struggling during the periods of time in which you’d normally spend at the gym or working out, schedule in other activities for that block of time instead. Whether it’s journaling or meditation, cooking, reading a good book, watching an episode of your favourite Netflix show, calling a friend or catching up for a coffee, or throwing on a face mask and starting the day more peacefully and slowly, find something that makes you smile! Instead of hitting the gym, focus on inviting joy into your life and feeling how productive and fulfilling this can be.
5. Reach out for support.
Still struggling big time with stepping away from your exercise regime? Ask for help and accountability from your loved ones or support team. If you’re not sure you can do it alone, ask a friend or family member to check in with you at the time of day you’d normally be in the gym. Schedule in coffee dates for that time, so you know you won’t be tempted. Or ask a loved one to simply sit with you through the initial discomfort you may be experiencing.
Also, working with a health professional to understand why you’re feeling lazy or unhealthy for taking a break, and learning how to create lasting behaviour change and achieve full recovery is a really great idea. Getting to the root of the problem is the best way to unlearn the damaging mindsets and beliefs keeping you “stuck” and create a new relationship with movement which allows you to move with freedom, joy and pleasure.
So never be afraid to ask for help. Seeking support shows so much strength and determination. You don’t have to do this alone.
Ready To Improve Your Relationship with Food and Get Your Period Back?
Sarah King is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach specialising in helping women reconnect with their bodies and improve their relationship with food and exercise.
Through her 1:1 Health Coaching Sessions clients learn to nourish their bodies without guilt, move for joy, improve body image and self worth, plus recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and get their period pack if it’s gone missing.
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Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.
Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.