I can rattle off a never-ending list of benefits that exercising can have on one's mental health, well-being, and physical health. I love working out. It is a hobby that I wish I could do more seriously, rather than going on the treadmill and doing push-ups when I can. (One reason I can't wait to graduate so I can actually put in the time and serious effort in the gym, rather than doing bull-shit workouts when I have the energy.)
However, having an unhealthy obsession and expectations for yourself in terms of working out is not good. I know because in the past that has been me. I have been paranoid, terrified, depressed, anxious, and irritable, because of the expectations I had of myself on working out. I failed to accept and acknowledge just how busy I am as a working, full-time college student.
I made the list for the people that's world begins and ends with exercising. I understand that exercising is some people's passion. Their free time is dedicated to the gym and they are more than happy with that. That's okay.
This is for the people that don't necessarily enjoy working out but prioritize it anyways because they fear the consequences of not doing so.
There are several variables to being a healthy individual, and working out is just one of them, not the only one.
This is geared more towards people who have exercise-addiction tendencies. Even though exercising is healthy–the addictive behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes of the exercise addiction are not healthy. And just like any addiction, a withdrawal, evaluation, and acceptance need to take place to be truly healthy.
1. If you completely fear NOT working out.
If you have the mindset that your world will end if you don't workout–that's unhealthy.
I know end of the world is pretty dramatic, but I'm being serious.
If you believe that if you miss a few workouts that all of your progress, stamina, muscle tone or growth, or that you will gain a significant amount of weight if you don't get a workout in, that is unhealthy.
Reasons why a hiatus could do you good:
If you are consistent in the gym, muscle growth and progress has been done. Yes, consistency is key. But if you miss a workout or two– or even weeks– all of that progress will not suddenly disappear.
The 80/20 rule is real. (Progress is made and maintained 80% diet and 20% exercise– hence the expression, "abs are made in the kitchen.")
If you take a small break from the gym, but still maintain a smart and healthy diet based off your activity levels and goals, your progress will not disappear.
Why I think this helps?
I think this helps because if you are too busy, mentally exhausted, don't have access, or simply just don't want to workout, your body will not change the drastic ways your mind may trick you to believe.
Your resting metabolism is your friend as long as you are aware of its abilities and limitations.
I workout maybe 3-4 times a week. In the past, that would have terrified me. I was once a girl that had a weights class 3x/week in school, was always participating in a sport everyday after school, and still would go to workout at a gym before bed. I was obsessed. Now that I am in college, I've had to learn how to adjust my workouts and diet to the lifestyle I am now living. There were mishaps and bad decisions, but I have finally figured it out.
I follow a Vegan diet (and consume alcohol and caffeine) but my body has not significantly changed the way I used to believe it would.
2. You skip class, work, or other professional engagements to work out.
If you find yourself so insistent on working out that you consistently fail to follow through on your responsibilities and obligations–chances are you have an unhealthy obsession.
There is a difference between skipping a boring lecture once and awhile to play a pick-up game of basketball with your friends (something my dad did in college), and consistently skipping classes so you can have time to get a workout in.
Reasons a hiatus would do you good:
Skipping class, falling behind in work, professional repercussions of not meeting your expectations and completing your responsibilities are STRESSFUL.
If you already feel the stress of needing to working out so desperately that you neglect your responsibilities, the stress will only get worse if those consequences are added in.
Do yourself a favor and take a step back. Evaluate your goals. Rearrange your schedule so you can make time for all of things you want to accomplish–personally and professionally.
3. You find yourself becoming antisocial and pulling away from your friends or family.
I get it. Not everyone's scene is going out, partying, or being social. Some people truly do prefer the bars at the gym rather than bars downtown. That's fine.
Though, it is unhealthy when you are so focused on working out that you completely isolate yourself from your loved ones.
Have goals, work towards your goals, crush them. But don't compromise special time with your loved ones just so you can workout.
You begin to turn down opportunities to be with your loved ones because you fear missing a workout. You become irritated and short-tempered when they ask you to skip a workout.
You lose interest in seeing your loved ones. The only place you want to be is the gym or doing some type of workout.
Why a hiatus could be good for you:
Some peoples' passion is working out and physical fitness. That's great. For those people that is their priority, maybe their friends' priorities are that too.
But for the people that like to be social and would regularly want to be with their loved ones, if you find yourself suddenly changing and puling away from them because of your desire to workout–that can become an unhealthy obsession.
Taking a small break can allow you to spend time with your loved ones. It can help you realize that your life does not have to revolve around working out–and neither does your worth.
4. If you notice yourself beginning to obsess over your body.
There is a difference between taking progress pictures to use as a reference and completely fascinating on them, zooming in on every flaw.
There is also a difference between checking yourself out in the mirror, and standing in front of it for long periods of time, again, fixating on every detail of your body.
Why a hiatus could be good for you:
This is an extension on point number one.
I just want to emphasize that your body's progress will not disappear after a few missed workouts.
Everyone's body is different and maintains progress differently, but if you need to give your mind and body a break, take it. Your body will not deflate and become a noodle.
I think this is important if you are exercise-obsessed because it can allow you to realize that listening to your body is important. If you need a break, but you fear of what your body will turn into if you do, you need to take that break.
5. If working out creates more anxiety, rather than reducing it.
Working out can be viewed as a stress reliever. Need to blow off some steam? Go for a run or hit the racks.
However, I know from personal experience, working out can create or worsen anxiety.
For me, sometimes the thought of working out can create such a pit in my stomach and make me feel like my throat is being swollen shut. (I haven't unpacked why this is.)
What I do know is that when I feel this sudden rush thinking about working out, I don't go and workout. I do something that I know will calm me down. Often it is binge-watching a show or reading. Sometimes being lazy is what helps me.
I think this is because I have the mindset that I am never doing enough. This feeling can come up in school, work, extracurriculars, and working out...
"I'm dead after 30 minutes of running? 30 minutes isn't enough–I should be doing at least 40 minutes, I ran cross country for goodness sake."
Sometimes skipping a workout allows me to work on my mental clarity and realizing that just surviving is enough.