What happens when you stop exercising
Frustration, Hope, Apathy…I’ve felt all three since my enforced period of rest started in December.
There’s lots of widely published scientific information about what happens to your body and your health physically when you stop exercising – within a few weeks you lose strength, gain fat and possibly even gain weight. I can definitely confirm that all this is true.
But worse than that is the affect on my mental health, or more specifically, the affect on my desire to exercise.
Before I became ill with pneumonia, I’d had a fantastic six months. Consistently working out at least three times each week and squeezing in at least one 5k run if not two. I was strong, comfortable with the way I looked and felt and totally surprised by what my body was capable of as my fitness improved week by week. In reality, I don’t think I even looked dramatically different to the way I look now, but it’s amazing how a fit lifestyle can reframe negativity into something positive in your mind.
Then I was so poorly that working out was the last thing on my mind.
Once I started to feel a little better I was so frustrated. Still unable to climb the stairs without feeling out of breath, the GP said it would be a good few months before I felt back to normal.
Then after about six weeks, I hopefully tried a short jog. It was hard work, it hurt (not in the right way) and I hated every minute – in fact I was actually scared that I might hinder my recovery and decided to leave it a few more weeks before trying again.
Three months on and I’ve managed a couple of workouts and a couple of short runs recently but to say my heart isn’t in it is an understatement despite that fact that I’m definitely feeling loads better. In fact, this last week has been the best week for me since Christmas health wise, but I’m desperately sad because I’ve simply lost my fitness mojo.
Exercise is such a psychological thing.
The more you do, the more you crave it. The less you do, the less you can be bothered. So that’s where I’ve been recently – in the apathy phase. I honestly do believe that when you’re not working out other things start to decline too, like your enthusiasm for healthy eating! And I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been using all the excuses in the book. Work, kids, jobs to do at home, social engagements, the weather. You name it, I’ve been using it as an excuse. But the only person I’m kidding is myself.
So how do you switch the mojo back on?
Not sure I know the answer. I can do all the practical things such as booking slots in my diary and eating the right things to give me some energy. But the tough bit is making myself want to do it. I have a holiday coming up in three weeks and even this is not giving me the kick up the bum that I need.
But here’s what I do know. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing: I won’t feel positive about exercise again until after I’ve done it a few times. So this week I’m just going to have to grin and bear it. I’ve promised myself three workouts and one run and that’s what I’m going to do.
After all, you never regret the workouts you do, only the ones you don’t.
If my situation sounds familiar, challenge yourself to do the same. Get up, get moving and grin and bear it – because once you do you’ll be so happy with yourself!
And as for one thing I’ve learnt through this whole experience – when you’re really ill, rest is important but you need to listen to your body and remember to get your trainers back on as soon as you’re well enough to do so. Otherwise, you might be tempted not to, and life as a couch potato is just too sad to contemplate.
Now where did I leave my trainers….?
You should always consult with your GP before re-starting an exercise regime after an illness such as pneumonia.
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