Until about a month ago, the summer had left me in a pretty serious fitness rut. While my trip to Turkey was actually quite an active one filled with copious amounts of city walking, mountain hiking and ocean swimming, as is the case with any vacation I came back feeling pretty unenthused to get back in to the gym. My efforts amounted to a sub-par workout once or twice (if I was lucky) a week. I just didn’t have the motivation and drive that I used to. I was constantly exhausted, and frankly at the end of a long day at work, all I wanted to do was cook some comfort food and snuggle up to a good movie on TV or a book in bed (yes I know, I’m about 80 years old at heart).
While I consciously tried to get back into the “fitness mode” by planning to revisit tried and tested workouts, or looking up new routines my mind and body just weren’t having any of it. I became frustrated and irritated at my seeming unwillingness to return to my regular gym workouts. I thought, “I’m supposed to love exercising and staying in shape. How can I be demotivated? What does this say about me?”. It also didn’t help to think of the one-year membership that I had pre-paid for in January just sitting there going unused. The more I thought about it, the more the negativity, guilt and frustration festered. So I just disassociated myself from those thoughts and focused on work which, as it happened, was taking up most of my time and energy anyways.
It wasn’t until my recent trip to Egypt that I finally made like Stella and got my groove back (props to anyone who got that movie reference). I made a point of packing workout clothes and took advantage of the fresh sea air at our resort in Hurghada. Being an early riser I snuck out every morning for a run and even did a few HIIT workouts by the pool despite the weird looks I garnered from the overwhelming amount of Russian tourists staying at our resort.
Unsurprisingly, I felt better than I had in weeks. My energy levels (along with my appetite) were up, my mood was lifted, and I even experienced a sort of mental clarity that felt like fog clearing from my brain. Now that I was no longer in my dreaded rut, I was actually able to reflect on it, and begin to ascertain the cause.
I pondered why it was that I was so eager and willing to exercise on vacation. Was it the change of atmosphere? Lack of work-induced stress or daily routine time constraints? I couldn’t place my finger on it. I was practically itching to get out every morning and, despite the fact that I was not at my fittest, I found myself enjoying every second of my outdoor runs and workouts.
That’s when it hit me. It wasn’t that I had lost the will to work out and stay in shape – I just no longer enjoyed going to the gym. Since my modus operandi for exercise in Bahrain meant hitting the gym, it just so followed that if I didn’t – I wouldn’t work out at all. Cardio machines had become my nemesis and bored me to death. Lifting weights just didn’t give me the thrill and rush that it used to. Walking through the glass double doors and hearing the pumping music no longer gave me a jolt of excitement and anticipation to get in a killer workout. On top of that I had become so consumed with unattainable goals and numbers that it just wasn’t fun anymore.
It took me a while to find my footing, but a few failed martial arts classes (never again) and team sports endeavors later and I’ve finally settled into a new routine. I revisited an old love and signed up to a great Zumba class twice a week. Thanks to the cooler weather I’ve started running outdoors regularly, and even signed up to the upcoming Bahrain Marathon Relay as part of a team running for charity. When I’m short on time I hit up old reliable at home workouts like Insanity which still kicks my butt every bit as hard as it used to. I’m also keen to start Pilates, at the recommendation of a friend who is an enthusiast and instructor in training, but I haven’t found a class that fits my schedule yet.
Needless to say I feel so much happier and centered than I have in a long time. I enjoy working out and staying in shape for overall health and wellness, stress relief and let’s be honest, vanity reasons too. I would be lying if I said that aesthetics weren’t a large part of my motivation, but to be honest I see no shame in that. In fact I’ve noticed that even when if there’s no physical change I simply feel more confident and self-assured when I exercise regularly – perhaps its a placebo effect.
But above all, I’ve learned that it’s okay. It’s okay to not want to do something that you previously enjoyed so much. It’s okay to take a few steps back, and as much time as you need to figure out your next steps. It’s okay not to feel guilty, and to blow off the impossibly high standards we set for ourselves.
Whether it’s exercise, work, relationships or any other aspect of life – there comes a time where we have to re-evaluate and reassess how we feel. If something no longer gives you the pleasure, joy and fulfillment it used to – take a step back. Face it head on and examine the reasons why you no longer feel that way, then try to make positive changes to rectify the situation.
And now I’m off to enjoy what’s left of a much needed long weekend. I intend to spend most of today doing not much at all – because you know what? That’s okay too.