How I Got Back to My Gym Workout After I Fell Off the Fitness Wagon

 How I Got Back to My Gym Workout After I Fell Off the Fitness Wagon

I’ve been religiously exercising with a gym workout for years: 30 minutes each of cardio and strength training three times a week. I was stronger than ever. My body was lean and toned. Exercising made me feel incredible, and I was proud of my healthy lifestyle. Then I quit – and didn’t lift a weight for three months.

Why I Quit Exercising: Stress + Perfectionism

Early last September, I cracked. My aunt invited me over for a last-minute dinner with the fam to feed myself and my soul. I needed it. A stressful year had peaked into horrible summer. My freelance income had been ebbing for months, right at the same time that my wiener dog needed three very expensive surgeries. For a while, he couldn’t walk, and he had to live in a cage for four months to recover.

Family members were sick and facing crises. My car broke down. I doubled down on my efforts to find new income, working extra hours every day. I canceled my upcoming vacation and tightened my belt to the smallest loop.

And then I was invited to dinner. But there was a problem: I had carefully planned out my week between client interviews, work, vet appointments, and of course – my gym workout. Going to dinner meant missing it. What to do?

I had committed to a healthier lifestyle and exercising was an important part of the promise I had made to myself. I struggled with the decision and was to the point of tears when I realized: if exercising is making you this upset, it’s NOT healthy.

So I stopped. I went to dinner that night and had extra dessert. Exercising wasn’t the only thing I stopped; I also quit watching what I ate and working all those extra hours. I started drinking wine again. I went from controlling perfectionism into full-on “SCREW IT” mode, a pattern I have repeated more than once in my life.

And it felt fantastic! I had so much free time! My workout no longer stole precious hours from my workday and I was able to write more. I finished house projects that had been hanging over my head for months.

More importantly, I had more time to relax. I binge-watched all seven seasons of Game of Thrones and went out for drinks with friends. I went to the park instead of the gym and laid on the grass. I took afternoon ice cream breaks and became a pimiento cheese connoisseur. After a couple of months of this laissez-faire lifestyle, I had gained 15 pounds – but I just didn’t care.

Why I Started Exercising Again: My Future Self

By November, my freelance income waxed back up and my dog was walking again. Months of relaxation had left me in a much better mood, and my crappy year swung upward on the strength of a chilled-out autumn. With more free time, I was also able to get organized – and I came across a letter to myself written when I first started exercising and eating healthier years ago.

I hadn’t done it to look good or to wear a smaller size, but because I wanted to be able to climb mountains when I was 65. To snorkel and paddle a kayak and swim with sharks. And I wanted to honor the body I was blessed with by treating it with respect and love.

After reading that letter, I knew it was time to get back on the wagon – and it was much easier than I thought it would be! I already had exercise clothes and a gym membership. I already knew what to do during my gym workout. The habit had already been instilled, I just had to put down the pimiento cheese and pick back up my workout.

I also had great inspiration: a milestone birthday was around the corner, and there was no way I was turning 40 with a muffin top. Plus – none of my pants or bras fit anymore. I could either buy a new wardrobe or get my ass back to the gym. So I did.

And this time, things are different. If exercising and making healthier choices stresses you out, you’re doing it wrong. And I was. This time, I love myself first. I give myself credit for trying, not just for doing things perfectly. My goal is a balanced life, and I adapt my workout plans whenever I need to without beating myself up about it. I count bike rides and dog walks and tai chi as exercise.

Will I be as toned and lean as I was? Nope – but I will be healthier.

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Shilo Urban

Shilo first became interested in conscious living when she found herself working simultaneously at a mom-and-pop natural food store and a farm for endangered livestock breeds on the coast of Maine. After residing in Austin, New Zealand, Paris, Seattle, and Los Angeles, she now lives in Fort Worth, Texas where she works as a freelance writer. Her passions include international travel and wiener dogs.