As a college athlete, the NCAA mandated programs to have one day off a week during a strenuous, competitive, and intense season. In addition to a day completely off, my coaches incorporated a practice schedule that tapered in length, activity, and intensity as we approached game days. Even though it was made clear to us that a day off helped our bodies recover, I struggled to understand the concept then, and, admittedly, I still battle this belief today.
Back then, a day of zero exercise or a day without sweat didn’t feel right. It made me feel like I lacked energy, and the following day I felt one step slower, and lethargic; almost like I had lost all my stamina and strength just from being inactive for one day. I realize how impossible this was, and that it had to have been mental, but in my mind, I needed to train daily for my performance to be the best–or at least that is what I believed. Even on the days that were considered to be “light” leading up to competition, I felt I needed to add some type of activity so I wouldn’t fall behind in my fitness level.
This mentality lasted all four years as a college soccer player. I never took a day off in fear that I would lose everything I had worked so hard to achieve physically. Then, I completed my career, and began creating my own exercise regime that satisfied my need to maintain a level of physical fitness, while providing me with energy that only soccer training had been able to fulfill. Since, I have rarely taken a day off of working out. It has become a part of my daily life that remains a priority for a variety of reasons.
I always believed that in order to achieve excellence, I needed to feel pain when working out. However, a few years after college soccer, I had my first injury. When I literally wasn’t able to walk anymore, I was left with no other option, but to begin physical therapy. I came to find out that I had tendinitis in my hip from overtraining. I really struggled to comply with their program. I followed their guidelines when it came to exercises that would help alleviate, and eventually eliminate the pain. However, the second they instructed me to rest my body and take time off of working out was the second I resisted their guidance. I am aware that physical therapists know what they are talking about, and provide me with care that would allow me to recover the quickest, but I just couldn’t bear not exercising.
Not only did I fear losing my fitness level, I feared the way I would feel without my body releasing endorphins. Working out gives me energy, and jumpstarts my day. In addition, and still to this day, I fear changes in my body and weight if I take days off of exercise. Again, I am aware this is impossible and inaccurate, but in my mind, I can’t eat as much if I do not workout. I tell myself that if I ate the same amount I do everyday, but not exercise, it only makes sense that I would gain weight.
So, here I am, six weeks after having a baby, and my hip pain recurred. How can I possibly take days off of exercise? I’m not just trying to maintain a particular weight, I am working to lose the weight I had gained during pregnancy. This ongoing battle is something I deal with on a daily basis. I realize the irrationality of these thoughts, but cannot eliminate them. I have been finding other ways of fulfilling this need other than running, though it’s not the same. I have succumbed to seeking out a physical therapist nearby, and luckily, he has provided me a regime that demands strength work, anaerobic exercises, and cardio to fulfill that fix. He has enabled me to push myself in a way that I am satisfied, but is simultaneously healing my hip joint.
Exercise is a daily activity. Thankfully, it is a healthy habit, one I try not to take to the extreme. It is just something I need for my mental health and physical health. As long as I’m able to do it, I will run, bike, walk, or climb everyday. Even if it hurts a little bit while I’m doing it. It’s just my thing.