I haven’t always been the perfect picture of health, and guess what? I’m still not. Sometimes “health” seems like an elusive thing – it’s always a balancing act and every day seems to bring a different set of health woes. I’m sure you feel me. In the history of Katie, health never was something I focused on until my body began protesting a little too loudly for me to ignore. It took me a while, but I eventually caught on and started listening.
I also had some unpleasant years with my health – some moments where I didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know who to turn to, and felt like it was a lost cause. I happened to be abroad when I lost my period for four months, gained 30 pounds, and broke out in painful, cystic acne. I had panic attacks in public because I felt like I had lost control of my body. It’s not uncommon for anyone to hit low points in their health, even those who practice in the field of health.
I decided to flip the switch on my health, and I made a very vigorous attempt to do so. Through daily workouts, eating right, and practicing stress management, the weight began to melt off and my skin began to clear. I started feeling better and my period returned. And for a while, my health and body just seemed to snap back like a rubberband.
I Didn’t Adjust to My Body’s Needs
Oftentimes, when the pendulum swings so far in one direction – I was binge eating, boozing it up on a regular basis (party central!), and eating foods my body couldn’t tolerate – we let it swing too far in the opposite direction. I became so terrified of losing control of my body again that I went overboard on the other end of the spectrum. I never did the P90X workouts or lifted heavy tires – way too extreme for me. But I did put my HIIT workouts above everything else. I pushed myself through my fatigue, my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and I began feeling worse more often than not after finishing my workout. But I felt I had to keep going because if I didn’t, my body was going to fall apart again.
I think what should have been a wake-up call for me was about four years ago when I was in the middle of a cardio routine and I tweaked something in my back. It didn’t feel right and it was so painful that I crashed down face first on my bed in pain. But I felt like I had to finish my workout. So I pushed through the pain. Luckily, I didn’t make my back worse.
Little did I know that I was making other pieces of my health puzzle worse. When I wasn’t experiencing IBS or sleep deprivation, my workouts actually did make me feel great. I felt energetic, happy, and strong. But nothing is constant – you age, you go through periods of stress, you lose sleep, you get ill. You adjust. I didn’t adjust – I always felt so proud of myself for working out even while on vacation, while recovering from an illness, while feeling sleep deprived. In my mind, I needed to keep my workouts going strong because I knew I could control my health through my workout routine. But instead of molding my movement practice around the needs of my body, I tried to force my body through workouts I thought I needed. And my body began to protest again.
I decided to seek the help of several holistic healers and the resounding message that was coming to me was “stop pushing your body so hard.”
I am immersed in the world of hormones and do know how cortisol affects our delicate hormonal balance. I have even advised other women not to push it so hard in the gym because hard workouts = cortisol overload = hormonal chaos, yet I wasn’t listening to my own advice!
Finally, and this has been a recent development, I decided to let go of the obsessive thought that if I stop working out so hard, I will go back to that state of dis-ease. The state I feared so much.
Slowly, like a coffee addict weaning off of the cup of joe, I started weaning myself off of HIIT and cardio. I started walking almost daily, meditating, sleeping in a little bit later, and doing gentle pilates as opposed to cardio and HIIT routines.
Here is what I have to report after two months of my new movement routine:
- Better sleep – I have been falling asleep like nobody’s business! I am not that kind of person that falls asleep before my head hits the pillow, but my sleep has been consistent, deep, and refreshing. I have been falling asleep within 10 minutes of getting into bed and mostly sleeping through the night.
- Clearer skin – well, finally!
- Less stress. I feel it. I’m more at ease. Ommmmm……
- Less pain during my periods. My periods went from OH MY GOD I WANT TO DIE to….did I just have my period? And for me, this is the best part.
What My Routine Looks Like Now
When I feel good, I do pilates at home. Cardio and HIIT are still a part of the mix but I only incorporate it when I feel 100% and I no longer do long stretches of just cardio workouts.
Meditation. I use the app Insight Timer and I just do it when I can, whether it’s 5 minutes before I run off to work, or 15 minutes on the weekend. I especially like to do it after a workout to combat the effects of cortisol.
My amazing physical therapist, Jeni Gall, told me that exercise is an option, but movement is not. I’ve been “running” with that and really tuning into what my body needs right now. Sometimes it does ask for the cardio but most of the time, it feels best with gentle movement, rest, and being outdoors.
The Bottom Line
If something is not feeling right for you, don’t be afraid to switch things up! You should feel energized and refreshed after a workout, not sluggish and exhausted. Your movement practice doesn’t have to be pumping iron in the gym or lifting massive tires. It just has to make you feel good and get your bod moving!
What does your ideal movement routine look like? Share with me in the comments below!