Last week I talked about food obsession. It was a big deal. Specifically, I pointed out that being on restrictive diets (like the Whole30 diet) can be so damaging in the long run. You can read that post here.
Last week's post got more hits than probably any other blog post I've written. Clearly, this idea of "obsession" and extreme thinking is hitting home with you guys. In our culture, we're slammed with expectations and bent thinking patterns, and recognizing that there is another way to approach fitness is refreshing beyond belief.
Food is the obvious obsession, which is why I highlighted it so much last week. We often find ourselves thinking about food constantly, tracking everything, viewing certain foods as bad, and panicking when we make a mistake.
We are deceived into thinking that caring this much is healthy for us, but it’s not. It can be deeply damaging to our souls. We start to see our worth and value tied into our adherence to the plan. If you deviate, you’re a worthless failure.
You think that when you reach perfection on the plan, then you’re worth something…then you have proven yourself.
The silent obsession. Workout obsession is not as obvious as food obsession, yet it's still pervasive. It might be obvious to your friends and family, but it’s not easy to admit it's something you struggle with. We hide behind the veil of “I’m just getting in really good shape”.
This is what workout obsession might look like:
Been there, suffered that. I’ve been here, friends. I know what this feels like. We usually mask it underneath a guise of “health and fitness”.
I used to run half marathons and full marathons. Why? Because I could burn a TON of calories doing it. Don't get me wrong, I did like running at the time…it was methodical and meditative. But there was always the other side of the coin for me. I could look at my watch and see that I burned 1,300 calories after a 3-hour run. I felt a strange sort of accomplishment after exercising for 3-4 straight hours. Once I hit that number, any workout shorter than that felt mediocre.
I was obsessed, and it was clouding my judgement. I was getting injured…badly. Every part of my body hurt, my hormones were out of whack, my food cravings were all over the place, and I was unable to shake off the extra pounds that I was desperate to lose. My body was so stressed, but I was proud of how “healthy” I was. I had no clue.
Sound familiar? I know some of you can’t identify with this at all. Food obsession...sure, that makes sense. But workout obsession? You have a hard time just getting one workout done!
But for some of you, this is striking a chord. You’re immediately putting up your defenses and spewing your excuses for why you workout so much. But there is something crying out inside of you that wants to feel free from this obsession. You want to know what it feels like to workout with purpose…to know how to be strong but not overdo it…to be lean and healthy but not freak out if you have an “off day”.
You know your reasons for working out are not completely pure, and you’re ready to break free.
But, you’re a little afraid that it might mean you’ll lose your level of fitness. I get it. But what if you don’t? What if you actually gain focus and purpose? What if you get rid of the excessive stress on your body and make a fitness breakthrough? What if you find rest and peace in your soul?
Practical solutions to break the obsession. Let me show you a couple of options for how to balance out your week and start moving toward breaking the obsession. This provides enough work to help you make strides forward, and enough rest and recovery so every workout can be performed at 100%. You will find a beautiful rhythm in this, one that provides focus and purpose for every workout.
1. Rest Days. First of all, make sure you have at least one, preferably two, full rest days every week. Do not do more than walking, light stretching or light housework on these days.
2. Hard Days. Take the other 5 or 6 days, and choose 3 of them to be your hardest workouts. These can be running or strength training. These workouts should be no longer than 1 hour and 20 minutes max. If it’s strength training, these are your heaviest loads and your highest intensities. If it’s running, these are your longest, fastest runs.
(If you’re training for a half or full marathon, you can shift the bulk of the load onto just one workout…it can be your longest run of the week. Of course, it will probably be much longer than 1 hour and 20 minutes. But then the other hard days need to be much shorter to account for it.)
3. Moderate/Light Days. Now we have 2 or 3 workout days left to plan for. Let these workouts be light to moderate intensity. If you’re strength training, these need to be bodyweight workouts or very light loads. Remember, your heavy loads are on your hard days. These moderate/light days are also a great time to try sprinting or interval workouts.
If you’re running…well, you actually shouldn’t be running this much. Running is such a repetitive activity that it’s best if these 2-3 workouts are some form of cross-training, like strength training or yoga.
You should try to buffer your hardest workouts with either a full rest day or one of the lighter/moderate days. This allows you to go at full capacity for your hard days and gain so much more from every workout.
Examples. We all love examples! If I were helping you break your workout obsession, I would structure your week like this...
If you’re focus is strength training, this is what your week might look like:
Monday: Hard, heavy strength training – 1 hour
Tuesday: Bodyweight conditioning or sprinting with lots of foam rolling – 30 minutes
Wednesday: Hard, heavy strength training – 1 hour
Thursday: Off day (maybe go for a walk, foam roll, stretch)
Friday: Hard, heavy strength training – 1 hour
Saturday: Bodyweight conditioning or sprinting with lots of foam rolling – 30 minutes
Sunday: Off day or restorative yoga (maybe go for a walk, foam roll, stretch)
If you’re a distance runner, and you’d like to see your running improve, this is what I recommend:
Monday: Medium length run at a moderate intensity – 1+ hour
Tuesday: Total body strength training with running specific exercises – 30 minutes
Wednesday: Sprinting workout – 30 minutes
Thursday: Total body strength training with running specific exercises – 30 minutes
Friday: Off day (maybe go for a walk, foam roll, stretch)
Saturday: Long distance run at a moderate intensity – 1+ hour
Sunday: Off day or restorative yoga (maybe go for a walk, foam roll, stretch)
And if you’re curious about what my week looks like, this is what I do. (I don't run anymore, but as the weather improves I might get back out there for some sprinting on Tuesdays.)
Monday: Hard, heavy strength training – 45 minutes
Tuesday: Intermediate yoga – 30-60 minutes
Wednesday: Hard, heavy strength training – 45 minutes
Thursday: Intermediate yoga – 30-60 minutes
Friday: Hard, heavy strength training – 45 minutes
Saturday: Sometimes an extra bodyweight workout with the Strong Mommas Members (30 minutes) or a horseback ride
Sunday: Off day. I’ll usually go for a long walk and do some foam rolling and stretching.
When I design programs for my clients or members, I make sure the workouts don’t last longer than one hour, I put a high priority on bodyweight work, I include a lot of foam rolling and stretching, and then the hard workouts are hard. It’s the perfect balance of heavy and light. A body will beautifully hum in this environment.
Freedom from obsession. I still catch myself drifting toward obsession from time to time. I sometimes feel way too disappointed if I miss a workout (even though I already did 4 or 5 workouts for the week!). I’ll push myself too hard, or feel proud of my soreness. I can start to feel myself thinking more will be better.
But, I catch it. I recognize it, and I remember that I have been freed from this obsession, and I have learned the importance of balance. I remember that I have a good plan in place, and if I just follow it, I will stay fit and strong. I remember that more is not always better. And I remember that this pattern of thought is destructive.
Where are you at, momma? Are you obsessed with working out and need to learn how to rest well? Do you need to create a purpose with each of your workouts and stop gravitating toward the hardest and longest things you can do? You’re not impressing anyone by doing more…you’re only damaging your body and making the rest of your workouts suffer.
Take some time, ask God to show you your true workout intentions, and work on pursuing a balance with your fitness. It might be time to experience a breakthrough and a freedom from workout obsession.
"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you." Galatians 5:1 (MSG)
Do you need help finding balance? Do you feel like your workouts have no purpose or direction? Click here to see how you can get brand new, well-designed workout plans every month that will push your fitness and teach you balance at the same time. Don't miss this!
Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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