The Art of Exercising Out of Habit

In the fitness community, the gym basically serves as a second home–or third or fourth, depending on how much you love your work-place, local grocery store, local shopping mall, or residence of your family or significant other. Even though not everyone may enjoy the gym, everyone loves at least one form of working out. Exercising is an art in its own right. There’s a unique quality about it that allows the body to integrate all kinds of kinesthetic shifts to transform physical composition. Ever since I started working out, I fell head-over-heels and have explored all kinds of routines and formed one that I absolutely adore. Outside of my workout routine, I genuinely adore physical activity in general, whether it be walking, hiking, swimming, or cycling, due to its ability to alleviate my personal concerns, which have increased in the past two months or so.

To summarize, the latter quarter of this year included some of the most distressful weeks in my life. The. Worst. There was a mass amount of disarray I endured that brought even more emotional distraught. The go-to coping mechanism became exerting all my negative energy into my health and fitness, specifically with exercise. It was just incredibly easy–no need to spend money at all or anything extraordinary. I trained longer and harder than I’ve done in months and practiced more accountability than usual. The results and the physical and mental highs implicated that I could keep going for forever. With all the hard work I inputted, I felt mentally and emotionally accomplished in every way after a horrendous month.

But my body’s response, however? SCREW. YOU.

This gigantic middle finger from my physiological responses took hold in the form of indefinitely sore muscles, longer sleeping periods despite no changes in my nightly schedule, increased appetite, and of course, weight gain. My weekly weight increased by three pounds, which may not seem significant, but it’s critical enough for me to notice that my routine is off in some way. Now, for the weight gain, this doesn’t necessarily mean fat gain. It could be, but it’s also likely due to mostly water and fluid retention as well as cortisol increase. Who knows? I don’t have access to a DEXA scan nor a caliper, plus I know that none of these tests will make or break my relationship with my body.

At the same time, whatever the composition of my weight gain may be, I’ve felt as if I’ve been failing my body in some way, or that it was failing me. I followed all the correct parameters–calories in < calories out–yet the sum itself did not match up. I continued to persist with my routine, hoping that my body would re-work itself by the end of the week. Nope. I still maintained a weight that was higher than my original average a month ago, and the frustration has pretty much boiled at its peak as of now. What have I been doing wrong? Why is my body working against me and will I ever escape this rut?

Subconsciously, I’ve figured that my body was loudly, almost obnoxiously, signaling me to slow down my pace. It retained more weight to compensate for all the energy I expended and inclined me to reach for more sources of energy (aka food). Outside of the gym, its functionality only operated at 75% of its capacity. The main issue doesn’t pertain to the weight gain. Not that it isn’t a parameter I disregard or even feel that indifferent to, given that I have experienced this particular range I’m coasting in. I’ve talked about how weight gain can be necessary–it was for me at some point and I restored many health issues I suffered from as a result (hormonal balance, healthy blood levels, adequate supplementation, a more lax lifestyle, and I’ve fallen in love with beans and peanut butter all over again!). Putting on a couple of pounds isn’t entirely negative. Yeah, I don’t look as nice in clothing and my face looks rounder (now that, in particular, SUCKS), but the primary concern of mine centers around how habitual exercise is for me.

I genuinely love exercising and I can’t afford to go about a day without it. Even my rest days consist of long walks that allow me to mentally tune out and reduce screen time. I don’t exercise out of maintaining a certain weight, even though that’s very important to me. I’ve been exercising out of habit because I’ve established this routine for years. Thus, with even cutting my workout routine by half, a third, a quarter, even a seventh creates some kind of dramatic shift that, like many unexpected series of events, troubles me. Whatever that will happen…I will always figure out an action plan. However, how I feel about the matter is the terrifying aspect.

My family and I will be traveling to Maui in late December, which entails a strong possibility of a much less intensive workout routine. There’s no gym in our resort. I won’t have a jump rope to carry out my usual cardio routine, neither weights to lift. My room will most likely not have a scale where I can check my weight consistently. Pretty sure that 99% of the food I’ll eat will not have a calorie label unless it’s from an incredibly widespread brand, and most of the food will most likely be loaded with carbs (it’s difficult to come across a Hawaiian market and resist the abundance of fruit and sweet potatoes there!). Truth of a matter is, I know that I will depart Maui with many positive memories that are devoted towards exploring the island and spending quality time with my family. It’s diving headfirst into making the change that’s daunting.

Years ago, I embarked on my first rock-climbing wall at a school fair. I was hooked from the bottom and navigated my way up the wall. Reaching the top was a victorious moment, but upon looking down from the height I ventured to, I felt myself freeze in terror because I had no idea what would happen if I released my grip from the rocks. I knew that I was hooked to safety, yet the very sight of the ground from such a tall height was enough to cloud my judgment. But once I took the plunge towards the ground, I felt so blissful that I could fly (P.S. the sensation of coming down from a rock-climbing wall indeed feels like flying!). I can imagine that taking action to change another habit will feel the exact same way, similarly to how people just have to visit the gym to even get a workout in, except for me, I know I need to conquer a potentially deteriorating habit with a positive one. That is, beating to the tune of my bodily drum, resting when necessary, and moving it when it desires to.

I know I’ve been over-exercising, I understand that it’s not ideal at all, and I have been taking action to adjust to a less active lifestyle. Even more importantly, there really is no rational reason for me to remain so rigid because I can only keep up with such an insanely ridiculous lifestyle for so long. Seriously, despite that my form is always safe and practical, I am madly surprised and blessed that I haven’t gotten injured from exercising yet. One goal is to ensure that it never happens (obviously). The second goal enforces my ability to live with more flexibility, as with not having to reach a particular step goal every single day or completing X amount of minutes during a plyometric workout “or else”. Abiding by the reason “or else” is no way to live healthily (if you do find yourself with this particular mentality and suffer in your life because of this, I strongly encourage you to seek help from a professional).

One thought on “The Art of Exercising Out of Habit

  1. Sometimes our bodies does things that just doesn’t add up logically. At times like these I remind myself to surrender to what I cannot control; for I’ve done all that I can in the right ways. What I want will come with these aligned actions. I hope you can take solace in that!

    Cannot wait to hear your recap of Maui!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s