There’s a little old lady in my building that walks her dog approximately four times a day. And yes, she really is a little old lady. She’s maybe 5 feet tall and probably somewhere in the vicinity of 80 years old. Not the point. The point is that she never misses a beat. Rain. Shine. Snow. Wind. Doesn’t matter – she’s out there. It’s pretty admirable, actually; and it makes me feel like a wimp for refusing to go outside when the wind blows. But again, not the point.
I don’t spend a lot of time talking about fitness here on Spoons, and it’s not because I don’t think exercise is important, but because I really don’t have a lot to say on the subject. I wrote a post about my current “routine” waaaaay back when I first returned to blogging after my hiatus, and not much has changed since then. I still haven’t committed to any real workouts and I’m assuming that telling you guys that “I went for a nice 45 minute walk today” would start sounding redundant after a little while. Yep, I’m still keeping it to a walk a day, and sometimes I don’t even get one of those in. It really depends on how busy life gets.
Those busy days where you end up running around like a headless chicken. I didn’t want to traumatize you guys by showing you an actual headless chicken, so hopefully this gets the point across.
So it’s been well over a year and a half since I gave up on formal workouts. Before that, I was working out 5 or 6 days a week for about an hour a day, alternating between lifting and cardio. I go into a little bit of detail about why I cut back on exercise here, but basically I just started feeling really run down all the time and I experienced what I believe were the symptoms of overtraining on a pretty regular basis. I’m still not entirely sure why, since I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it at the gym and I did my best to make sure I was eating enough, but maybe my body just didn’t have enough time to heal after the whole eating disorder fiasco – after all, five years of starvation is a lot of damage done.
But I digress. I have no idea why my workouts were having such a negative effect on me, but I do know that I experienced a world of good when I gave them up. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Praising the benefits of not exercising in a world that’s trying to get people off the couch? But I don’t really think that motivation to exercise is an issue in the blog world; exercise addiction seems to be a much bigger problem.
I get quite a few e-mails from girls struggling with exercise addiction – girls who want to cut back on their workouts, but continue to slave away at the gym because they’re afraid of what might happen if they don’t. I get it – I was the same way. Words like unhealthy, lazy, and fat plagued me constantly in those early stages; but after a year and a half, I feel like I can confidently tell you guys what does happen when you stop exercising…
Or at least, nothing bad. I did go through a lot of changes, but none of them were what I was expecting.
Weight. A fear of weight gain seems to be what holds most people back from cutting back on exercise – at least that was definitely the case for me. But as counterintuitive as it may seem, I actually ended up losing weight and leaning out, despite not making any huge changes to my diet. Before I stopped, I was working out regularly and eating clean, but in spite of my best efforts, I was slowly putting on weight that was not muscle. This is all speculation, but I think what wound up happening was that the physical stress from exercise just ended up being too much for my body, exhausting my adrenal system, screwing with my hormones, and causing my my body to hold on to fat. Not good. After I stopped, that extra weight dropped off, and I’ve been easily maintaining ever since.
Sleep. Big improvements here. I have a way easier time falling asleep and actually staying asleep. Before, it would take me forever to drift off to sleep, and I’d constantly be waking up during the night. And if you think my current 5:30-6 mornings are bad, they’re nothing compared to my 4-4:30 mornings from before. Oi.
Energy. Obviously, more sleep means I have a lot more energy, but in addition to that, I don’t feel nearly so fatigued all the time. Back in the day, I was constantly dealing with limbs that felt like they were made of lead, and always fighting the “I-don’t-want-to-get-up-from-the-couch” feeling. I would get my workout in and then just want to be lazy for the rest of the day.
Digestion. As with sleep, huge improvements here. Less bloating, less cramping, less stomach problems in general. It may have been the increased amounts of protein that I was trying to eat, but my stomach seemed to be in a constant state of unrest back in the day. It still acts up occasionally, but usually only when I eat something that doesn’t agree with me or I get overly stressed out.
Less stress. This might just be the best change I experienced. I know people use exercise as a way to deal with stress, but for me it became a huge source of stress. Back in the day, my life revolved around exercise and I would basically plan my entire day around when I could get to the gym. All of my meals and snacks had to be perfectly timed and planned (pre workout/post workout macros), I would turn down opportunities that clashed with my planned gym time, and I would freak out if something spontaneously came up and prevented me from going to the gym. Stress, stress, stress. The constant planning and rigidity got to be way too much. Now? No plan, no stress. Sometimes I walk in the morning, sometimes at lunch, sometimes in the evening – sometimes I don’t get a walk in at all. If the opportunity presents itself, I take it. If not, I don’t worry.
Less obsession. I’m not quite sure how this one came about, or if it’s even directly related, but I became a lot more relaxed after giving up formal workouts. There’s no longer that mentality that I have to get a certain amount of exercise in or that I have to eat 100% clean. Lazy days don’t bother me and neither does enjoying the occasional slice of cake or serving of McDonald’s fries. Even without my constant planning and stressing, my body seems to be managing just fine. Better, in fact.
. – . – . – .
These changes definitely didn’t happen overnight. I was one big ball of anxiety when I first gave up exercising, but as the benefits became more and more apparent over time, my anxieties slowly eased up.
I should probably end this with a disclaimer that I don’t think exercise is a bad thing at all. In fact, I think being physically active is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle… but what that means is different for everyone. Going to the gym and following a structured workout plan isn’t the only way to be healthy. It may work for some, but it’s not the only way to go about it. I recently came across a pretty interesting article that claims that normal, every day lifestyle activity is as healthy as going to the gym. I believe it. I don’t exercise but I do my best to stay active, and I can honestly say that feel and look the best that I ever have.
No questions today. I would just love to hear your thoughts.
I think I have cortisol issues. I can’t seem to lose, I watch it hat I eat, and the only time I have lost weight is when I ate raw and walked only . No weights nothing. What gives?
I know this post was written years ago , and I’m sure you’ve forgotten about it by now but I just need to respond because I’ve got noone else I can share with so hoping the anonymity of this will be cathartic or something?
Anyway I’m definitely what you would say is ‘obsessive’ about exercise, similarly had (let’s be honest, stillhave to an extent) an ED and use exercise as a way to ‘cope’… but I’m not really coping- I’m on holiday currently and so wont be exercising my usual hour and a half/2 hours a day (not through enjoyment anymore but purely guilt/fp8rcing myself). I’m terrified the weight is suddenly all going to pile back on or something even though on the occasional other day that I’ve had to miss exercise I’ve actually ended up losing a bit!
Just wondering how you even get out of an ingrained habit like that though…
I’m so happy I came across this, because I was looking for people with a similar experience. For almost 2 years now, i’ve been diagnosed with chronic constipation with unknown cause. It’s not painful, just uncomfortable, with bloating that most people can’t tell by looking at me, but when you know your own body, you know it’s there and can feel it. I’ve been working out for maybe 6-7 years at this point. Strictly heavy strength training, not much cardio, every 3 days or so and usually to the point of muscle failure because I just thought that’s how you’re supposed to do it.
The past few months I gained even more symptoms, insomnia, unable to sleep through the night, elevated heart rate in the morning, loss of appetite. I ONLY came across articles that these could all be signs of overtraining, including the digestive issues. I NEVER thought to take a break from the gym because of course, everyone says exercise is good for constipation. Well now that the gyms are closed because of the virus, I decided to try a break and in just 7 days, my stomach is improving, i’m sleeping better through the night, my heart rate is lowering and I’m feeling thirsty again (I didn’t even realize it had gone away!) I’m shocked because like you, it didn’t FEEL like I was overtraining. And so the symptoms creep up on you without you even realizing. Sure, sometimes it was a chore to go, but you just figure, yeah, it’s the gym and you have to push yourself to go, who actually takes that much PLEASURE out of it?
I am continuing with another week of rest and then might ease back into bodyweight workouts just because I don’t want to give up working out forever! But like you, my “routine” is just for myself. I’m not “training” for anything, just because exercise is healthy and gives you a nice body. I do believe social media and the whole exercise craze nowadays makes it seem as if you HAVE to stick to some strict, rigid schedule, but I have no weight-loss goals or anything like that. What in the world have I been training so hard for?? Time to reassess everything because right now all that training is not HELPING my body at all. Thank you for sharing your story!
Not only happy that I found this blog but I’m also happy to see this reply cause as you I have been have digestive issues, racing heart and no sleep lately. I feel so quilty but I cant believe in 3 days that I am actually starting to have regular and normal bowel movements, sleep is also improving. Although I feel my body is like detoxing cause I’ve been dealing with an upset / wonky tummy and now a migraine and back/neck pain 😞 hoping it’ll pass and that after 1-2 weeks I’ll be able to slowly get back into my workouts. I also don’t feel bloated! So crazy!
Thank you for your post, it has really spoken to me.
I recently was forced to quit all of my various activities after acquiring a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus. I use to dance, do circus arts, F45 HIIT training, walk at least 4 miles a day, play soccer for around AJ hour every night and sometime run or life weights, do other exercises at the gym, skateboard, and bike. It’s been so stressful and I’m not used to this low level of activity. When thinking about all of the contributing factors to my injury (all I did was step wrong during at intramural soccer game) I think it may have also been caused by my severely overworked body. I had gotten under 6 hours of sleep the night before, done various activities, biked to the soccer game, and was careful not to overeat that day. I felt weak but I figured I could push through… until my left leg completely gave out on me. Now after not exercising at all (except for using crutches) for a month, I’m realizing how much permanent damage can be done when we overwork are body and just “push through”. Even though this mentality can be good at times, sometimes it costs us a lot more than gaining a few pounds or missing out workout. After one month, I realized by body hadn’t really changed at all except for perhaps loss of muscle mass in my injured left leg. I would never have believed someone if they told me nothing would change if I couldn’t work out. I have not severely changed my diet, and although the injury is stress inducing because of fear of gaining weight and not knowing what is to come, my body does need this rest. There are some things about exercising that I miss, and I know that I’ll be happy to get back to doing some things—but with less high impact. These may burn the most calories (running, jumping, etc.) but now I know that I am susceptible to the injuries that come with those activities. I will do the things I enjoy—dance, sing, swim, and also be kinder to my body. We only get one and it is so important that we take care of it. That doesn’t mean doing no activity, but it means being reasonable and kind to ourselves.
Thanks you so much for this post. It is just what I needed. I have been fighting to recover from an eating disorder and exercise addiction for over 2 years now. While I have stopped by restriction and have my eating habits under control, exercise – over exercise – still controls my life. My counselor, nutritionist and trainer have all been working with me to take 6 months off from exercise. Today I committed to 6 months of no exercise. I am scared to death but so hopeful. I have done many hard things to defeat this ED and if this is my last hard thing, I know it will be worth it.
LOVE this post! I’m currently exercising WAY less intensely because of knee injuries (most likely from overuse). Only doing core, upper body, minimal elliptical, and light rehab exercises on my lower body. However, I haven’t quite felt the relief yet. I always enjoyed my workouts and I’ve been having heightened anxiety lately about my health and my injury as I try to discover why it happened and how to get better (hint: there’s only so much you can do to get better. so much is out of our control. and this is what throws me). I’m coming to terms with the whole situation recently. I tried to get back too soon a couple months ago and the knees started to act up again. After 2 months of laying off, I have also lost weight. However, I’ve also lost my appetite and, honestly, it’s giving me anxiety. I’ve always eaten less than other women and now that exercise isn’t in the mix (and the anxiety is heightened), I’m having to force feed myself to get in minimal calories. Has this happened to you? Asking for a friend!
How did you make yourself stop? I know I need to stop but cannot do it because of the anxiety I feel if I stop.
busy mom fitness
Yes, that is a very informative post. Thanks for sharing!
I stumbled across this blog post while searching for what happens to the body if formal exercise is given up. This is something that I am going to start doing as I’ve been exercising consistently for many many years. It’s time I learned how to have freedom around exercise and starting doing the movements that I actually enjoy not the ones that burn the most calories. THANK YOU for posting this. I too have gained some weight even though I eat fairly healthy and exercise 5 days a week. I think my body is just saying I need to stop and listen. Everything you wrote is exactly how I feel and it gives me hope that the “world won’t end” if I stop exercising. 🙂
This was was such an interesting article. I used to run 5-7 miles a day, go to the gym every day. I would freak out as well if I missed my class or gym time – I wouldnt make any plans with people and everything would revolve around the gym! I would actually feel exhausted everyday, but would feel that urge to go run and take classes. I wouldnt want to drink water or anything in fear of gaining the water weight. I felt so bloated and thus would gain weight from the bloat which caused me to run …it was terrible. Until I really injured my leg and couldnt do anything… its sad bc i loved working out but I am realizing how exercise ran my life. Its been nice enjoying life, taking walks and realizing I am actually losing weight. I plan on doing yoga soon, but thank you again for your article.
I’m 47 years old and a lifelong exercise addict. In the past decade, I felt awful far more often than I felt good-chronically exhausted. I didn’t listen though–pushed through until not only was I exhausted, I got injured to the point of needing PT for several different areas of my body. One day I looked at my mother, and felt the same way you did when you saw your neighbor–like a light bulb went on. How could my 81 year old mom have so much more energy than I did? She’s happy, in a good mood, full of life, and she can stay up past nine pm without drooling into her lap! I realized that that’s what I want–isn’t it what we all want, to make it to a vibrant, full old age and be happy on the journey, not tired and crabby and sore? I started to cut waaaay back. I take walks. I do yoga. I go for bike rides sometimes. I used to run every day–now I run only if I really feel moved to do so, but I don’t feel any shame in a half-mile run vs the 8-10 miles the old me would’ve insisted on. My weight hasn’t changed a bit– weight gain has far more to do with what we put in our mouths than how much we exercise, and I eat less now that I don’t need all those calories just to stay awake. I honestly think I look better–but maybe that’s just because I feel so much better and I enjoy life so much more.
I’m recently recovering from an ed..year now and I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease..I’m 15 btw…anyways after I was weight restored I maintained for a few months and then my weight just started going up,I workout 5 days a week for 1-1/2 hours and I’ve only been able to gain weight (20-30 lbs) and I get horrible anxiety now and it sucks and I can’t loose weight and all I do is eat healthy (fruits veggies and protein) and I haven’t been able to drop a pound. Not only do I exercise an hour , but I walk 5-8 miles a day. Idk if I should drop the exercise but I’m almost overweight if not even, and I get so stressed trying to balance a social life and homework and exercise and I only get 5 hours of sleep a night and I’m really not in a good place..I was wondering if I should lay of the exercise but I’m way to scared..during my ed I would workout for 3 hours a day..anyways some advice would really help cause it sucks when you can’t breathe and your hands cant stop shaking when your the center of attention or going out and I just really need some advice
I had to stop reading your blog. Leaning out by not working out is not accurate for most of people. I believe you are trying to make people feel good about not working out?? Maybe to make yourself feel better? Not sure.
That was a refreshing article. I started lifting weights about 13 years ago at the gym and it literally became like a religion to me. I would go 4-5 days a week for about 1.5 hours each time. For the longest time it made me feel great since I was gaining muscle and becoming really toned. When I hit 29 though things went down hill. My shoulders started to hurt and now I also have chronic pain in my lower back. I literally ignored the cries that my body were giving me to stop and relax. Recently I decided to just quit all together. I plan on starting to cycle more often, walk, take a beginners yoga class and just start doing body weight exercises instead. Try to cut it down to 3 days a week. Honestly it is an addiction. My mood has taken a downward spiral since I got hurt months ago and now I have anxiety/depression on top of it. The stupid thing is I know I have to stop but I still feel guilty.
Ok, I would also like to leave a comment years after this was posted lol. Basically, I was a college track girl, always working out and eating right. I have 3 kids under five and now am 30. I easily lost the baby weight after the two. But now at ten months postpartum I am still ten pounds over my norm. This is mind boggling to me since I do cardio, weights, and hiit. About four days a week. Extra ten isn’t muscle. I am no sugar, low carb, I get so much fiber in. I drink ACV for crying out loud! I’m reading the comments and seeing all these people saying they LOSE going from serious workouts to just walks and yoga. I’ve gotta try it, at this point what do I have to lose lol.
I’m so thankful that I found this post! I am towards the end of my ED recovery (I hope) but I realized this week that exercise is something that I haven’t been strong enough to give up yet. It’s ruining my happiness and I know that I need to give it up for awhile to gain control of my body and my happiness again! I loved reading about the changes that happened when you gave it up. It was incredibly helpful to me and I thank you for putting that out there! Very best.
Amanda @ .running with spoons.
I’m so glad that you found it inspirational, Meghan! All the best in your recovery! And if you ever need an ear, I’d be more than happy to listen.
Hi! I realise you posted this so long ago but I stopped lifting weights cold turkey about two weeks ago and I have honestly never felt better! I was definitely overtraining – one or two hours for six days a week and it dominated my life! I finally have time to do all the things I’ve been missing – reading, walking, hanging out with my friends. I haven’t made any drastic changes to my diet – I am just listening to my body and going with how I feel! So far no major weight gain.. I feel a little fluffy but I think it is probably psychological! Thankyou for this post. You’ve reassured me that I’ve done the right thing!
Hello! I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve had an eating disorder in the past and maybe still kind of do. I was considering completely cutting out my planned workouts because I can’t seem to lose weight, I’ve been eating less and less and the scale won’t budge, my jeans are still tight too. I overshot my weight when I recovered from anorexia a couple of years ago and it’s really affected my confidence. Do you think exercise is the issue? I have very big calves too and would love to lose some of the muscle in them because before I started working out years ago, they were just normal sized. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy working out, I prefer walks with friends and family, but with school, I don’t really have time to go on long leisurely walks any more. Any advice would be much appreciated x
Amanda @ .running with spoons.
It’s hard to give advice without knowing all the details, but exercise could definitely be a factor. Even the stress from overexercising and undereating can make our bodies super good at storing weight by raising our cortisol levels and putting our bodies into panic mode. Most people don’t realize how big of an impact hormones and stress have on weight and well-being. It wouldn’t hurt to take some time off working out and seeing what helps. Or even going to your doctor and getting your blood checked to see if all your levels are in the proper range.
I just wanted you to know that I found this post a few months ago and it totally saved me. I used to work out every single day and if i didn’t i was in a bad mood. Now I stopped completely and I work at a preschool so I still get lots of movement. I used to be afraid to go on trips in fear of not getting my work out in. Now I travel a lot more and never say no to an invitation. After stopping working out my knee problems have gone away too. Thank you so much for this post. It really increased my life quality SO MUCH!!!! XOXOXO
Wow, this was like reading about my own life. Every since I got into working out 6 years ago I’ve had nothing but tummy issues! This year was the hardest for me to lose weight. I lost 15 pounds in Jan/Feb since than the scale hasn’t budged! I stopped working out almost 2 weeks ago im already down 2 pounds, and feel so much better everything you posted is exactly how I feel! So glad to know im not alone!
I’m very obsessed and worried about my weight
I try not to eat a lot, and I was exercising everyday, intensely. I’ve been trying to stop though, and I feel like I’ve been gaining weight. It might just be in my head, but I’m very obsessive about it. Do you think not exercising would help me out? Do you think I’ll really get bigger? Thank you 🙂
Just read this post & started nodding my head in agreement. I am a 55 yr old male, just recently retired Police Officer. For years, right up until I retired a few short months ago I guess you would consider me a workout junkie. My job made me this way as one had to stay physically fit especially when there were many times I’d encounter someone less than half my age that wanted to fight. In this profession losing wasn’t an option as it could cost somebody their life including my own or another officer.
Practically every day I did something. Weight training, running, cross country running, crossfit, cross training, hiking, boxing, MMA & everything inbetween.
In the last couple of years all of that training and my age began catching up. Constantly tired, zero energy, problems sleeping, a lot of WEIGHT GAIN and so on.
Since retiring and no longer having a world class FREE work gym available, my workouts dropped pretty dramatically. I still have a small home gym but only workout 2-3 times a week. I have a part time job that & putter around the house or at friends houses the rest of the time.
I’ve LOST twelve pounds & feel a heck of a lot better. My diet hasn’t changed too much as I was a pretty clean eater before but I to now enjoy the odd order of fries & ice cream cones!
Your article sure rings true. I don’t think the average physically active person realizes the accumulative stress damage done to the body from over training.
Everyone at some point needs to take time to step back & smell the roses.
Thank you , i read this at really crucial time and ir has helped me massivley x
I recently quit CrossFitting, cold turkey. It’s killing me. CrossFitting mad me really fat. It seems the more I exercise the more fat I gain. Docs tell me my adrenals are blown and I FINALLY listened. Issue is, being ‘sedentary’ (not really because I have four kids) is driving me batty. I feel fatter than ever. I know it’s the right thing but exercising at that intensity put SO MUCH WEIGHT on me. We’ll see what happens but everyone I know has a close minded view and doesn’t seem to understand. I’m at wit’s end. The more I exercised the worse I felt, to the point I couldn’t ignore it. I have a ton of food allergies anomy body seems to be in a constant state of inflammation. I tried EVERY diet and I have seen tons of docs and naturopaths. No one has been able to figure it out. I praying this is the answer.
So for the second time and countless hundreds of dollars, I’m fighting foot issues again. Stress fracture last year, this year a torn plantar plate, neuroma and bursitis, with the beginnings of arthritis. I’m 31.
I trained for a marathon for almost 2 years straight, started yoga and was still training for a half marathon.
Needless to say, that running is never going to happen.
I think my experience became exactly like yours and going through the anxiety of no more running has been very, very hard. Thank you for this post – it really was reassuring, #1, and also good to know that someone else went through the same and didn’t backslide…I really want to avoid that.
And on a happier note, I love the blog and am looking forward to reading more!
Ah! Yes! I was totally addicted to exercise 10 months ago. I have an incredibly physical job as an ecological restoration tech where I’m out each day walking miles with 10 lb pack on through wetlands and prairies or chainsawing in a woodland and on top of that I was training for a full marathon. I was always effortlessly thin throughout college and when I hit 22 I went from 115 to 135 in a year. It was mortifying to me so that’s when I started running every day and became addicted to half marathons. It helped bring me to 129 lbs along with using MyFitnessPal religiously so I was content with being that weight so I maintained my regimen until I started dating my boyfriend. Then I ditched calorie counting and quickly after decided I’d rather spend my free time hanging out instead of running and I haven’t ran over 4 miles since. Initially I noticed that I wasn’t gaining and that was good enough for me! I am now down to 122 lbs and have no doubt in my mind that I was overdoing it and sending my body into some kind of primitive energy saving crisis mode. I’m still active everyday and I feel so balanced now, but I’ll admit I miss the mood boost from running. I may have to lace up my Asics and go for a jog, but in moderation 🙂
I found this post while looking for answers/ideas/opinions. I have been working out and paying attention to what I eat since I was 7, swimming, step, weights, running. 3 days a week and now 4 days a week, introducing exercises for legs/arms whenever I have time..I am not saying this is not healthy, it is, but mentally stressful. When you work 8 hrs a week and spend 2 hrs in commuting to work..I feel like working out is all I do in my free time. I feel like I lost connection between my mind and my body. I would love to try some yoga or barre classes along with more walking but my first fear is..what will happen to my body if I don’t run 7 km 4 days a week? I am still stuck, tired of going to the gym, a gigantic space that feels so impersonal and noisy. I am thinking about changing my routine..maybe I should just try and see what happens, listen to my body more. This post was inspirational, thank you!
This is so inspirational! I come on this page everytime I start to panic about not working out! For two years I have ran 15-20 miles a week, which doesn’t seem like much but to me that was what was keeping my weight down! Lately I started to loath it but forced myself to do it anyways! After receiving some blood test results regarding the loss of my period for two years and finding I have some low hormones I knew I needed to do something. I stopped losing at my goal weight of 120lbs but didn’t maintain properly and ended up losing another 10-11lbs. It has only been three weeks but since quitting all formal workouts I have never felt better! I have much more energy, I am able to cycle/walk to university and I am able to sleep in! I haven’t slept in late for so long! Plus I feel so much less stress as I don’t dread workout days anymore! However I still get scared now and then that I will balloon up, even though I’d like to gain about 7lbs!
I do like to be active but how do you reintroduce exercise so that it isn’t about calories and feeling like you deserve to eat?
Again, thank you for this!