I’m going to tell you a secret. An embarrassing secret. An embarrassing secret that I’ve never told anyone. Not a friend, not my husband, not my mom, no one.
I once worked out, every.single.day, for three years.
It’s been a few years, so I honestly can’t remember HOW it started, but I do know WHY–to lose weight. It had been a couple of years since I started working out on a consistent basis, and was seeing changes to my body that I really liked. So I thought, if I do this every day, surely I will see even more results! Every.Single.Day.
During this time, I trained for and ran two full marathons; I completed two rounds of P90X; I did multiple two-a-days at the gym and often went to back-to-back classes, spending sometimes as much as 5 hours at the gym. (People honestly thought I was one of the trainers.)
During this time, I avoided and cancelled a lot of plans with friends and family to ensure I didn’t break my streak; I could be found many mornings in our basement at 3:00 AM, getting in a treadmill run before a 7:00 AM start time at work; and I lied to people about why I needed to leave places early so that I could get to the gym before it closed or get in a run before bed. I remember a friend seeing some late-night miles on my Fitbit feed after a work event and texting me, “Did you go home and run?!” I lied. “Oh no! There must have been an issue with the syncing!”
You see, I felt like if I needed to lie or hide what I was doing, there was something wrong. I was terrified that someone would ask me why I was doing a streak, and I didn’t have an answer that I was willing to share. But I was also terrified to stop. I honestly thought that if I missed a day, I would gain a bunch of weight. I actually had dreams (nightmares) about it! Visions of me sleeping through my alarm or getting caught at an event and missing a workout, waking up the next day having gained 500 pounds. So I just kept going. Every.Single.Day.
A little over three years ago, I joined a new gym. I knew that I needed a change, and I was hoping this would break me out of what I knew I could no longer continue. I was so tired; my body was so sore; I was actually gaining weight. I remember my first class at this new gym, the coach asked how many days I was planning to workout, and I casually said “seven.” And he said, “no.” We had a fairly short conversation about the importance of rest days, and I kind of blew him off. I’ve been doing this for three years, man. I’ve got this. But that first workout was REALLY hard, so on the drive home I gave this rest day thing some consideration.
I worked out for six days (which was really like 9006 days, because #MATH), and on that Sunday, I didn’t work out. Not being dramatic, it was one of the hardest days of my life. I didn’t know what to do with myself that morning when I woke up. I didn’t know how to navigate through that day without a run or a trip to the gym. I was also obsessive about tracking steps and calories, and I literally had nothing to enter. I even checked my gym’s schedule later that day when I was ready to give in, but there were no more classes for the day. Horrified and relieved all at once. The streak was broken.
And you know what happened? Nothing. All of the fears that I had, none of them came true.
Actually, you know what? That’s not true. It wasn’t nothing. Because I gave my body a break. I got faster. I got stronger. I started to love my body for all of the things that it could do now that I was treating it with some respect. I’ve taken breaks, week breaks, month breaks, I’ve gained weight, lost weight, run really fast, run not so much, and all of that is OKAY. Every.Single.Day
Is it hard some days, even over three years after breaking the streak? Absolutely! Those old doubts and fears can creep in real quick, and it’s easy to give in to their power.
So every year, around this time, my social media fills up with the promises of resolutions in the upcoming year. A resolution to work out every.single.day is often on that list. And my heart breaks. Knowing me, Superhero Name “HYPER Type A Girl,” who loves a good fresh sheet of paper, my own streak could have started in the same way.
A very popular blogger published a bestselling (that’s an incredibly modest description) book last year and subsequently challenged their tribe to a 90 Day Challenge, with one component being working out every.single.day. When I read this on social media, again, my heart broke. Also knowing me, I’m a “trier,” so it could have easily started this way, by hearing the idea from another and thinking it sounded interesting.
We’re all so different, and everyone has to do what works for their lives, their bodies, their minds. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite humans is, as I write this, on Day 222 of a running streak. One of the most confident, vibrant, positive, self and others-loving people I’ve ever known, so I was intrigued to know her “why.” And she told me something so beautiful, something that was basically the antithesis of my own streak. She is doing it FOR her mental health, to ensure that she does something for herself every day that she enjoys, and to be able to help others by helping herself. Gah…
So you see, I’m not saying we’re all the same or that every streak is bad. I just want you to promise me something…
As you make those resolutions for 2019, can you please make them in the spirit of loving yourself? Before you enroll for every class at your gym, before you buy $1500 worth of groceries for that 30-day diet, before you start giving up on all the goodness that exists outside of a number on a scale, can you please ask yourself why? And if that answer does not come from a place of loving everything about yourself, can I please ask you to reconsider?
PS–Every single time I typed STREAK, I actually typed STEAK. This was almost a TOTALLY different story, my friend.