I needed some time to really think about this post. 

To think about what my future goals are.

To think about who I might hurt if I wrote it the way I wanted to.

To think about why I am the way I am.

As you know, I took 5 days off of exercise last week.

It was hard.

But TRULY worth it. 

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And worth repeating in the future! 

Here’s what I observed over my sabbatical:

1.  Exercise is my stress relief.

I was a grumpy bear for most of the week.  On edge and ready to fight with the kids or Travis or with whoever posted their sweaty workout pictures.  (Katy actually started telling me about an awesome Crossfit workout that she’d done and I nearly spat in her face.  I spit a lot when I talk.) 

As we all know, the body releases endorphins when we exercise.  It actually has an effect similar to morphine, meaning you can literally get high off of running/lifting/swimming!  (<-that is just cool to me!) 

I missed that feeling of euphoria.  I need that feeling for my mental health.

2.  My body didn’t change one bit.

I didn’t get fat or grow cankles.  All of my clothes fit the same as before (I don’t weigh myself so I have no idea as far as numbers go).  Also, over the 5 days, I didn’t lose ANY strength.  In fact, I was actually able to do 15 pounds MORE on a Lat. Pulldown than I had done the week prior. 

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Oh and I can now do 30 consecutive pushups!  So if anything, the rest time made me stronger.

3.  It’s GOOD to be uncomfortable!

Was I uncomfortable most days?  YES.  Did I want to bust out some pushups or go for a long walk?  YES, so badly.  But I think that we MUST step into some form of uncomfortableness to grow as people.  It’s part of the reason why having children is so great – you’re forced to do something that is kind of insane, while in the process, you become a MUCH better person. 

I can guarantee you this:  If you remain comfortable (with your finances, your relationships, your workouts, whatever), you might never have the chance to realize how truly POWERFUL and STRONG you are. 

uncomfortable

Step out of your comfort zone!

4.  Exercise does not define me.

I am first a daughter of Christ, then a wife, then a mother, then a daughter/sister/friend. 

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Exercise is simply something I do.  Not who I am.  Not even close!

And lastly….

Reality check time.

5.  If you can’t give it up, IT OWNS YOU!

I was asked WHY I wanted to take that many days off.  I actually got SEVERAL emails from ladies who wanted to do the same thing, but didn’t think they could even take 2 days off, let alone 5. 

I’m here to tell you – I PURPOSELY took these days off.  I rested because I wanted to prove that exercise does not control me.  I control it.

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We were made to move, yes.

But we were NOT made to spend our lives inside of a gym.  Or run back to back to back marathons.  Or leave our kids in kidcare for multiple hours a day so that we can sneak some extra time in on the elliptical. 

That’s not living.  That’s not what life is about.

——–

I’m adopting a new mantra and I hope that you’ll join me.

Exercise to live.  Do not LIVE to exercise.

Exercise should compliment our active lifestyle and make it easier to do normal, everyday life.  That’s called functional fitness. 

That’s where the focus should be.

———

QUESTION:  Exercise and orthorexia (extreme focus on food) – would you consider these to be “idols” in your life?  If so, what are you going to do about it?

I’m kind of in love with this guy. And his words fit perfectly with this post!

splendid…lindsay

  1. Ellie@Fit for the Soul says:

    Hiii Lindsay!! Omyyyy this is just a GREAT post. I love all of your points and I understand what you’re talking about, and I particularly love 3-5. It’s so true that it should be only a part of what we do in life (unless we’re proathletes), but never what defines us. Actually, so many people in this world can’t separate themselves from what they do as a family person, career man/woman, etc. But in reality, we’re just us because the Lord made us and because He loves us. And I think this is a pretty timely post because I have been a bit more uncomfortable in letting go of exercise when I need to! For example, I’m still diligently doing it because I do love it, but I feel like I need to listen to my body and God’s voice when He prompts me in that I need to chill out on some days. It’s like fasting! And that’s exactly what you did. :)

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  3. Jess says:

    I had to take off from running over the past few months and it really was a challenge! Instead I have learned to love other forms of exercise and let myself rest better. It can still be a challenge,but it is so important to make sure YOU are controlling exercise, not EXERCISE controlling you! Thanks for the post and being so honest!!

  4. Calee (@chimes) says:

    I love love love love LOVE this post. I’m so glad you did this, and I know it was hard but it sounds like you were glad you did this too.

    After my hiatus, I started to ENJOY it again. I am trying a few different things and am going to take a good chunk off of running and higher impact activities. I’m getting into hot yoga (yes, I never thought I would ever ever say that) and I’m focusing on balance and flexibility.

  5. Caitlin says:

    I definitely know I am controlled by my addictions to exercise and certain food habits. #5 on your list resonates most with me. Thank you for this amazing post because part of what I am planning to do about these addictions is draw inspiration from people like you who have a) challenged themselves to “give up” their crutches and b) come out better for it! Whenever I take time off I always feel better the next day and my body doesn’t change yet it’s so hard for me to grasp that the next time I take a day off, it won’t suddenly make a difference or make me permanently “lazy”. I will think of you during my second active rest day of this week (I took one today). <33

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  7. Lisa says:

    Oh goodness, thanks so much for this post Lindsay! I admire all your words and how you came about these realizations after the challenge. Everything you said is so very true! I think I’m going to take 5 days off. My mentality and body needs it right now. Orthorexia and exercising are huge idols in my life that I need to overcome, so why not start today and not tomorrow. Because I know all to well that mindset isn’t a good one for me.

  8. jobo says:

    I love that you took time to think about this post before sharing it. And I was nodding all the way through. It is my stress relief too, I feel more balanced when I work out. But anytime I take extended days off, I ALWAYS come back fierce and strong, amazing what some downtime on the body can do! Strengthens it, not weakens it! And we exercise to live, NOT the other way around, couldn’t have said it better. Awesome post!

  9. Kailey says:

    wow this is amazing. I was hoping you would do a recap of your 5 days off from formal exercise. I love that you make a point that exercise should not be our life – that gets in the way of being with loved ones and such. I was recently reminded that I have SO much more going for me than just being “that girl who runs around campus for hours” – friends, school & family mean so much more.

    If you can’t give it up, thats when I think its an addiction.

  10. Mary says:

    I love the saying “get out of your comfort zone”. I used to hate it, but that was mainly because it was yelled by our coach during cross country meets and practice. Now, I use it to encourage myself to do things that aren’t pleasant, but necessary. I most definitely told myself that on the first day of my new job that I was unsure I was qualified for. I use it when I have to talk to strangers…you name it!

  11. Katie says:

    I think the hardest part of giving up exercise (or healthy eating sometimes)is that whole identity thing. It’s so HARD not to wrap your identity around a lifestyle…gosh darn it. Thank GOD for giving me an identity that I don’t have to DO ANYTHING for. Love you, friend.

  12. Britt @ Chicago Runner Girl says:

    As I’ve aged ive become so much more comfortable with who I am and realized that running is just something I do, it’s not who I am. Funny how early on in life it seems so important than fizzles out a bit as more wisdom creeps in. I like taking down time these days, it’s always nice to take a step back from the things we think we love and are important to us to make sure they are in our life for the right reasons.

  13. Tara says:

    Lindsay! Thank you do much for posting this :) I completely understand the “high” feeling from exercise and the “need” to be in the gym, but it is so important to put it into perspective! You did a great job with your week off and were truly inspiring!! :) great post and glad that you are back at it gain and stronger than before!

  14. Ericka @ The Sweet Life says:

    Lindsay — thanks for tackling this again. I didn’t realize you had taken 5 days off but it’s interesting because I decided that after my marathon, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off. I want to focus on some freelance writing but I can’t ever seem to squeeze it in because of my must-exercise everyday thing. I want to see if I can do something else that is meaningful if I make it a priority over exercise. Exercise comes before many things in my life and I love it but I know I “need” it too much. I’m glad you did this experiment. Oh and I also love Jefferson!

  15. Ali @ WHOLEistically Fit says:

    Great post! It is so wonderful to have other health and fitness bloggers out there sending this positive, healthy message (coincidentally, I actually talk more about this same type of thing in my post today – collective consciousness at it’s finest ;). I ♥ the mantra and 100% agree. We are WHOLEistic beings and health is encompassed by so much more than just exercise. Sometimes exercise is even at odds with other aspects of our health and time off from the gym is necessary. Good for you for taking the time off! :)

  16. Tamara says:

    And interestingly enough, moving lots everyday, while living, not going to the gym 3 times a week, is what kept our ancestors fit and healthy….
    Maybe we all need to get back to that (although I really hate housework!)

  17. Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian says:

    Amazing post! Once again, your words resonate loud and clear with me. “Exercise to live. Do not LIVE to exercise.” LOVE THAT! I ran myself raged this year training for two half marathons and various other running races, I literally never had more than 2 weeks off all year. I just killed my body and I’m paying for it (battling an overuse injury in my knee now). Once my half marathon is over in October I am taking a break to focus on other things and begin to once again ENJOY running and working out for what it does to my body and how it makes me feel.

  18. Missy says:

    Great post – for me, I used to think exercise was a stress reliever (and walking is for me) but in reality, it only relieved the “stress” in my mind of making sure I burned enough calories. I’d get cranky and frantic if I hadn’t burned 400 calories thru running by 7:00 a.m. I don’t love running but I burned more calories in less time. Finally it wore me down and I just quit. Of course, ED has morphed back into the food arena and it’s a constant struggle. It bugs me to see people who go to or teach 5 plus exercise classes a day then run 20 miles. All the while eating the lowest calorie foods available. It triggers me to do the same (comparison trap) so I’m reading less and less. When it consumes you, there is a problem. I just have to achieve balance. My body physically couldn’t deal with my abuse and I’m shocked that some bloggers have not had more problems.
    I still walk – and yes, I’m wanting to increase my calorie burn, but at least I’m not getting up at 4 a.m. to do it.
    Great post as usual.

  19. Jess says:

    SO so so agree!! We WERE meant to move for sure and I LOVE the high I get from a good workout. Love love love it. But I do NOT ever want to live for my workouts…they don’t define who I am, much like they don’t define who YOU are. You are (and I am) much, much more than the workout I completed today. Such a good contant reminder to never let ‘things’ in our days control us. That’s when the slippery unhealthy slope starts happening, never good. And for the record? After this marathon is over in a MONTH, I am SO excited and ready to embrace slowness, less structure to my workouts, more stillness. Needed, big time.

  20. Shannon says:

    So beautiful and inspiring! Exercise was controlling me, but I can feel myself pushing it away more and more lately. I love it, but I can live without it. I cannot live without my love for family, friends, school, and life!

  21. Ashley says:

    I wouldn’t say it controls my life… but I really do LOVE my CrossFit gym. I’m currently taking a few days off to let a back strain heal up completely. Which sucks. I hate being injured. I just got my husband to sign up for the gym (and I have sit on the sidelines. waah waah). But I’ve been going to support him and mobilize and stretch.

    At one point, (not that long ago) – I would have answered that running/training for marathons controlled my life. But I feel like CrossFit saved me from that. I no long obsess about running a certain number of miles a day/week/month. If I wake up in the morning and don’t feel like running, I don’t.

    Great post. We could all use a reminder like this!

  22. Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb says:

    I have been guilty of allowing exercise and food control my life…but not anymore! Thankfully I was able to realize and rise above it. It’s never easy, but like you said, gotta step out of the “comfort zone” that ultimately isn’t a good place to be oftentimes.

  23. Kierston says:

    I take rest days (even when if I really wanna workout out!).I always feel refreshed and re-energized after taking them! I usually come back stronger if anything! Great post! :)

  24. Kyra Schmidt says:

    This really spoke to me because I just recently had surgery and it made me anxious to take the time off exercise. If you don’t mind me asking, how many days per week would you recommend for cardio?

  25. Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy says:

    I love that you did this experiment (if it should even be called an experiment). I think that people should take a week off of working out once or twice a year, so it doesn’t become too obsessive. Sometimes I feel bad only working out 4 or 5 days a week because I read so many fitness blogs, but I know that I’m being ridiculous.

  26. Christa @ Edible Balance says:

    Thank you for this post, I saw it through Lindsay @ Cotter Crunch… you have said what is the most difficult to admit, exercise does not own you or define you. We are not meant to build our whole life around it. When it becomes all consuming that’s when you need to take a step back and re-evaluate. I came to a point where I hated the thought of running, or scheduled workouts and took a few months to just stop and live life. I didn’t set out to do it, it just happened. I thought i was being lazy. I realized that doing what I love to do is more important and eventually learned to exercise in a way that brings me joy. Am I content to go for a walk if that’s all I can muster? You bet. I’d rather enjoy life and move my body how it wants and honor the body God gave me, not crush it.

  27. Meredith @ DareYouTo says:

    Great post – so important to remind ourselves that exercise shouldn’t control us. Whenever something comes up and I have to skip a workout, I’ll be bummed at first but then I try to remind myself just this — that it’s okay. Life happens. Better to live it than to live in the gym! Better to be regularly active in LIFE and with people than to crush it in the gym daily. Thanks, Lindsay!

  28. Abby says:

    Umm…yes. Times a million to an unhealthy level. I’m currently working on a big shift with a few things in my life, and this is going to have to be one of them. It’s letting go of those things that don’t align with how I really, authentically feel. I don’t want to be stressed and obsessed anymore. I don’t want to feel so tied to the mental results and obligation I place on myself–with so many things. It means removing myself from certain situations, people and traditional ways of thinking. It won’t be easy and I’m not sure how much I’ll blog about it, but it needs to be done for me to align my actions with my authentic beliefs.

    Thanks for the reminder ;) XOXO

  29. Michelle @ Eat Move Balance says:

    As always, thanks for such an honest, reflective and inspiring post. My comment could become a novel if I let it, but let’s just say that I need to work on this very topic myself. And I have been, but it’s a work in a progress. Thanks for the reminders and motivation to recognize true priorities. :)

  30. Danielle says:

    Awesome post and some great words of wisdom! I’m not quite sure if I could give up 5 days of exercise but how would I know if I don’t try! I need to learn that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable and a week off is not going to ruin everything I’ve done! You are inspiring!

  31. nicole says:

    amazing amazing post. I feel like pregnancy is teaching me many of these same things. I’m so glad you learned so many things on your rest days. So refreshing.

  32. lindsay says:

    all i can say is YES. Yes to it all! As soon as you stop focusing on exercise as the ONLY way to live, you learn to use it for what is does. A natural relief, a way to care for the body, not abuse it. A way to appreciate GOD’s gift to you, his temple!

    Now, how about a whole month off? ;-)

    hehe.

    love you! and love your heart!

  33. Miz says:

    WISER WORDS COULD NOT BE SPOKEN.
    When I went on a “trip” which I knew would mean 4 or 5 months without working out I did have a moment of UH OH!!! what if I feel totally weak and wimpy and CRAPPY after this.

    and yet I knew the trip would challenge my mind in a way Id never been before and that THAT growing and strength was far more powerful and lots more what I needed.

  34. Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale says:

    Lindsay — I can’t thank you enough for this post, for your advice, and for your encouragement. We spoke about taking rest days, and I literally did not believe that I would last more than one day (and even that is difficult!) nonetheless FIVE!! But with Lindsay’s words in mind, I looked at this week with a new mentality. I was working overnight shifts and not sleeping very much. So instead of waking myself up early to get an extra workout in, I stayed in bed much longer than I had intended. It was only two days, and not even back to back, but the difference that it made was AMAZING. I never would have made it through the week had I been training harder, running myself into the ground. It was truly thanks to your advice, Linds, that I survived this week. I’m training for a half marathon at the moment (2 weeks to go!) but afterward will be treating myself to some full and complete rest days. Thank you so, so, so much!! :)

  35. Bee says:

    I have periods in my life when I go thorough focusing on exercise and food too much. I think a lot of it has to do with being in control. If I know I am not in control of some other aspect in my life (like right now for example I am looking for a job but might not get it for a few months or even longer because of the bad economy and the lack of jobs) I will focus on what I am in control of… exercise and food. But as you said, too much emphasis on those and they start owning us. We all need a kind reminder of this once in a while. So thank you!

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