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I know what you are thinking: saying no to exercise – how could that be a good thing? The title of this article flies in the face of mainstream American consciousness, but I think it is very often a good thing to be able to say no to exercise.
I am a cyclist. I have loved riding and racing my bicycle since I was eight years old and began riding a tandem bike with my dad.
Cycling was always a very enjoyable pastime – a way to socialize and spend time with my family and just all-around fun. As I fell into my eating disorder, however, it started to become something I had to do, which ruined the enjoyment. Through this experience, I discovered exercise can become something I have to do instead of something I want to do.
Especially during my recovery, it became increasingly important to recognize when my desire to exercise was a compulsion rather than a desire to have fun.
Exercise should be something enjoyable, a source of stress relief, and a healthy pastime. When it becomes something you feel you have to do, or something you feel bad if you don’t do, you need to reconsider why it is you are exercising in the first place.
It was very difficult at first to take days off from exercise. I felt very bad about myself and I had unrealistic fears of what would happen to my fitness. But as time went on, I found I didn’t lose my fitness and I also renewed my passion for cycling I had lost when cycling became more of a compulsion than a hobby.
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I remember a very specific decision I had to make regarding exercise and my own mental health. It was my junior year in high school and I had been training with a cycling coach for about a year. I realized even though my cycling was improving, I was losing interest. In essence, cycling was becoming more like a chore than a passion.
I made the decision to take a step back and take training less seriously, which resulted in me having much more enjoyment when I did go out for a ride.
As you can see, there came a point in my life where I had to say no to exercise. In fact, there are still times when I have to take a step back and realize that I am no longer enjoying exercise, but rather it feels like a chore that I have to complete in order to feel like I have had a successful day.
At first it seemed very wrong, like I wasn’t doing what I should be doing. However, after awhile, I realized that I was looking forward to the rides that I did go on, and was feeling much better both on the bike and off.
So I encourage you to take a look at what motivates you to exercise, and be honest with yourself.
If you are exercising because you feel obligated or guilty if you don’t, I encourage you to take a break.
Not only will you advance your recovery, you will also renew your passion for sport and rebuild a healthy relationship with whatever it is you love to do.
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