Yoga and Walking — My experience after giving my body a full week of rest
Exercise has always been a huge part of my life! I grew up playing soccer for the first 18 years, and then always enjoyed going to the gym, going on long runs, completing half marathons. Needless to say, I like my movement. During my ED phase, however, my relationship with exercise turned negative. Working out was solely a way to burn calories, to get rid of anything I ate during the day, or to make up for what I ate the day before. It wasn’t about bettering myself, my health, or my body. It was punishment – nothing more.
“Exercise should be a celebration of what your body CAN do, not a punishment for what you ate!”
Through recovery, I have slowly restored my relationship with movement back to something positive. Something beneficial. It took time, but I finally started to realize what ELSE exercise provides for me, and how much more important those things are than the burning calories aspect. I’ve realized that moving my body is a form of stress relief, while also allowing me to feel strong and empowered.
Movement has also become something that isn’t strict or regimented like it used to be. In the past, I had to work out 6-7 times a week, sometimes multiple times a day, doing exactly what I had pre-planned or scheduled for that day. If I didn’t, the guilt monster would take over, and not let go! Now, I don’t have a plan until the day of. I base my movement and exercise on how my mind and body are feeling that day – sometimes that means intense exercise, other times that means a walk through the neighborhood. Realizing that any and all movement, no matter how strenuous or taxing, is good movement.
That being said, I’ve also learned the importance of rest and recovery. Allowing our bodies the chance to reset and recover is SO important – but when your mind is solely focused on burning the calories you ate, rest seems impossible and inconvenient. Coming from a history of overexercising, rest days are still something I struggle with sometimes. I know that they are 100% necessary, but that doesn’t mean takin them is always easy.
A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling more run down than usual. I was in the middle of a UC flare, was experiencing upper back and neck pain, and just overall wasn’t feeling 100%. I decided that it was time to do something about it – I decided it was time to TRULY give my body a break. I decided to do a FULL WEEK of just yoga and walking.
I committed to 7 days of doing no other exercise besides yoga and/or walking. Some days I did just yoga, some days I just walked, others I did both. Every day I had self doubt that I couldn’t do it, that I needed to at least run, or lift just a few weights. But each day I succeeded, my body thanked me. It wasn’t easy, but it was 100% worth it.
The week I decided to do this, as I mentioned earlier, I was in a UC flare. Ulcerative colitis and cardio/intense exercise DO NOT get along, so I figured a more relaxed, low impact movement would ease my symptoms – and it did! My body was less inflamed from all of the heavy weight lifting and cardio, reducing my bloat and discomfort. I would solely do this again just for the relief of my UC symptoms.
Also, because of my UC flare, this particular week consisted of more carbs and less vegetables than usual (again, UC and veggies aren’t always friends). I tend to eat more basic carbs (oats, white rice, GF bread) when I’m in flares because they make me feel better. You better believe my ED was yelling at me to exercise in a more intense way the entire week – telling me if I didn’t, all those carbs would surely pack on the weight. NEWS FLASH – my body and my weight didn’t change at ALL! What did change – my mood and my symptoms.
Talking about mood – after a full week of yoga and walking, I was more relaxed. It’s like allowing my body to rest and calm down also allowed my mind to relax and calm down. Now, who couldn’t benefit from a calmer mind and less anxiety?
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this week of yoga and walking. I won’t lie and say it was a walk in the park to complete. It took persistence, will power, and strength to push forward every day without doing intense exercise. BUT the benefits I saw were well worth it.
Some may ask why I haven’t just continued with this routine? well, although it provided benefits, I don’t believe its necessary to completely alter my current exercise routine to just incorporate walking and yoga. Because although these forms of movement are beneficial, others can be do (such as weight bearing exercises). What I can assure you is that Yoga will DEFINITELY be incorporated into my weekly movement, and walking is always a top priority for me to relieve stress and clear my head!
“Resting is NOT weak, it is STRONG”
So if you’re feeling like your body may need a break – I highly suggest you listen to it! Resting is not weak, it is strong. It shows you care for your body and appreciate what it does for you every day!
So next time you’re struggling with body image, I suggest you take a step back. Remind yourself it is temporary, it is not permanent. Remind yourself it does NOT determine your value or importance. It honestly holds no weight and no bearing on anything. The more you realize this, the more confident you can be despite what body image comes out to play today.