Ever forced yourself to exercise when you’re really not in the mood? While many believe that a crappy workout is better than no workout at all, Natalie Morris wants to dispel this myth once and for all. Because sometimes, there is virtue in doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes nothing is everything you need…
No matter whether it’s swimming, spinning, netball or a PT session, if you’re really not in the right mind set, half-heartedly forcing your way through it can lead to a vicious cycle of self-doubt and frustration. I say this from bitter experience.
My alarm goes off at 6am. My eyes snap open, but I can’t get out of bed. I just can’t. The sun’s up and I’ve had a good seven hours of sleep, so really there is no excuse. But my legs won’t move.
Having worked four 12-hour shifts and subsisted on nothing but lukewarm coffee and congealed office pizza, I really needed an endorphin buzz. But nothing could prize me from my bed. That’s when the bargaining began.
“I’ll go tomorrow morning,” I tell myself. “Or how about if I get up and do 50 crunches? Ok I’ll get up when it’s an even number on the clock… OK the next even number.” My brain spirals, but my body remains resolutely inert beneath my covers. This manic negotiation continues for an hour – an hour of unnecessary stress in which I neither sleep nor do any exercise.
I carried the guilt around with me for the entire day. No, I mean I literally carried it with me – I dragged my bulky kit on my commute. It sat festering under my desk in the feeble hope I might have the energy to go to the gym at the end of my shift. I didn’t – but I made myself go anyway. Predictably, my workout was pathetic; I felt shit and went home wishing I hadn’t bothered.
Guilt is an incredibly toxic emotion and is never conducive to productivity. This is particularly true in the gym – exercise needs to come from a place of positivity to make it sustainable and effective. So why can’t we just give ourselves a break? Why do we have to burden ourselves with so much regret for missing a workout here and there?
As a culture we revere busyness, action, forward-movement. The guilt of doing nothing and the pressure of constantly achieving, of ticking boxes off a never-ending list, can blind us to the benefits of slowing down, of resting.
Giving myself a week off from the gym was the best decision I made at that time – and now I try to do it whenever I’m feeling particularly burnt out, or just whenever I feel like I need it. For me, like many of us, fitness and sport is a form of therapy and can often be the cure when I’m stressed or exhausted. But there are times when it won’t work and my body just needs rest. It’s important to be able to make that distinction and recognise the value of doing nothing, rather than berating yourself for it.
Physical exhaustion isn’t the only thing that grants you this week-off-pass. Sometimes you’re pushing for a promotion and have to be in the office at 7am for a month. Sometimes your friends need you, sometimes your partner needs you, sometimes you’re injured. And sometimes, you just plain don’t want to exercise – and that’s ok too. You don’t need a million reasons to take a break and you don’t need to justify it to yourself – you know your body.
Ultimately, the reason we work out has to be for enjoyment. Yes, fitness keeps us healthy, de-stresses us, maintains weight and strength – but these are pleasant by-products. If you’re not enjoying it, for whatever reason, give yourself a break.
Time off can help you re-set, reinvigorate your motivation and remind you what you love about it. Within a week you’ll be craving a sweat-fest, and the pent-up endorphin release will be mind-blowing.