I think Teddy Roosevelt was such an inspiring leader. I frequently think of his quotes when I find myself caught in a comparison trap. They’re splashed all over Pinterest, and that’s because most of them are so true. Like, so true. Everyone can relate to them.
With my adrenal fatigue, I’ve cut back a lot on exercise. Even before finding out about my adrenals, I was already cutting back, but now I’m really giving myself a break. This past week I took yoga four times, and it felt so good. Why did I never realize this before? I found a teacher whose class I’m pretty much obsessed with. After taking it, I feel so peaceful and alive. He teaches six mornings a week, and I’m so excited to be doing something new with my body.
Yoga has never been a constant in my life; it’s always been a sporadic form of exercise for me. I have a history of abusing cardio. I love a good heart-pumping cardio session (I even got certified in Spinning because I love it so much!), but our relationship is definitely not all healthy. Even though I love cardio and always have, part of it always feels forced. Always. I’m very all-or-none. It’s extremely difficult for me to take an indoor cycling class and tell myself, “Just do what you can today.” Usually I tell myself, “Come on, push harder! Don’t waste the workout! You can do better than this!”
It’s perfectly fine to give yourself healthy motivation; I have nothing against that. Setting mindful goals or aiming to beat a personal record can be fun and challenging. With that said, when having a competitive mindset becomes detrimental to your emotional health, when it becomes a flat-out bully and forces you to push your body too hard, then it’s no longer healthy; it’s a problem. I’ve had this mindset for most of my life. Not with others, but with myself. I can’t use a heart rate monitor because if I do, every time I exercise I’ll feel pressured to burn more calories than I did at my last workout. I can’t weigh myself because I’ll want to see a lower number on the scale every time. (I gave up the scale for good on Easter of this year!)
I don’t even need to see numbers to be competitive with myself. I’ll judge my workouts based on time spent, sweat expelled, and rate of perceived exertion. There is nothing that can stop me from pestering myself to be better than I used to be, from berating myself for being “lazier” or “weaker” than I was a day, a week, several months, or even a year prior. Physically, it has felt great to cut back on the cardio lately. Mentally, it has been difficult. I think back to when I used to kill an hour on the Stairmaster every morning, or when I used to take an indoor cycling class five days a week, or when I used to do cardio and a full weight routine every morning, and I’ll get down on myself.
For someone who “loves” to exercise so much, the love has quite a dark side, doesn’t it? Competing with yourself can be just as dangerous as competing with others. It completely steals your joy. I really do love physical activity, but that love gets dampened by my tendency to go to extremes. I’m on a self-love mission now. I’m not only cutting back on exercise to help heal my adrenals; I’m cutting back to help heal my mind and soul, to set myself up for a more sustainable way of life.
This is why I’m swapping my beloved indoor cycling classes for yoga sessions. There is no competition with myself when I do yoga. Yes, I have a goal to get stronger, to get more flexible, to be able to hold more difficult poses one day, but there is no saying to myself, “You did better last time.” There is no telling myself to pedal faster or increase the resistance. In yoga, I let my body be. I do what I can. It feels so liberating, so freeing, so overall fantastic.
Change is inevitable. Our bodies do not stay the same. I may only be twenty-three, but I can no longer sustain my wellbeing on the amount of cardio I did four years ago. Actually, I think my history of abusing my body is partly to blame for my adrenal fatigue today. Over the years I’ve stressed myself both physically and mentally, and I just can’t take it anymore. I can’t do what I used to, and you want to know something? I don’t want to. That part is key; I don’t even want to. I don’t want to label my days as “good” or “bad” based on how hard I exercise. I don’t want to value my self-worth on how many calories I expel. I don’t want to feel like I have to eat less because I skipped a workout. That’s not healthy, and I want to be healthy. So even though I’m still plagued by these thoughts, I know they will fade as I ignore them. They’re already fading. I know that in the long-run, cutting myself some slack is going to be the best thing for my health.
Negatively comparing your current self to your former self will only rob you of joy. If you’re going to do it, make sure it’s in a positive light. I’m still going to take the occasional indoor cycling class. Like I said, I truly love Spinning. But from now on, whenever I take a class (and this includes yoga), I’m going to do it because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. My new favorite yoga teacher taught a class on Saturday morning that I could have easily gone to. That morning I caught myself thinking, “You went Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Why can’t you go today? You should go. You didn’t exercise at all yesterday.” But I didn’t go. I don’t want to take any joy out of my newfound love for yoga by forcing myself to go on days I’m not feelin’ it. Maybe one day I will want to do it every single day. Maybe I won’t. Either way, that’s okay, as long as I listen to my body.
I hope you listen to yours. Don’t feel like you can’t take a break because you never “used” to take breaks. Don’t be afraid to let go of something that no longer serves you, or has never served you. We can be our own best friend or our own worst enemy. Be your own best friend. Be intuitive, be compassionate, and be gentle. Let go. Do not be competitive. Comparison is the thief of joy.