Why I stopped working out
READ TIME: 5 MINUTES
I’ve worked out at least 3 times per week since I was in high school — a decade ago – but at the start of the year I decided to take a short break…which lasted for 6 months.
That sounds unhealthy, but it was one of the healthiest decisions I’ve made for my mental state.
You probably hear a lot about the unhealthy obesity epidemic in America, but on the other side of the same coin is an unhealthy obsession to become more attractive. There’s an obsession with looks that’s dominating our generation, and I fell right into it.
WHY I STOPPED WORKING OUT
When I decided to break my very ingrained routine, it’s because I felt my physical health was benefiting at the expense of my mental health. I was OBSESSED with working out. At that point, I was exercising 5-6 times per week and had maintained that rigorous schedule for a few years.
I didn’t work out to feel better or take care of my body. I worked out as punishment… For what I ate. For feeling bad about myself. For low body image and low self-esteem. Anytime that feeling of inadequacy crept in, I headed to the gym.
The problem with “healthy” addictions is that they never deal with the root problem. And until you address the real underlying issue, the shallow accomplishments will just be band-aids on top of bullet holes.
The real problem wasn’t exercise…
The real problem was trying to earn the very thing Jesus died to give me — VALUE!
WHAT I DID INSTEAD
It’s important that when you remove something from your life or your mind that you intentionally fill that space, otherwise you have a hole that will fill with whatever riffraff passes by. I removed exercise from my schedule (step 1) and put in something else (step 2).
I did a lot of soul care. I asked questions I didn’t want to answer, such as:
Why do I NEED to work out?
Is my routine healthy for my soul?
Is there a better source of value than my performance?
I went to therapy. I was honest, even when it was ugly and it uncovered self-esteem issues.
I confronted unhealthy mindsets with prayer and Scripture and meditating on God’s words to me:
I am loved.
I am chosen.
I am worthy,
because I am God’s.
Practically speaking, I remained active, but I didn’t “work out”. I was constantly tempted to go on long runs like I’m used to, but I just went on walks. And they were as helpful for my physical body staying active as they were for my mind staying healthy.
I got to take walks with friends and share my heart. Russell & I went on hand-in-hand walks every week. No distractions – it’s hard to walk whilst staring at your phone. HAHA! And I practiced yoga, as I’ve done for years.
These activities were restful and rejuvenating – much different than my usual 60-minute high intensity group workouts. They were perfect for that season.
WHY I STARTED WORKING OUT AGAIN
I’ve returned to the gym, because I can now engage exercise without being obsessed. I’ve done the hard internal work to identify my motivations, to disarm the negative ones — which in all honesty, will be an active mental fight for months or years to come — and to identify whether this popular practice is for me in this season.
You can say no to something for a season and still say yes to it as a life practice. That’s why it’s pivotal to hear the Spirit’s voice to YOU in YOUR season. The Spirit will show you what to focus on today, if you’ll make space to hear Him.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT IT
Jesus began to teach by the lake… He taught them many things by parables, and in His teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain….”
Then Jesus said to them… “The farmer sows the word… [Some] seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4 (with my emphases)
The worries of this temporary life – beauty, looks, and even health – can sometimes choke out the focus of our eternity. It’s not that physical health is bad, but focusing on your body over your soul… that’s a bad focus for life.
I want to be good soil, with my priorities in order, so God’s Word has ample space to grow roots. When my priorities are in order, I can exercise from a place of wholeness, not from a place of lacking value, trying furiously to validate myself.
Working out isn’t bad! …but working out as a source of value is.
Once I got my priorities in order, I was able to go back to the gym with a healthy mindset and expectations.
My purpose in writing these 3 blog posts about THINGS TO QUIT is to evaluate what I’m putting my energy toward. Is it really helping, or is it band-aids on top of bullet holes? Am I working toward my unique, God-given calling, or am I a hamster in a wheel, spinning faster and faster but not gaining real traction?
I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way periodically. There are activities which seize my attention and energy, that I end up spending months on, only to realize it wasn’t really for me in this season.
And that’s why I stopped working out, spent 6 months on soul care, and have since returned to the gym.
My question to you is…
If there’s an area of your life where your routine has turned into an obsession… Can you lay it down for a season and do soul work instead?
God, will you shine light on any areas which are controlling us? We want to be hear Your voice, to be led by the Spirit, and to fulfill the purposes You specifically designed each of us for. Help us to listen to You. Correct us when we get off track. Lead us back to You. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
If this post resonates with you, will you share it on Facebook? I hope God gives grace and healing to everyone who reads it, but I need your help in getting this message out! Thanks for sharing.