Exercise–Sometimes Less Is More

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As a person with celiac disease, I struggle with having enough energy to exercise. My energy levels are unpredictable. I consider it a good day if I don’t need a nap, and on occasion I need more than one.

The variance in energy comes from many factors. One is accidentally getting gluten. I feel best when I eat at home where I control every thing that goes in my mouth, but I can’t stay there all day. Depression is another factor. Studies show that people with celiac disease have a higher risk of experiencing this.

As a person who strives to be healthy, I felt bad that often I wasn’t getting enough exercise. Sometimes I wasn’t getting any. I mean healthy people exercise at least five days a week, run 5k’s and have low body fat, right? Compared to that I felt damn lazy and the nagging voice in my head told me I should be doing more.

Then I found a boot camp. For three years, I stuck to a rigorous routine. With the step-ups, mountain climbers, sprints, crunches, planks, more running, push-ups, tricep dips, heavy rope training, bent-over rows and more running, I was proud I did such a hard workout. It made me strong, my legs looked great, and that nasty voice in my head was quiet.

But there was a downside. I never once experienced the “high” people talk about after exercising. Instead, I fell into bed for a long nap after each class, completely zapped of energy for hours. I spent a lot of money going to massage therapists, acupuncturists and the chiropractor to handle low-back injuries, plantar fasciitis and sciatica. And I never lost weight.

I was frustrated that I wasn’t seeing the result that really mattered to me—more energy. I knew I wanted to quit boot camp, but I was terrified I’d end up in even worse shape if I stopped that routine.

Everything changed after I attended a sports and nutrition seminar put on by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of Whole9. They talked a lot about context: that many factors contribute to health, not just diet and exercise; and that I needed to take into consideration factors such as age, genetics, and health history. I realized then that I may be over-training in my personal context which could do more harm than good.

When I explained my frustrations to Dallas on the lunch break, he showed concern that I felt exhausted hours after boot camp. He was the first person in the industry to validate that harder was not necessarily better for me. Dallas suggested I drop what I thought I should be doing and find activities I really enjoyed that didn’t wear me out.

When I stopped comparing myself to the ideal healthy person that hits the gym five days a week, I realized there were lots of things I enjoyed doing: walking around a local lake with the hubby, hiking up and down the hills at the Wild Animal Park, rollerblading at the beach, and Pilates.

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So I redefined what exercise means to me—I have to enjoy myself and finish feeling more energized than when I arrived. Twice a week I go to Pilates and twice a week I walk the lake. Any extra activities are a bonus.

I’m committed to walking a minimum of 2½ miles when I go to the lake. It’s a commitment I can keep, so the nagging voice in my head stays quiet. This is important because beating myself up about not following through just leads to more depression. Sometimes I add in some step-ups, lunges or sprints if it strikes my fancy. Of course, there are days I wake up and don’t “feel” like going, but I remind myself that all I have to do is go there and take a walk—a walk I enjoy. I always leave energized from being outdoors and proud that I kept the commitment to take care of myself.

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