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You see it all over social media. The “no excuses” attitude towards exercise and fitness. Too busy to work out? No excuses. Don’t have access to workouts or a gym? No excuses. Broken leg? No excuses. Chronic Illness? No excuses.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy exercise and have the utmost respect for those who prioritize their fitness. I am in complete awe of those who make a point to work out, even if it means waking up at 4am or running 5 miles on their lunch break. And I really do believe physical activity plays an important role in living a well-rounded, healthy life. But why does it have to be so intense? Why does it have to be all or nothing? And what about those who are physically unable to exercise? Are they any less worthy of respect and admiration than those who are?
Before my chronic illnesses flared up and caused me to go on medical leave from grad school last fall, I exercised at least 3 times a week. My symptoms were manageable, and exercise was a great escape from the craziness that is grad school. I would go to yoga classes, lift weights, even go on (short) runs with my dog. No, it didn’t control my life, and I didn’t do it every single day, but it was still a big part of my life. However, when my symptoms got to the point where I was in bed more often than not, my desire and ability to exercise quickly diminished. I barely had the energy to take care of essential daily tasks like going to class, making food, and taking a shower. How on earth could I be expected to work out too?
Even now, 6 months after going on medical leave, I still don’t work out much. On an exceptionally good day, I’m able to function like a normal human, ride my horse, run errands, and maybe go on a walk. And that’s a lot for me. I do have a gym membership and plan on using it more once my symptoms are more under control. Being recently diagnosed with another condition, and thus starting new meds, I’m hoping I start to improve enough to go beyond just functioning and potentially start heading to the gym regularly again. As I mentioned before, I do love exercise and I think it’s important. However, dealing with chronic illnesses that have limited my physical abilities has completely changed my relationship with exercise.
My New Relationship with Exercise
I was raised by athletes. Literally, my mom was a professional volleyball player (and a total badass). So exercise and sports have always been a big part of my life. I played just about every sport growing up and was always relatively healthy. When I got to college, however, I didn’t really play sports anymore. I was still pretty active, going to the gym on and off, hiking, and competing on the rodeo team. But I also ate super poorly and just overall didn’t take care of myself. I would go through periods of “Okay, I’m going to get so healthy and lose weight and look incredible and I’ll be amazing.” During these periods, I would eat all the vegetables, cut out “bad” foods, and obsessively go to the gym. And I’d ALWAYS overdo it. Yes, being sore is a sign of a good workout, but not being able to function normally for a week after lifting too heavy and doing too much cardio is not normal. I was the “all or nothing” type of person when it came to working out and living a “healthy” lifestyle.
When my symptoms got to the point that I could barely function last fall, I had to drop exercise. It just didn’t seem important to me anymore. Being able to just take care of my responsibilities and basic needs became the priority, understandably. Today, this is still my priority, but I am (slowly) starting to try to incorporate more physical activity into my life. I am no longer an “all or nothing” type of person when it comes to working out or living a healthy lifestyle. I simply take it day by day and try to do my best to listen to what my body needs.
My Problem with the Current “No Excuses” Mentality
All over social media I keep seeing the “no excuses” exercise mentality. And it’s frustrating to me. I understand people wanting to others to live their best, healthiest lives. I get that to most healthy people, exercise is a big part of that. And I also understand that some people DO make excuses when they simply don’t want to deal with working out. But who cares? It’s their life and they can live it how they please.
What I don’t understand or appreciate is the need to shame or pressure people into working out or living a certain lifestyle. There’s a sense of ableism to this idea that you should feel guilty if you do not work out. It’s rather ignorant to assume that those who have a legitimate reason to not be in the gym are just making “excuses”. I know most people who use and share these ideas are not intending to target the chronically ill or disabled community for not exercising. In fact, a large portion of these communities include exercise practices in their daily lives. However, not everyone can or does. And that’s okay!
I am a firm believer in living YOUR best life, in doing what’s best for YOU. And what is best for you may not be best for someone else. If exercise is what is best for you, that’s wonderful and be grateful for your ability to do so. If your go-to exercise is a spin class or Orange Theory, that’s great and props to you. Same goes for if your workout of choice is a restorative yoga class or walking your dog. And if you are choosing not to exercise right now, there’s nothing wrong with that! As long as you are doing what you need to do to take care of yourself (physically, mentally, and emotionally), you are doing enough. Regardless of what you are or are not able to do YOU ARE ENOUGH. There is absolutely no need to feel guilty for not exercising. And there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be guilting you into exercising. And there is absolutely no excuse for shaming others for not exercising.
My New “No Excuses” Attitude
While I may not be into the “no excuses” workout mentality, I am all about “no excuses” self-care. And self-care means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. When most people think of self-care, they think face masks, massages, superfoods, etc. But that’s not all there is to it. To me, true self-care is being mindful of what your body, mind, and spirit need every day. Some days that might mean taking a nap and resting. Other days self-care might require taking care of responsibilities and being super productive. Sometimes, self-care means eating vegetables and going to the gym. It’s all dependent on what YOU need that day. If you need to go to the gym or a workout class, do that. If you need to check some things off your to-do list or meet a certain deadline, do that. Self-care is SO much more than exercise, eating right, and pampering yourself. Self-care is such a personal practice, but I also believe it’s a “no excuses” thing.
I’m going to challenge you right now. Every day, I want you to take a few moments to really listen to your body and listen to yourself and think, “Okay, what do I need to live my best life today? What do I need to do to care for myself?” Whatever it is you need to do, do it. Even if that means making a dreaded doctor’s appointment or going to bed early, challenge yourself to take the best possible care of your entire being every day.
So I want to know, what are your current self-care practices? Comment below and let me know!