When Your Fitness Identity Changes

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. I’ve started and stopped multiple times, each time because the words just weren’t coming out as fluently or as concisely as I wanted them to in order to truly convey my thoughts and feelings. Come to find out, that’s because I was going through an identity crisis of sorts.

You see, for a long time, I’ve been known by friends, colleagues and family members as the“fit” girl. I’ve taught spin classes for 6 years and recently decided to take the leap of faith to get certified to teach BodyPump as well. I have been a religious 6am gym-goer 5-6X/week for as long as I can remember and always chose the stairs vs. the elevator whenever possible. I was constantly pinning new workouts to try in order to challenge myself and it was truly difficult for me to take rest days even though I knew my body needed them. I also had have more workout clothes than regular ones. Basically, I LOVED working out. Not because it made me look good, or to burn calories, or any of the other silly reasons people force themselves to workout, but because I truly ENJOYED it. It was a part of me.
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Recently, however, my passions and priorities have changed. It all started a couple months before I graduated grad school this past May. I had just started my first “big girl” job as a dietitian working part-time at a hospital. Obviously, working combined with classes and finishing up my master’s project limited my time, but I still desired to workout and made an effort to hit the gym, albeit less frequently, because I still wanted to. After graduation I went to full-time and this is where the real change happened.

I had to be at work from 8a-4/5p and it was a little over a 30 minute commute (on a good day, that is). I thought, “well this sucks, but I’ll just have to get used to it”. I recognized that I no longer had the flexible schedule of a college student or a university gym within walking distance to keep me motivated.

I purchased a pricey membership at a gym right up the road because it was the only one that could accommodate my 5am workout schedule. I continued like usual, lifting weights for 45min-1hr before work. Then, I would hurry back home to shower, get ready and make the drive to work, eating my oatmeal cold in the car on the way (so NOT ideal). The gym did not have spin bikes (the horror) or my beloved group fitness classes and, frankly, I was getting bored just lifting weights all the time. Yes, I gained muscle mass and liked how strong I was getting, but the fun and variety was gone. For the first time in a long time, I really had to force myself to exercise and the early morning wakeup calls were getting to me. I’d arrive home exhausted and couldn’t wait to crawl into bed.

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I remember walking to my car one morning feeling so tired, irritable and just plain miserable. That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t healthy for me anymore. Working out was taking away my energy and happiness, not providing it like it used to. I took a little hiatus from the gym and mostly walked outside after work or during my lunch break with the occasional at-home yoga session thrown in there. Once I was mentally recharged and ready, I entered the gym once again, but this time only 2-3X/week. I only went when I truly wanted to and my body felt great! Better than it did when I was working out twice as much.

Fast forward a couple of months and I got a new job, my dream job, working in the mental health field as an eating disorder dietitian. I saw even more clearly how our society’s perception of health and fitness is so skewed and causes so many UN-healthy behaviors towards exercise (and eating of course, but that’s another topic for another day). There are so many rules we are taught to believe we must follow including “you must exercise 5X/week for 30-60 minutes” and “it must be a perfect combination of strength, cardio and flexibility training” and “you must push yourself each workout or it doesn’t count”, blah blah blah! Whatever happened to simply finding and doing what you love?

Fit doesn’t mean working out everyday or lifting weights or running a 5K or doing cross fit. Exercise doesn’t have to involve a gym. These days I work out a lot less and I don’t push myself nearly as hard as I once did. Do I still enjoy working out? Yes, but not as much as I once did so I do it less frequently. Am I scared I’m going to lose my definition, muscle and overall fitness? At first, but honestly, I haven’t seen this happen yet which goes to show how crucial rest days really are and how you don’t have to work out at high intensities everyday for results. Do I consider myself lazy now that I choose sleeping in or Netflix on the couch over working out? NO. I consider myself more balanced and health-IER.

Fitness is not stagnant, it is fluid and changes throughout the lifespan, just like everything else. Maybe you used to be really into running but now, walking sounds more appealing. Maybe you trained for a bikini competition and lifted weights all day err day but now yoga is what you like doing. Go with it. Maybe one day “enter old exercise of choice” will sound amazing again, maybe it won’t, who knows? Don’t force yourself to stay stuck in old habits or identities. The body is smart and knows what it wants. Don’t compare yourself to others or to the person you used to be. Move how you want, when you want and in a way that feels good friends. That’s what “fit” truly is.

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9 thoughts on “When Your Fitness Identity Changes

  1. Thank you for sharing! It is so stuff when I go through a new season and I feel old passions slipping away. I can imagine you are really busy right now! I’m in my dietetic internship right now and my fitness level has gone down some. It’s tough, but I know what my priority is right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kate,
      I also loved your most recent post about your changing body and accepting where you are at. Similar thoughts and feelings. I no longer feel the need to push myself to be super muscular and I feel so much better because of it even though i’m technically “softer”.

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  2. I love the honesty here! I know that my workout schedule is going to change a lot next year after I graduate and I’m a little scared but I know that I’ll be able to find time and that working out is not my priority!

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    1. Most definitely! In a society where more exercise mean better (which is so NOT true) I think it’s an important reminder that we need to back it off sometimes when there are more important things we need to focus on in life.

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  3. Thank you for this! Over the past two years I gained the yoga girl identity but things have changed drastically in the past few months and yoga is currently not on my to do list. I definitely want to get back into it once life settles down but it’s hard to accept that something that once defined you is now on the backburner. But life is an ebb and flow and if it’s truly a passion then we will find our way back to it.

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