Know When to Say When

I’m not really one for “resolutions”, but with the new year I embraced the inescapable feelings of renewal and set some goals. Nothing too complicated or specific — just a few simple things to focus on, such as stepping up my conditioning, being more mindful about my food and alcohol intake, adhering to a more structured sleep schedule.

So far in January, things are going pretty well! I’ve taken some new fitness classes in addition to working hard on my flying trapeze training and conditioning, cooking a ton of healthy vegan food and testing out new evening routines to help address my sleep issues.

None of this change has been particularly easy — until this week, D.C., like most of the east coast, was in a deep freeze that started before Christmas. Yes, I grew up in Buffalo, but that doesn’t mean I like the cold (there is a reason why I permanently left western New York more than 20 years ago!). When the high temperature tops out at 20 degrees yet again, all I want to do is eat all the bread and drink all the wine and snuggle all the animals and watch all the Netflix.

From an exercise perspective, I am fortunate that one of my jobs keeps me pretty active — I teach at least five flying trapeze classes a week, and pulling safety lines for two hours is a workout of its own. But when the job can feel like a workout with all of its physical demands (albeit one that I am well conditioned and trained to take on), that also can make it challenging to motivate to do additional exercise and conditioning.

While so far so good this year, I found myself getting into familiar negative mental and emotional patterns one day last week. Early in the day I circled a potential yoga class or a conditioning class for my evening workout. But as the day wore on I realized I was just exhausted. My body hurt, my brain hurt, I was a bit overwhelmed. What to do?

I knew that my body and mind were giving me all the signals to take it easy after a physically (not to mention mentally) demanding few days. However, typically if I miss a class or a workout for any variety of reasons (from work/job pressures to just being lazy) I immediately categorize myself as a failure and end up with all the guilt and self-loathing for the rest of the day or longer. Can’t even make it to a yoga class? YOU FAIL, AGAIN, LOSER. The downward spiral is fast and aggressive.

Why such immediate negativity? Rest and recovery is just as important as that extra pull-up or chatarunga. Luckily I AM very active, and if my body is demanding I take a day off it isn’t me making lame excuses. (well, it’s usually not anyway!). Taking some down time does not result in me being a failure — regardless of the reason.

So I added to my new year’s goals to allow myself to take — and to celebrate taking — downtime. The ability to find that kind of time can be challenging enough, so I need to embrace it for all it’s worth.

And you know what? My evening on the couch, watching TV, having some wine, even putting away the laptop (shocking) delivered more benefits than a fitness class ever could have. Plus, I was back and better than ever the very next day.

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