On Burning Out

Back in January of this year, I wrote a post called Mojo, after receiving an email from a friend about exercising. She said, “I’ve become so freakin lazy. Feel like I’ve lost my mojo.”

Her email made me think about how I went from someone who lived next door to her fancy expensive gym but couldn’t muster up the motivation to actually get there, to someone who regularly traveled by subway to all corners of the city to take my beloved fitness classes — and told as much to the New York Times.

My main point from that post was this:

Exercise has become so ingrained in my life and has truly become something I love. Exercise has become a priority and a given.

I felt like I couldn’t longer relate to how my friend felt. I understood it because once upon a time I had been there, but now that I saw and felt everything exercise did for me, I could not imaging any other way.

And then last week happened.

The pain and pressure in my stomach that started suddenly one evening never dissipated. I tried to run 8miles on it and miraculously made it to 7.5.  In fact, it kept getting worse. I spent my entire second week at my new job sitting at my desk, unable to eat, feeling sick and trying to be on top of my game as I tried to do my job well, attend meetings with CEOs and overall make a  good impression.

I was able to put on a good show at work. What I wasn’t able to do, however, was exercise. Not only was I not able to — I did not want to.

For the first time in a year and a half, the thought of exercising was daunting, overwhelming and completely unappealing.

Scheduling my classes for the week, an activity I normally love and work on multiple times throughout the week, was just not something I was interested in doing. When Jess posted her weekly Say It Do It post, instead of commenting with my weekly plans as I usually loved to do, I closed the page. I couldn’t even consider an entire week of exercise. No interest.

I did not open the Refine schedule. I did not open the Core Fusion schedule. I almost attempted waking up a couple of mornings to run, but shortly before falling asleep I reset my alarm to sleep instead.

To be totally honest, I was not feeling well. I wasn’t able to eat anything without experiencing painful spasms, and while on the Cooler Cleanse from Tuesday through Friday, I was not able to drink more than four of the six juices each day — if that. I was nauseous, but luckily not eating stopped that pain from happening. But four juices a day is not enough to subsist on, let alone work out on. I did not have much energy. I felt weak and a little lightheaded. Working out would have been stupid and irresponsible.

But my attitude went beyond that. It was more than just not feeling well. I did not even welcome the idea of returning to exercise even after feeling better. The thought of it was revolting! I felt lazy. I  felt smothered by the idea of making exercise a part of my daily routine again. I wondered how, after experiencing the luxury of waking up at a decent hour, getting ready for work leisurely, and coming home right after to rest, would I ever want to make working out a regular part of my life again.

And I felt so weak that I couldn’t imagine ever not feeling that way. I felt like I lost so much of what I worked for so easily. Walking up the stairs in the train station seemed like too much. I took the escalator.

I thought about the Queens Half Marathon just a few weeks ago. I felt so strong, the speed came so easily. And my 14 mile run the following week was also phenomenal. How could I run 14 miles a few weeks ago, and now the thought of a single flight of stairs overwhelmed me? How would I ever run 14 miles again? Much less 26.2?

After an endoscopy on Friday, I spent the rest of the day in bed resting. I also spent much of Saturday resting before getting out and enjoying the beautiful weather. I had signed up for the NYRR Long Training Run Sunday. But late Saturday night, still feeling a bit weak, I turned off my alarm. I missed the entire sixth week of marathon training.

But on Sunday evening, I made a choice. I was going to slowly ease my way back into exercise. I took a full week off from any exercise at all, for the first time since January, 2010. At most I had taken a few days off in a row. At most.

I was able to eat on Saturday, and I was started to feel better. I ran 3 miles. They were not easy miles, but they also were not the worst miles. I went next door to the treadmill at that same fancy gym I once belonged to. I forgot my headphones and had to run the entire treadmill run with no entertainment, just my thoughts. And I did fine.

That run gave me the boost I needed.

The next morning, I went to Refine Method. I emailed Brynn, the owner and instructor of the class I signed up for, to let her know about my situation — which, being my friend, she already knew. But I wanted to be extra clear: I had not been feeling well, I had not worked out in over a week, my stomach might hurt, I might feel weak, I will be taking it easy. I wanted to ease back into working out.

The class was rough. I am used to feeling strong and confident at Refine, but yesterday I felt like the weakest one there. I did my best and I allowed myself to go slow. During jumpbacks, normally one of my favorite exercises, I started off slowly and eventually changed to step-backs, a slightly easier version. Normally, I am the person taking the harder modification.

During triceps with the kettlebells, I switched to a lighter weight rather than try and push through. I felt very aware of my limitations. And while the entire class was difficult and I certainly did not love it, I got through it and felt great after. And hungry — a very good sign.

And this morning, in an attempt to resume my marathon training this week (I simply crossed last week’s workouts off as though I did them), I ran 7 miles on the treadmill since it stays dark outside now. I gave myself permission to do less, but as the run went on I felt better and better.

And now I am back on track. I’m not going nuts scheduling classes like crazy, but I am easing back into my routine, most importantly my marathon training. I don’t think missing a week will ever hurt anyone, and because of the Queens Half Marathon I was already ahead in my training anyway.

After this morning’s run, I am no longer doubting my ability to train for the mararthon. I am no longer feeling a lack of motivation. My own mojo is slowly but surely returning.

The mood and energy boost I felt after Refine yesterday — despite the fact that it was not even close to one of my best workouts — and after my long pre-work run today . . . nothing else can make me feel this way. It is good to take a week off sometimes when you feel burnt out. I might not have even realized this if I hadn’t gotten sick. And no, I don’t believe my stomach pains were at all related to exercise — they were (and still are) very clearly eating related. The doctor saw something not normal with my stomach. But that week put my training and my attitude towards exercise and rest in perspective.

And now I am back. I walked into that fancy gym last night and once again became a member for the remainder of my marathon training. I happily signed the forms. I am not overwhelmed. I am not feeling smothered. I felt invincible to feeling a lack of motivation to exercise because I just loved everything it did for me. I heard others talking about it, but simply could not imagine, at the time I wrote that Mojo post, that it would happen to me.

But it did. And now I am back to myself. Just slightly wiser.


14 comments on On Burning Out

  1. Jess @ Fit Chick in the City
    August 23, 2011 at 10:29 am (6 years ago)

    So so happy to hear that you found your mojo once again and even happier to hear that you are starting to feel better. Sorry you had a rough week, but you’re a strong woman and you always come out on top!
    Jess @ Fit Chick in the City´s last blog post ..Chai Chia Pudding Recipe

  2. Jolene
    August 23, 2011 at 11:16 am (6 years ago)

    I can relate to this post in a way, as I feel like after the half, I sort of lost a bit of mojo, mentally and physically. I had some bad runs after that bad outing at the half but today, I had a GOOD run and I felt that boost I needed. Sounds like you did too. Glad you are feeling better.
    Jolene´s last blog post ..That moment when the world melts away…

  3. Katherine
    August 23, 2011 at 11:25 am (6 years ago)

    Welcome back!!!! I feel like a lot of people had a tough week last week for one reason or another, obviously your issue was a lot more severe, but you weren’t alone in cutting back a bit.
    Katherine´s last blog post ..Say it, do it!

  4. Amber
    August 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm (6 years ago)

    I’m not surprised you were burnt out at all last week – you had a rough one. I’m glad you are feeling better and getting back at it! Welcome back!

  5. Laura Yamin
    August 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm (6 years ago)

    I have been there and I can relate to your honesty. I am glad that you are slowly finding your mojo back by easing your way to movement.
    Laura Yamin´s last blog post ..New name: Joyful Shimmy

  6. Gavi @ Gavi Gets Going!
    August 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm (6 years ago)

    I’m so sorry to hear about your intense pain and discomfort. This post is incredibly inspiring, though, and I appreciate it so much (given my own current, similar situation). It is devastating and frustrating when our bodies prevent us from doing the things we love, but I respect your outlook and self-reflection with regards to rest, exercise, scaling back, and pushing through the pain. I wish you comfort and health, and I’m cheering for you as you get your exercise mojo back! :)
    Gavi @ Gavi Gets Going!´s last blog post ..Lessons I’ve learned in the past few months

  7. Missy Maintains
    August 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm (6 years ago)

    I remember those days when we had such a hard time getting to the gym. I’m glad you are starting to get back in your groove. Hope your tummy is okay!

  8. Grace @ Balancing Me
    August 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm (6 years ago)

    Oh Dori. I’m so sorry you felt terrible this last week. I’m glad you took off the sixth week, though. It’s so important to listen to your body, and you’re someone that so many people in our community look up to. I’m glad you can write about your most personal thoughts and decisions and share them honestly with us. You’re doing awesome. 😉
    Grace @ Balancing Me´s last blog post ..earthquake!

  9. Cameo
    August 24, 2011 at 5:48 am (6 years ago)

    Great post, and one that so many people need to read. Thank you for writing it with such honesty and clarity. Taking a week off was exactly the right thing to do. You will probably end up making gains because of it. All the books I have ever read on training recommend one week off every 4 months or so…the body needs to recoup.

    As for the tummy…oh, man. I can’t even imagine. I hope you and your doc can get to the bottom of it so you can fuel yourself! Marathons require lots of eating…I think…
    Cameo´s last blog post ..‘Your Guide To Quackery’ and a recipe to come!

  10. Krissie J
    August 24, 2011 at 8:56 am (6 years ago)

    I definitely think break weeks are necessary, especially when your body is not agreeing with you. Glad you’re tummy is feeling much better! I actually experiencing a bit of a burnout right now and I haven’t even been exercising nearly as much as you!
    Krissie J´s last blog post ..A Walk With A Pug


3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on On Burning Out

  1. […] I took an entire week off of training. Even when I wasn’t in pain, I felt really weak. The thought of any exercise seemed like the torture. In fact, this was the first time since I started the Core Fusion Challenge on January 2, 2010 that […]

  2. […] to pick up a set of dumb bells. I liked doing nothing. Perhaps I lost my mojo. Or maybe I was just burned out. Or maybe I just felt like giving myself a […]

  3. […] run down and — for the first time since I fell in love with exercise in January 2010 — burnt out.  Goes to show that everyone, no matter who they are or how strong — goes through periods […]

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