Especially in these hard enough times.
Allow me to set the stage. I have always been a physically active human. From the time I was a little babe, my parents enrolled me in all kinds of sports: soccer, basketball, swimming, wiffle ball (and while we’re at it: petition to normalize wiffle ball leagues for people over the age of six, please. Miss those days).
Being a part of any sport at that age involves the ritual of practice. But out of all of those sports, my swim team career stuck with me the longest. And swim team practices are no joke. Five practices a week was the standard — every day after school until about 5:30 pm. As I grew older and entered a more competitive sphere, those once-a-day practices turned into twice-a-days with a 6:00 a.m. chlorine wake up call. Not to mention the weight lifting sessions and occassional Saturday morning practices. Sounds tough for a kid, right? Despite the army-level schedule, I lived for it.
So, it was ingrained in me from a very early age that in order to stay in top shape, I needed to dedicate myself day in and day out to the routine of working out. And I am grateful for this structure and dedication I recieved as a child. It regimented me. I’ve carried it with me into adulthood, where I am no longer part of a swim team, but still value the routine of physical exercise.
I like to mimic that five-day workout schedule. I still swim, though not nearly with the same amount of intensity as those team practices in my youth. Even if it’s just getting out for a long walk, or a yoga session in my living room. Working out has become a part of my weekly adult routine.
But there are days I just do not want to move. And I need to learn to listen to my body and be kind to myself when that happens.
I think it’s important to understand why I have those kinds of days. More often than not, it’s not because I’m physically tired, but mentally fatigued. It takes Herculean mental strength to dive into chilly water and swim 2,000 yards after working with demanding clients all day. Or to pick up a set of weights after an impossibly long eight hour shift. Even just a walk around the block seems like a monumental task.
I understand that pushing through the mental exhaustion and working out may actually alleviate the symptoms. I have done it before, and it usually does. But some days, my mind and body crave rest.
I need to be okay with that.
No guilt. No “I’ll workout twice as long tomorrow.” No whining and moaning about how lazy I am for making the decision to lay in bed.
Because I am not lazy. Occasionally skipping a workout or having a day with minimal physical activity does not a bad person make. I sure know that if little swim team Kristin could see me now, she’d be thrilled to see we could choose to skip a workout without consequences. Heck, she’d be thrilled we could even sit on the couch instead with an entire sheet cake and a plastic fork if we wanted to.
The days are hard enough during this pandemic. Sometimes working out is the key. And sometimes the key is lounging at home and catching up on a show you started to watch or a book you’ve been meaning to read.
I am still working on how I talk to myself when I have days like this. Still learning how to be kinder to myself when I make the decision to stay home from the gym. Still learning to let go and allowing myself to have these days of unplanned rest.
Because the bottom line is that I deserve it. And if you are reading this, you do too.