YYou’re stressed, not sleeping well, and life seems to be dragging you down. You want to exercise, but when you do, it leads to anxiety and a heavy feeling in your body. In fact, you rarely feel the buzz that everyone else seems to get after working out.
Yet they all tell you there’s nothing like a good sweat, right? Well-meaning friends and self-help articles say that feeling burned will improve your mood.
The truth, however, can be a heart-pumping workout sometimes the source Stress, and it actually does more harm than good to your health.
I know this all too well. In my early 20s, I enjoyed working out at the gym, teaching classes full of vibrancy and positive energy with a side of sweat. But after a few years, I started getting sick again and again. I lost the energy to get to my sessions and started experiencing anxiety, low mood and muscle pain that rarely went away.
After first joining a gym at age 14, I’ve spent much of my life turning to movement for a mental boost. It made me feel better no matter what was happening and helped me build strength to keep up with life. But by my mid-twenties, I’d exhausted my system to the max, overtraining and pushing myself to mental, physical, emotional burnout.
I realized that I needed to change my lifestyle. So I started optimizing my sleep, eating better and eating less. And, importantly, I refined the balance of the type of exercise I was doing.
You see, I wanted to continue to move. I couldn’t do it nothing. But I must listen to what my body is telling me. To give my nervous system a chance to recover,
I turned away from what I thought of as traditional forms of gym sessions (cardio, strength work, core, weights, circuits, boxing) and instead embraced pilates, yoga, stretching and meditation.
Now, at 40, I know how to take a sustainable approach to work. Instead of trying to keep up with my peers like I used to, I approach each week with a new level of self-esteem. I check how much energy I have based on my time, my business, my boys, my ability. And I respect that. I push where I can, but pull back as I need to, and always move with purpose, focus, and control.
A typical week for me now involves (at most) five 30-minute sessions a day: two Pilates-based full-body strength routines using bodyweight and resistance bands, two low-impact cardio sessions with low-impact HIIT or a brisk walk outside, and a full-body weights session, plus a short, 15-minute yoga-based mindfulness/stretch session with meditation most days.
Exercise is now an ever-evolving, yet enjoyable part of my life. Not a burden, not a stress, but always a positive improvement—even on a difficult day. Because I’ve decided that, at 40, I don’t have or want to struggle to push myself when it’s not happening. “Exercising” is not worth my health or happiness.
Interestingly, I’ve found that when you learn to balance more intense workouts with lighter, more controlled movements, you’re more likely to reach your fitness goals because you make room for your body to recover. And when you prioritize parts of your fitness that you never thought about before (like the effects of your nervous system, or hormonal changes), you start to see things from a new perspective.
My understanding of exercise has evolved, and I now see fitness primarily as a way to connect my body and mind. This method has relaxed not only me, but also countless of my clients to be able to practice smarter, not harder. We work hard, but build an incredible foundation by respecting our health every step of the way.
The great thing is when you always ask, “How will this activity make me feel?” And, “Will this really help with my energy, body and health?” Release a lot of anxiety around what you put up with in mind Should be fitness.
It’s old-school thinking to believe you have to go hard or go home. Respecting taking things a little less because of the altered pelvic floor, for example, might be the way to go. Reducing your workouts from 60 minutes to a balanced, effective 20- or 30-minute routine a few days a week can actually help you build more energy. (Science even backs this up.)
Consider how you feel after different types of movement and if the balance of your workout is something you can enjoy for the next 10, 20, 30 years or more.
Next time you want to take it easy, try this gentle flow: