The Rise and Fall and the Crash and Burn of Exercise

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A few years ago, one could say that I was an exercise-aholic. I worked out six days a week, ran an average of 40 miles per week, and conquered five half-marathons in three years.

This was my life, and then … it wasn’t.

I had it all – two beautiful daughters, a good job working for a nonprofit, a wonderful husband who I adored and would romanticize about growing old with, a house we made a home, good friends, a loving family, and the perfect workout routine.

And in one second, it all changed. Before I even knew what was happening, my marriage was over. My new routine consisted of being a single mother, trying to figure out how to pay bills, raise my girls, deal with my broken heart, and still fit in exercise.

I bet you can guess which of these priorities fell off the list.

Running, which had been my go-to workout, was no longer an option, as time and energy routinely escaped me. I mean, you try finding a babysitter at 5:30 a.m. while you run laps around the neighborhood. To make matters worse, my “divorce diet” left me thin and unhealthy since I found it difficult to eat or sleep. I was literally falling apart.

Fast forward almost three years and I am finally working my way back to a routine that I can emotionally and physically feel comfortable with and confident about. Three years. It has been a long journey of self-discovery – and not an easy one. My physical activity routine was just one of the many pieces of myself that I had lost, and for some reason, it was the hardest to put back together.

  1. If I can’t run six miles, what’s the point?  I had become so used to running long distances that if my mind or body would only allow me to run one mile or take a brisk walk, I didn’t see the value in it. But I was wrong. Any amount of physical exercise is beneficial in a number of ways. Tip: By downloading and using the free CDPHP® InMotionSM app, you can see how every step adds up to a life of health and wellness.
  2. My self-confidence was shot. After living through the trials and tribulations of my situation, the idea of running a race or joining the group of happy moms/wives who had become my “running friends” was not only intimidating, but depressing. I had the power all along; I just needed to find what was right for me.
  3. This isn’t working anymore. Obviously the days of 6 a.m. runs before work were no longer an option. My life had changed and so my routine needed to adapt as well. Tip: Check out these quick fitness routine ideas that you can fit in any time of day.
  4. What would Facebook say? I know it seems silly that this was actually a barrier for me, but it was. Facebook Time Hop kept showing me photos and posts of 10-mile morning runs, followed by snuggling in bed with my family and a trip to the local farmers’ market. It was like taking a bullet every time something like that popped up!
  5. What else can I do? Running had been my go-to form of exercise for years, but the thought of it made me anxious. So I tried new stuff. African dance, yoga, Pilates, spin class, etc. Find what works for you and go with it! Tip: CDPHP offers free health and wellness classes for members. Register today!
  6. Cut yourself some slack. I would hear this all the time from friends, family, co-workers, etc. Great advice. Do what you can today and try again tomorrow.
  7. Make yourself healthy in other ways. It wasn’t just exercise that fell off track with my broken heart. My diet, sleep habits, mental health, and more needed a reboot. Once I had tools in place to support my life, things started to shift. Tip: CDPHP has a number of resources to help you cope with whatever challenges you encounter along your journey.
  8. Make it a team effort. Involving my girls enabled me to make fitness a priority again. Yoga classes, going for walks in my neighborhood, walking a friend’s dog, chasing them on the playground – whatever gets you moving!
  9. Accept change. Your fitness routine will most likely evolve, get easier, and get harder. But commit to yourself and your health. It’s worth it.
  10. Believe in yourself. I always refer back to one of my favorite quotes, as it relates to exercise, parenthood, friendships, career – pretty much everything in my life:

There is freedom waiting for you

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask “What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?

~Erin Hanson

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