You’ve watched the YouTube videos, read the facts, and finally made the commitment to recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and/or Overtraining Syndrome. You’ve marked your calendar with a start date, curated a Pinterest board full of inspiring quotes, gone grocery shopping, and even packed away your skinny jeans. You made it through the first few weeks, or even months, feeling excited and confident that you are doing the right thing. But, then...something happens. It may start as a small voice creeping in, a passing glance at an IG post, or a text from a friend. At some point in the journey to recovery, there is doubt.
This is normal. However, if you’re not ready for it, that doubt can turn into panic and eventually halt your efforts, sending you right back to your running shoes or the gym. You might even have a short honeymoon period of relief, feeling the familiar endorphin high from training, only to crash harder when you realize that your body can’t manage what your mind thinks it needs.
What you need is a way to stop the panic. You need to be prepared for the kinds of things that might ring the doubt alarms and derail your efforts. So, let’s have a look a some common things that might make you want to give up and help you figure out how to reframe and move on.
Situation: Your Training Partner Asks You to Enter a Race/Competition with Them
You have probably been through the “coming out” process and have shared with your friends that you will not be training for a while for health reasons. Still, your pals can’t seem to quite get the idea that you don’t have an end date to your hiatus, so occasionally you WILL get these kinds of offers.
You read their text about the race. Maybe it’s one you’ve done before and loved. Maybe it’s one you always wanted to do. Either way, the FOMO is so real you can taste it. It takes about ten seconds for you to spiral into “Why me?” thinking since, “None of my other friends have this problem”, and finally dipping into “Am I ever going to be able to train again???”.
Solution: Your friends are probably well-intentioned despite the fact that it seems like they don’t get it. Let them know that you are happy that they would want your company for the race, but that you are not ready to do anything but rest and recover just now. Remember that FOMO begins with “fear” and right now, fear doesn’t serve you at all. In saying “no” you are not only bravely reaffirming your commitment to yourself, but you might be setting an example for others who are in that “I wish I could cut back, but just can’t” -stage. You remember that one right? Yeah, wouldn’t it have been great to have someone like you around...actually backing off? Be the change, people.
Situation: Dressing Room Meltdown
Let’s face it; recovery usually brings weight gain and body changes. You’ve been doing ok with yoga pants and that pair of baggier jeans up until now, but inevitably, there comes a time when you simply must go shopping. Before you know it, you find yourself fluorescent-lit and behind a flimsy curtain in the middle of a heap of clothing that doesn’t seem to fit or flatter. A dull ache creeps over your head and tears sting in your eyes as you think to yourself, “I can’t do this. I used to be able to wear anything. I’m going to get control. As soon as I get home, I am going for a run.”
Solution: The funny thing about control is that it’s a shape-shifting illusion. You may think that going back to training is a sign of you gaining control, but actually it’s a sign of you losing it. Instead of sticking to the plan for recovery and health, you’re letting doubt and fear smack you into submission. Whenever that voice starts screaming, remind yourself that YOU DECIDE. That’s right, you decide to go back out into the store, choose some awesome clothing in a more comfortable size, dress your beautiful body, and slay like there’s no tomorrow. Do not waste one, single tear on what a number on a tag inside a pair of pants says. YOU ARE MAGIC not to be defined by a swath of 98% cotton, 2% Lycra. Thank you, next.
Situation: You’re Out of Shape
You’re probably hauling groceries out of the car and into the house when you realize it. Maybe you’ve spent the last twenty minutes chasing your nephew around the yard when you feel it. You might even wander back into the gym and attempt a set of whatever exercise you used to do without struggle. And it hits you that you’re...whaaat???...out of breath, weaker, slow. Your brain snaps instantly into the mathematical equation of Where I Am Now x How Much Time= Where I Used to Be. “I just need six weeks to get it back”, you think, “I’ve got to start now before it slips away!!”
Solution: It’s tricky, ya know? In our culture currently, gaining approval is basically all about how athletic you appear to be and how good you are at applying highlighter. For those of us that struggle with self esteem (ummm, everyone), running forever or pushing a lot of weight around is a surefire way to feel like we’re getting a big ‘ol thumbs up from the universe. But the truth is that being “in shape” is easy. Yup, you heard me. It’s easier to work on your body on the outside than it is to truly love what’s on the inside. That’s actually how you ended up here in the first place! You must do the even harder work of understanding how to be a better, more compassionate person to yourself so that deep healing can occur...which has nothing to do with your weekly mileage or how much weight you can deadlift. See what happens when you put as much energy into seeing who you really are as you did trying to ignore it by training too much. No one is suggesting you’re never going to run again, but for now... don’t worry about working out when you need to be worried about working in. Priorities!!
And there are are more…
This list may be some of the more common moments of doubt that you may encounter, but there are sure to be many more. You’re in a vulnerable spot, so don’t be surprised if even the smallest thing sets you off. There will be some days when all of those small things seem to add up to a great, big roar in your head telling you to STOP and get back to training. Do not equate the volume of the voice with the correctness of the message. You are doing what is right for you, right now. Stay the course.
And as you know, you’re never alone. I’m with you. Let’s do this.