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Lessons Learned from Taking a Week Off

To reward myself for the hours of running and cross training, the early nights and skipped cocktails, and the months of general marathon craziness, I decided I would take a full week of recovery after the race. So no running even though the weather was perfect for it. And no boot camp or spin classes even though my legs felt recovered after a few days.

The gym is part of my normal routine, so this strict no-gym-rule opened up quite a bit of time in my schedule. I took advantage of it. I lunched with coworkers. I took on an additional freelance project. I crossed a few nagging items on my to-do list. I tried to have a productive week. But I felt restless from being inactive. Though I did accomplish a lot, I felt antsy. I had trouble focusing because I didn't have my daily dose of burning off steam.

And since I was skipping the gym, I thought I might as well be a little less strict about my diet. The afternoon after the marathon, I stuffed myself full of italian beef, pizza, and Ben & Jerry's, and I didn't feel the least bit guilty. "I deserve it!" I told myself. But surprisingly, my desire to eat garbage did not last. One day, I thought about grabbing lunch with a coworker at Five Guys even though I had a healthier lunch in the fridge. I ultimately chose the lunch I brought. A burger sounded good, but I didn't really feel like spending the rest of my afternoon nodding off at my desk. Eating junk food wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be, because it made me feel sluggish and grumpy. Instead of waking up refreshed, I would start my days groggy.

This "off" week gave me time to reflect on why I prioritize health and fitness in the first place. It began with wanting to lose a few pounds. Then I wanted to improve my strength so I could improve my posture. As health problems began to affect some of my family members, my motivation also included developing better habits that could help me live a longer and healthier life. But on a day-to-day basis, this lifestyle change was all about feeling and sleeping better, plus having more energy and focus. And that's a more realistic motivation than keeping off the pounds or avoiding long-term health problems.

So I'm ready to get back to my regular routine. Although I enjoyed having more time on my hands, I didn't feel 100% myself. I'm excited to dust of my sneakers, throw some veggies in my gym bag, and get back to a healthier and more active lifestyle. I want my energy back!

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Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com

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