We constantly hear that fitness is a lifestyle.  That everyone can find time in the day to get to the gym. We’re almost shamed into believing that if we can’t find the time, then we’re not making ourselves a priority.  Being honest, that was totally me. I always felt like if I wasn’t in the gym then I was moving backwards from my fitness goals.

Fitness was not only a lifestyle for me, but part of my identity.

In late August I got news that I would be having unexpected surgery and would sideline me from working out for 4-6 weeks. Of course my immediate -and very irrational-  thought was I’d lose everything I had worked for the last few years, I’d gain all of my pregnancy weight back overnight, and my life would be ruined. Maybe this was a bit over-the-top, but, nonetheless, I had major concerns over how this hiatus would play out.

This time away from the gym came unexpectedly, but gave me the chance to sit back and reflect. In a lot of ways this injury forced me to face a big fear I didn’t even know I had: Who am I without the fitness that defines me?

As I’ve arrived safely on the other side, I want to share some things I learned along the way:

Appreciate the change of pace. Being limited in what I could do physically really took a mental toll on me.  Even though I had to refrain from the high intensity workouts and weight lifting that usually keep me busy, I found other ways to keep moving.  I walked – a lot – like, Silver-Sneakers-Rookie-of-the-Year a lot. I used to brush off walking as a workout, but, let me tell you, it kept me sane and kept me moving. I even began to enjoy it. Walking also gave me time to reflect on this season in my life and appreciate my surroundings more.

Pay attention to the cues your body gives.  I found within the first week that my hunger levels changed. Without my high intensity workouts and heavy weight lifting, the needs of my body were different. I used this opportunity to focus on how I was fueling my body. Normally, I focus on “feeding my muscles”; but without the high intensity workouts, my caloric need reduced. I began exploring more plant based options, and I started paying more attention to the micronutrients in my foods. I have since continued with “Meatless Monday” and I love the challenge and satisfaction I get from these plant based meals.

Life and fitness can be found outside of the gym.  As walking became part of my daily workout, I started to involve my kids. Anywhere we could walk and not drive, we did. We would walk to the park; they would ride bikes while I walked. We just moved. Everyday we moved.  It was quality time together and we were all moving – exercising – for at least 30-60 minutes a day. Even though I am back in the gym, I still make it a priority to get out and move with my kids. They love it as much as I do.

I think for years I used fitness as a shield because it is so much a part of what I do. Now, I feel so much stronger knowing that it didn’t cripple me to step away. Let me tell you, this realization gives me a lot of freedom.

For someone devoted to fitness, a break in the action can be devastating. So, here’s my take away: You can do hard things, but, sometimes the hardest thing can look like doing nothing (wink).

Maybe these are simple lessons, but it was hard-learned. And, I feel like I’m coming back stronger than I was before. I am so grateful for the incredible things my body can do and I look forward to honoring it for years to come.