“My Relationship With Fitness Isn’t What It Used To Be”
For many of us, life has changed a lot over the past few years. Some of us have had changes in our financial circumstances, how we work, our relationships, and many of us have experienced loss on different levels.
Whether that change is related to the pandemic or not, we know that big life changes can also impact our health - both physically and emotionally. Significant change and upheaval can impact things like your immune response, hunger, hormones, stress and energy, all of which are tied to how we feel about ourselves and our fitness journey.
We know that for many women, working out doesn’t feel the same as it used to, so we asked five members of the Sweat Community how their relationship with fitness and mental health has changed over the course of the pandemic. Here’s what they had to say.
This is a sensitive topic for me, only because in September of 2021 I truly got a good grasp on how delicate and precious my mental health is. Although I was previously caring for my physical health and working out often, I was subconsciously neglecting my mental health. I was on autopilot in my day-to-day regimen.
Working out was my primary way of caring for my health, but my mental health needed to be cared for too.
When Sweat came into my life, I began to see how fitness goes hand-in-hand with every aspect of health - physical, mental and emotional too. The Sweat app gives me the flexibility I need, along with a variety of workout styles I find joy in, no matter where I’m at in my journey.
Instead of always accelerating forward, I needed to be still sometimes, learn to let go when I was holding on, or be present when my thoughts were constantly in the future. I learned all of this very recently as a result of the pandemic. I was trying to go about my days as if things were the same when in reality, so much was changing, both around me and within me.
Over these last few months, I have truly come to realise that mental health is just as important as physical health. You cannot have one without the other.
I think the pandemic has caused ebbs and flows in my mental and physical health. When the pandemic first started, I was all about focusing on myself and I was reading a new book each month, and really focused on nutrition and achieving physical goals.
But, as the pandemic rolled into the second year, some of my motivation started to diminish. I was mentally exhausted from the ever-changing Covid restrictions and I had a lot of change happening in my personal life, and my fitness regime took a backseat for the latter half of 2021.
In 2022 I made a new commitment to myself at the start of the Sweat Challenge, selected a new program and refocused on putting myself first by taking it slow and steady this time around.
My routine changed drastically between December 2020 and December 2021. When you are in a lockdown and you get diagnosed with a very rare stage 4 cancer, your whole life changes.
Fitness helped me during that year and I did two to three workouts every week when I could. Luckily enough I have built up my strength again and have been working out six times a week since the beginning of February after I got pneumonia in the first three weeks of January 2022.
It was definitely a challenge with all the fortnightly chemotherapy and hospital visits I had, but I stayed positive and didn’t give up. Physically I went from my strongest to my weakest, but today I am happy that I can now work out when I want and I feel my body getting stronger again. At the moment my condition is stable and I’m enjoying the things I like to do again.
I used to see my workout modifications as a failure, but after everything that has happened in the past year with my cancer journey, I don’t anymore. I get less frustrated now, I have more patience and I am kinder towards myself.
I know this has certainly not been the case for everyone, but because I began my fitness journey right before the pandemic started, I feel fortunate to say that my physical health significantly improved over the course of the pandemic.
Starting an at-home workout program around the time the at-home orders took place was pretty convenient for me and it allowed me to focus a little extra on Sweat. I built consistent exercise routines, had extra time to commit to my goals and started cooking healthier meals.
During this time, exercising with the Sweat app became almost like therapy to me. It was a way to decompress, add some excitement to the never-ending at home days, and gave me something to look forward to after work. I never realised how much my physical health impacted my mental health.
Overall, my mental health has improved since the start of the pandemic, but not without highs and lows in between. I have grown so much in my mindset over the past couple of years, but that is only because I hit lows that showed me where I needed change.
Working from home was challenging for me. Without the structure of the office, I struggled to feel productive. I was still working, but not having face-to-face interaction or small pop-up tasks in the office made work seem much slower. This made me feel anxious, like I wasn’t doing enough. I realized that a lot of my self-worth stemmed from my productivity. It is still a struggle sometimes to separate the two, but staying rooted in my faith, setting and accomplishing small goals throughout the day, and developing a structured daily routine have all helped me feel productive, while understanding that my productivity does not define my self-worth.
Focusing on these things for the past couple of years has drastically improved my mental health, even as I have transitioned back into the office and the world is entering into a new normal.
Honestly, it's been a wild ride, but in short, my relationship with both my physical and mental health has improved exponentially. As the pandemic hit, I was grappling with the news that due to health limitations, I would not be having any more children, which was not the plan.
This had me feeling bad for myself and all efforts to take care of my body physically and mentally dissipated for the next couple of months. I literally baked some form of dessert every other day, drank almost nightly, and ceased what little and inconsistent movement I was previously doing.
By May 2020 I was tired of how I felt, physically and mentally. I decided to do something about it, and committed to Kelsey’s PWR at Home program with Sweat. That was the last time I “started over” on my health and fitness journey. At first, movement was a “requirement” to care for myself, but over the course of the last two years, so much has shifted. I crave movement for the first time in my life and I feel fit and strong. I have confidence in myself that isn’t tied to what size pants I’m wearing and my relationship with food has improved.
I created my fitness Instagram around July that year, in an attempt to connect with others with similar goals. It’s not an exaggeration to say that connecting to the Sweat Community played a huge role in where I am today and the consistency I’ve found. Amazing things can happen when you surround yourself with others who share similar goals.
Although my mental health has ebbed and flowed throughout the pandemic, along with work and life stressors, I have found a system that seems to work for me. I move my body regularly, now out of desire rather than a requirement.
There have been a few brief times, due to illness and injury, that my movement was limited to walking, and what I’ve found is I feel noticeably more irritable and anxious when I cannot lift. This is life though, and flexibility is key, so when this happens I just do my best to go on more walks, still allowing myself to rest when needed.
Has your relationship with fitness undergone a big shift over the past few years? Tell us about your changing journey in the comments.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.