True Story Update: When a Fitness Challenge becomes a Self-Care Challenge

You Have to do this For YourSelf | How I Sustain Blog

Hi Friends!

Remember that post True Story: I just joined a Weight Loss Challenge? Well, the challenge is now complete and I’m happy to share the results and all that I learned along the way. Stay tuned: it’s not what you would expect. Well, actually, if you read the title, that’s exactly what it’s about – but read on anyway.

It’s funny how challenges and personal goals have this way of turning out different than we expect.

I began this challenge with two things in mind:

  1. I wanted to lose some extra winter weight
  2. I wanted a reason to prioritize my health

Based on those goals, my plan worked. I not only lost weight, I trimmed several inches, toned up my mid-section for the first time since Max was born, and I am definitely far more focused on my health than I have been in a long time. I’m eating vegetables. I’m ready to try on stuff from my “skinny” wardrobe. I’m eating leaner foods. And, overall, I’m happier.

But, as I mentioned, personal goals have this way of challenging us in unexpected ways. And if you followed along on Tuesdays, you know that I’ve discussed this several times during the last six weeks in my posts about developing my wellness routine, dissecting the rest day, and implied it through a few missed Tuesday posts. The truth is, I am really good at following a fitness schedule, committing to my health, and making the time to do the work I need to get in shape. But when that training demands more of my body than my body can give, and when I’m so tired I can’t keep up with my daily blogging here, or even make it through a day without needing rest, that’s when I have to take a step back and start asking myself some serious questions.

I was NOT expecting this challenge to be about self-care.

To be fair, self-care isn’t a popular topic in the competitive business of fitness and “getting in shape.” It’s not sexy to talk about what to do when your fitness routine is too much. You’re not going to sell a lot of books from testimonials of people who sustainably lost their weight over long periods of time, or who only lost a portion of the weight goal, or who realized that the weight loss challenge was too much of a strain on their body and mind.

Those ideas don’t sell, so we don’t talk about them. And we should.

The first two weeks of the challenge developed as expected: my muscles hurt, my body was tired, but I was definitely getting stronger. About three weeks in, though, I hit a wall of TIRED and, honestly, as I write this (weeks after that) I’m struggling to keep awake. I cut back on the intensity of my workouts. I gave myself more time to rest. I incorporated more rest days.

And, still, I was tired.

Whether it's a business or a running program, you need a rest day  How I Sustain Blog

As my long run increased above 7 miles, my body responded by shutting down the following day. Almost 24 hours after my first 7-mile run, I found myself in serious discomfort, feeling starved, with fully body pain, exhausted, and yet oddly energized. When I described this feeling to friends with experience running long distances, they suggested increasing lean proteins and adding more complex carbs to my diet. They also suggested, based on my current body size, that I shouldn’t be restricting my dietary intake.

I took their advice leading into the following long run: I ate more lean protein, I incorporated complex carbs back into my diet, and I didn’t restrict my eating on the weekends (when I do my long run). Still, nearly 24 hours later I found myself in a lesser version of the same discomfort: generalized pain, extreme exhaustion, and really grumpy.

This time, I decided to take the advice of a friend who has a background in nutrition. She suggested that I look into iron supplements. Hmm, I thought. This sounded like she was onto something.

The following week, before my long run, I made a trip to Whole Foods and got some advice from the purple haired hippie girl in the supplements section. She located a “blood builder” iron supplement and a workout-repair-vegan-hippie-powder-mix that tastes like a vanilla chai. I’m still on the fence about the vegan voodoo, but the blood builder may have been the difference maker.

I took the supplement after the meal following my long run and I’m happy to report that I didn’t have the same draining feeling that I had previously experienced. But there are other conditions that still need to be addressed. And for the sake of saving further complaints, I’ll end by saying that I decided it was time to set up an appointment with my doctor.

Basically I need someone to tell me it’s okay for me to push hard for personal growth and change.

Truthfully, I think I’m physically fine and I think that my body response is just a sign of age or the time of year or some other environmental factor. But I have to ask the question. And I have to consult with a professional before I self-diagnose a list of ailments that aren’t real. And I have to get advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. And that’s what my smart, healthy, conscientious friends are saying. And I’m inclined to believe them.


So that’s it, friends. What started out as a weight loss fitness challenge has transitioned to a self-care, super health conscious self-exploration to address possible underlying conditions. Who knows where it will lead, but I’m hopeful. And I’m happy that I have the presence of mind and body awareness I need to get through this challenge without injury and with focus and priority given to self-care.