When Does “Being Disciplined” Go Too Far?

I’m sure we all know someone who never misses a workout- no matter how tired, busy, sick, hungover, etc.- they will do whatever it takes to get a workout in. Full disclosure: this was me, to a certain extent, Β up until just a few years ago. Β And while some people may still think that’s me (social media only shows a little part of who I am!), these days I take plenty of rest days, especially if any of the above mentioned things are happening. Now, working out is a GOOD thing. A POSITIVE thing. Not a punishment or something I feel like I HAVE to do.

I got to thinking about this because I’ve heard a lot of people lately talk to me about people in their lives who never miss a workout, and these people tell me this in a way that almost makes it seem like their friend/family member/coworker/significant other is better than them for it: “He/She is so disciplined- never misses a run or a workout.”, Β “He/She is always at the gym! I don’t know how he/she finds time for it”, Β “He/She works out before work and after work- talk about dedication!”.

This got me to thinking- is this good? Is this something admirable? Is this something we should praise people for? Is this something we should strive for? Or compare ourselves to? When does “being disciplined” go too far, and end up controlling your day to day activities and schedule?

In short, no. I don’t think we should compare ourselves to those who are “so disciplined”. I don’t think we should think we are less than those who are “so disciplined” because we take rest days, skip days, do lighter workouts, etc. At the end of the day, we are all different and we all need/want different things. Our bodies are different and work differently, so what works for some people might not work for you- and that is OK.

But, coming from a recovering exercise addict, I can say it’s not for me, and I am so much happier not being “disciplined”. In fact, I put the word in quotations because I don’t actually believe it’s being disciplined when you never let yourself miss a workout or take some time off. Our bodies need rest. They need time off in order to help us recover, repair and build muscle. When I was working out day after day for 10-14 days in a row (embarrassed to admit that!), I was always tired, I was always sore and I was more prone to injury. Plus, mentally it was awful. If I missed a day I would feel so awful and so guilty. I would feel “good” if I did a class or two or an hour-two hour workout. I would feel “bad/guilty” if I missed a workout or took a rest day. And you know what? For me, that was no way to live.

At this point, some may say I’m not “disciplined”, but that’s ok- I’m healthy and I’m happy and I have a much better relationship with my mind and my body. I workout because it makes me happy and feel good. But I also rest because it makes me happy and feel good. There’s a fine line to find this balance and I’ll be the first to admit that coming from one end or the other of it, this balance likely won’t happen overnight. It’s something that requires work, but I’m so happy that I’ve worked for it because I am much happier and healthier (mentally and physically) because of it.

With that, I urge those of you who might compare yourself to others who seemingly “always workout” to stop comparing yourself- you don’t know what might be driving them to push themselves so hard. And for those of you who might still be struggling with taking rest days without feeling guilty, I just want to say it takes time to fully embrace the rest, but it is GOOD to rest and take time off from intense physical activity. I’m not saying you need to sit on the couch and do nothing, but maybe swap out a run or lift session for a long walk or some other “active rest” activity (shopping, stretching, cleaning, etc.).

I plan to do another post with more specific ways to learn how to embrace rest, so I would love to hear your tips, struggles, challenges, successes, etc. I love being able to incorporate your tips, trial and error experiences and things of the like. So- do you tend to align more with the “ultra disciplined” end of the workout spectrum, the middle or do you struggle with motivation to workout? Have you had to work to move from one end of the spectrum to the other? If so, what worked or didn’t work? What was the most helpful?