I stopped going to the gym for a month and here's what happened

February 01, 2020

Over the last two year for various reasons, I've grown to love exercise. I mean, I am would get up at 5 AM to train in the gym before work, and I would run and workout at the weekend. However, I will hold up my hands and say that I may have taken it a tad too far with my exercise regime, and that's why I may have injured my leg. So I had to step away from the gym and give my body a break.

But what happened when I didn't train?

The first couple of days were hard. I was unable to walk, and I struggled to do basic tasks without pain. However, I knew that exercising was out of the question, so I followed doctors orders and rested.

After just a few days of no exercise, I felt lethargic and drained all of the time; I had no energy. Now you might think that this is weird, I should be more lively as I'm not getting up early in the morning and going to the gym, right? Well, not so much. For me, regular exercise helps to clear my head and give me that motivation to kickstart my day. I missed the gym. I felt tired, low and pretty grumpy after just a week. For me (and so many others), exercise helps manage my mental health. 

I thought my appetite would decrease, which could only be a good thing, but that didn't happen to begin with; if anything, I found myself craving more bread and chocolate at first, probably through the stress of losing control of my body. I found it hard to relax, and the thought of using food as a coping mechanism filled me with anxiety as I didn't want to gain weight and lose all the progress I had made from training throughout 2019. However, after about a week my odd sweet and savoury cravings had stopped and I used my spare time to read, learn new skills, catch up on Netflix and plan exciting things for 2020. 

After a couple of weeks, I already felt less fit. Before, I could walk down a hallway without any problems and not even feel it, but after just two weeks of no exercise, I felt like the most straightforward task was so hard. I also actually felt weaker as I was sitting down most of the time, and my muscles didn't feel as strong. I was feeling drained and moody. My sleeping pattern was affected too. I struggled to get up to seven hours sleep as I was waking up a few times in the night - despite feeling super tired throughout the day. But I continued to stay positive and do everything that my physiotherapist recommended to help get my body back into good health.

Four weeks later, I mentally could not wait to get back into the gym. I missed taking some time myself, and I hated relying on people throughout January. So you can imagine the delight I had on my face when my physiotherapist said I could cycle and go so swimming. 

The first session back was incredibly hard. I felt like I had lost my strength and stamina. I struggled to maintain a fast speed on the bike, but I knew that my road to recovery wasn't a race. I had to be patient and wait for my body to heal.

Immediately after a few mini sessions in the gym, I felt happier and energised - those amazing endorphins were back! It wasn't easy, though. Every workout for a good few weeks was a struggle, and my weight training routine had to change. I enjoyed being able to focus on my upper body and give my legs a break.

However, one thing I've learnt from taking a month out of the gym is overtraining is a serious issue and can do real damage to you, physically and mentally. Hitting pause can be healthy for various reasons. This break gave me time to focus on myself and what I want to achieve. It's helped spark my creativity, share more things I love and get back into my writing bubble.

On the plus side, I had more time to see my friends and family, and I felt more productive. However, I won't deny the fact I hated not being able to workout! I suffered mentally with not being able to exercise regularly; I was pretty miserable I felt out of shape, and it was so, so hard to deal with, not knowing when I was going to get better.

As always, the key here is balance. If you want to skip your exercise regime for a day or so, do it. It's not going to hurt, and sometimes it can be a good thing as it gives you time to recharge your batteries. It will also not affect your long term fitness changes either so please don't feel guilty for taking more than one rest day. Things happen that are our control, and it's essential for us time wisely to reflect, learn and heal.

Share your opinion: