Don’t Push Yourself: The Argument for Holding Yourself Back

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By Kaila Proulx

Push past your limits. Don’t quit. You can do more than you think you can. When you want to stop, that’s when you work harder. Keep going no matter what. Do more than you did yesterday.

Pretty common mantras floating around the fitness world, eh?

You can’t go on Pinterest, browse through Instagram, or follow a fitness associated Twitter account without seeing things like this on a daily basis.

For most people these things are encouraging… even motivational! For me though, I’ve come to realize the importance of NOT pushing myself.

Let me fill you in on my typical workout routine nowadays. It’s boring, it’s routine, it’s structured. Well that doesn’t sound to fun, right? But for me, it’s perfect.

As someone who has struggled with having a healthy relationship with exercise and who has overdone it in the past, I have realized that setting parameters for myself, sticking to a consistent routine, and NOT making myself go harder than the day before is what’s best for me.

Too often in the past I would fall into the comparison trap. With others, but even worse, with myself. Each workout had to challenge me in news ways, be harder or a little longer than the day before, make me sore in areas I didn’t even know were possible. Not a way a to live. But hey, I thought that my self-worth was based on my pace during a run, being able to edge out an extra tenth of a mile, holding a plank for a few extra seconds, or pushing through the mental anguish of another cardio workout.

But not anymore. Nope. I am far removed from that toxic state of mind. Now I know that LIMITING myself is actually what is best.

So unlike most fitness folks, I don’t go into each workout hoping to PR or reach a new level of intensity. Instead, I challenge myself by sticking to the healthy boundaries I’ve set for myself. Some of these include, not running double digits multiple times during the week, no longer doing an hour of cardio on machines at the gym, focusing more on strength training, and making sure I get in a yoga practice at least once a week.

So sure, my fitness regimen is pretty much the same week to week. Meaning I know what I do on certain days and how much time I’ll dedicate to working out. But ya know what? That’s okay. Sometimes it’s more rewarding to not constantly be pushing yourself. Of course I still like to physically challenge myself during workouts…I love those endorphins! But I get an even greater high on the days when I am able to successfully combat the voices in my head telling me to go a little longer, go a little harder, or that I am not doing as much as so-and-so.

When I get through a workout and don’t go overboard… that’s a win. And that’s more rewarding than any PR or ‘new level’ I could reach. I am about reaching my next, my best level of health. Staying happy physically and mentally is all apart of that.

So here’s to resting when you need to. Taking a break when you feel like it. Going easy and cutting yourself some slack. To realizing when something isn’t serving you. To being okay with ‘quitting’ (it’s not the end of the world if you decide you’re not feeling a workout today!). To comparing yourself to no one…including who you were yesterday. And to living for more than physical measurements of success.

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