If you are asking this question then I can pretty much guarantee that you are someone who could really benefit from completely stopping exercise for a time.
If your response to this is, “NOOOOOOOOO NEEEEVVVEEERRRR” then I am definitely going to go ahead and say that you probably should really stop exercising for a time.
In this blog, I am sharing why I think you should stop exercise for both mental and physical reasons.
1.Mental reasons to stop exercise
Let’s see how many of these things ring true to you
*I have to exercise every day
*I have many days where I exercise twice
*I don’t feel like eating if I haven’t exercised
*If I eat too much then I plan a hard exercise day
*I am anxious to skip a workout
*I will work out even if I am tired and sore
*I say no to activities or travel plans because it interferes with my exercise schedule
*I own 3+ gym memberships
*I use exercise to manage/control my weight
If you checked off multiple boxes then your relationship to exercise might be unhealthy. This is why, physical implications of overexercising aside, I think completely eliminating exercise is extremely beneficial.
Exercise should be something that is fun and a way to celebrate your body, not used to punish yourself for eating. For many women, their relationship to exercise looks like the latter. In my opinion, it is going to be extremely hard to re-wire this obsession with exercise and the connection we have made between food, body, weight, and exercise while still exercising.
It’s akin to telling an alcoholic that they just need to cut back on alcohol and that they can have a drink or two a day. The alcoholic will not get better if alcohol is still in their life just like you won’t be able to completely let go of that exercise addiction when you still let yourself go to soul cycle and take a kickboxing class.
When you completely take out exercise you allow yourself to heal your relationship with it so that you can go back to it in a healthier way. The things you learn about yourself and the mental strength you develop by stopping exercise is irreplaceable.
This healing time will also cement in you your ability to survive without exercise. Now while I myself love to workout and have incorporated it back into my life, taking a break off of exercise opened up my life in so many ways as I know that I could say yes to ANY opportunity given to me without having to worry or stress about whether or not I can find a gym.
2. Physical reasons to stop exercising
Exercise expends a lot of energy and can be quite taxing on the body, especially when there isn’t enough rest between sessions or enough food eaten to support the body in getting back to balance.
While exercise may help you mentally relieve stress, it physically increases stress hormones, the same ones that get released when you are in “fight or flight” situations. Unfortunately, these stress hormones can signal to the hypothalamus that it doesn’t feel safe so it will stop the cascade of sex hormones that get you to ovulate.
Okay, so I will just eat more and continue my crazy exercise regime! YAY!
Not so fast, Dr. Nicohla Rhinaldi, author of the famous No Period Now What book would argue against that strategy. In her work, she has seen exercise to be a huge detriment to women’s recovery from hormonal imbalance and highly recommends completely eliminating it.
A study recently showed that 48-79% of women who exercise 3+ hours a week or more have disordered menstrual cycles. Now, this doesn’t mean amenorrhea but includes a wide range of issues like irregular cycles, anovulatory cycles, short luteal phases.
More profoundly, another study showed the impact of exercise on cycles when women undereat. This study followed two groups of women, the first group increased calories in proportion to the exercise they were doing (running 7 miles a day, 5 days per week). The second group of women did not add in more calories and trained the same amount. They were watched for 2 months and found that of the women in the first group 83.4% had anovulatory cycles. In the second group, 87.5% had anovulatory cycles, delayed periods, or amenorrhea. The study then followed up with the women 6 months after the study and all of them had resumed ovulation but only after a reduction in their training. This study clearly shows that there is a detriment to hormones with intense exercise regimes. Now imagine if this study showed women who began the study in energy with no period, how do you think they would have fared in terms of their hormones and a rigorous exercise schedule? (Page 160)
Bringing it together
Working on all three things– food, exercise, and stress- will be your best strategy at reducing stress-related hormones and increasing reproductive hormones. Your body is in a taxed space where rest is required to get yourself back to a state of balance. Let all your energy (aka the food you are eating) go towards supporting your recovery. The more you are able to rest the easier and faster your body will be able to repair.
While it may feel like you are losing all of your strength during this time, TRUE strength is found when you slow down and let your body restore, going against our cultural norms of running our body to the ground. Letting go of exercise is not a forever thing, rather a phase to help you both physically restore your back to balance and to support a healthy mindset with exercise, food, and body.
Apply for 1:1 coaching to focus on getting your period back and redefining your relationship with food.