How I exercise over the festive period
Differently to the rest of the year.
That’s how I exercise over the festive period.
And that is totally fucking fine with me.
When my head was obsessed with my body and weight and food and nothing else, the run up to Christmas and New Year was so anxiety-inducing. What with a much more packed schedule and eating (or rather, just being around) a lot more of the food that I craved but denied myself and ultimately became terrified of, I had a generalised underlying sense of panic about not being able to work off any stray Celebrations. I worried constantly about not fitting in as much exercise as normal, so much so that I would eschew certain social occasions just so I could go to the gym. I still cringe, and get a little sad, actually, when I think about the fact that I did squats and lunges on my family’s annual Boxing Day walk in 2016. Not because I wanted to, I might add, but because I was terrified of how much I had eaten the day before and that I wouldn’t be able to work it off. It’s a funny image to conjure up now, lunging in my welly boots, my Grandma looking on perplexed, but really the sign of a mind that was focused on weight, over enjoyment, over time with family, over tradition, over enjoyment, over everything else, really. Especially because I love Christmas. I love the build up, I love the food, I love the cheesy films and Baileys and roast potatoes and sequins and long walks. I love Christmas, and disordered eating and an obsession with exercise even managed to strip that from me.
These days, I do exercise less throughout December. And why wouldn’t I? It’s the time of year when your diary gets filled with carol services and family lunches and parties, maybe you have a few too many glasses of complimentary prosecco at the office Christmas party (this is something I imagine might happen, and obviously not something that happened to me last Thursday night, which led to a lot of bad dancing to Madonna, two night buses home and on arrival, preparing and roasting a whole spiced cauliflower at 1am. I imagine this happens to some people) and then the next day the only thing you can manage doing is watching one of those straight-to-Netflix Christmas movies with an interchangeable ex-High School Musical cast member which seem both dreadful and amazing in equal measure. And even if you don’t have a hangover, you might just not feel like working out. Because it’s cold! It’s dark! The tree needs decorating and cards need writing and Home Alone 2 needs watching and mince pies needs eating! That is Christmas, kids. It is a time of year like no other, so why would you routine stay the same too?
That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes feel a little bit weird about not exercising in the way I normally do. I do, sometimes. It would be dishonest of me to write that all these things are easy and natural for me now. It’s not, it’s work, it’s a choice. If I want to have a better relationship with food and exercise and my body and my weight, then I have to choose, every. Dang. Day. That I want to get better. It’s ups and downs, some days are better than others, but on the days where I do struggle with not exercising, when I feel guilty for not going or panic that I’m not fitting in enough movement that week, I ask myself what I want my life to focus on more, exercise or enjoyment?
Enjoyment. Every time. I really don’t think that I’ll be looking back in fifty years wishing I’d spent more time in the gym. I’ll be wishing that I spent less time there. Less time forcing myself through activities I didn’t enjoy. Less time being scared of my body. Less time having my whole life revolving around my weight. More time just enjoying what I have.
So around this time of year, I just go with the flow of wanting to exercise or not wanting to exercise. I ran home from work the other day because I wanted to and because I love doing it. I probably won’t fit in another deliberate work out until the weekend- there’s too many Christmas lunches and drinks and people to see this week to do anything else. And that’s fine! That’s life! I want to enjoy celebrating with people I love rather than getting into my Lycra and forcing myself through a workout. Come the weekend I’ll probably really want to move around a bit more, so exercising would be honouring how my body feels.
I used to get very nervous that if I ever dropped out of an exercise routine that I’d never be able to get back into one. And so I stayed in my very sad hamster wheel, pushing myself to keep going and going and going, even though I was knackered and didn’t want to and would’ve much rather been doing actual, nice, Christmassy things and I ended up totally hating exercise. These days I like it because I don’t force it. It isn’t a chore any more. So I know I’ll get back into it if I don’t exercise for a while. I trust my body to tell me when it’s ready to move some more again, and I will move with it.