The Pressure of “Every Damn Day”

We’ve all seen them. Those inspirational memes that clutter our Facebook feeds and are plastered all over billboards.

Suck it up now and you won’t have to suck it in later.

Stop making excuses and start getting results.

You can do more. You can always do more.

Every damn day. Just Do It.

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They’re not thinspiration, those hideous, pro-anorexia messages embodied by Kate Moss and her infamous “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” quote. But they can be just as pernicious. Just as harmful and self-esteem crushing.

You might argue that these messages were created with the goal of inspiring people to work out. To encourage people to exercise and eat healthy and move their bodies. And I will totally agree with you that that is an awesome goal. An amazing goal. That kind of inspiration is a great thing. Healthy movement is always a great idea.

It’s when healthy movement starts to be associated with morality where the trouble arises.

For more than ten years, I defined myself by the amount of time that I had worked out that day. If I had to take an unexpected day off, I was bad. I did something wrong. I was getting fat and gross and OMG FREAKING OUT.

If I had to cut my workout short by one minute, that sixty seconds would loom in my head for the rest of my day, a tiny sliver of time determined to tell me how imperfect I was, how much I had messed up.

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So I didn’t take days off. I never cut my workouts short. In fact, they got longer. And when they got longer, they couldn’t get shorter again. It was a rule.

I had a lot of rules back then.

I lived by “Every Damn Day.” I lived by “You Can Always Do More.” And I did. Until I couldn’t do any more.

But even then, that little voice kept taunting me that I had done something wrong by “quitting.” By not working out all the time or always doing more, more, more. By listening to my body and letting my muscles heal and getting shape to my thighs.

Until I recovered, I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to feel guilty. That rest isn’t something to feel guilty about. It’s something to feel proud of.

That’s where a lot of this so-called “fitspiration” misses the mark. Because it’s okay to miss a day, to not be so balls-to-the-wall bent on this “workout routine” that you forget to listen to your self. Yes, “your self.” That’s two words.

Because sometimes you need to take a rest, because you’re sore or because you didn’t get enough sleep because your kid woke up three times the night before. Maybe you’re sad and watching four episodes in a row of Gilmore Girls is the only thing that will soothe you. Maybe you forgot to set your alarm clock. Or your friend asked you to go out to dinner with her instead. Maybe the shoelace on your right running sneaker snapped or your gym membership lapsed and it’s pouring rain.

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Maybe sometimes, excuses are okay. Maybe excuses are a part of life, not something to beat yourself up over. To yell at yourself about, even if that yelling is in the form of an advertising-agency crafted slogan.

Maybe “making an excuse” might mean running one mile less because you have a morning meeting and have to get to work a bit earlier.

Maybe “making an excuse” means you just had a baby and dammit, you just want a little bit more sleep.

Maybe “making an excuse” means that you plain don’t want to.

YOU DON’T WANT TO.

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You don’t want to do it and that’s okay. Even if people on your Facebook feed are posting about their workouts and their beach bodies and their diets, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

If you want to, that’s fine. I’m not arguing for people to stop working out. I love working out. I adore working out. It makes me sane. It’s fun. Working out is good for health, mental and physical.

But you know what’s bad for health? Stress. Pressure. Low self-esteem and constant comparisons.

So let’s stop it with the concept that exercise is correlated with morality. That angels will hover above your head while you pound the pavement, then sing a happy song while they daintily hand you a towel to wipe off your sweaty forehead.

There are no angels in the gym. No devils, either.

Just you, doing what you want to do.

Some days you may not want to work out and force yourself to anyway. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing.The bad thing is when you keep doing that, over and over again, because some Pinterest board or your Facebook friend from high school or the voice inside your head tells you to. The bad thing is when you let a missed workout affect your self-worth.

And then you let that feeling linger.

These messages and posters and memes absolutely thrive on that feeling.

I’m still learning a lot of this. I don’t have a perfect track record, even in recovery. Sometimes I do feel guilty when I miss a workout that I’m planning on. I’m nowhere near where I was before, though, that shaky young woman who let a bunch of stupid rules dictate her life: Eat this. Don’t eat that. This workout is better. This size is better.

This YOU can be better.

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And even though these fitspiration sayings, these posts about “Every Damn Day” don’t necessarily “trigger” me, they do make me think. They make me uncomfortable in some ways. I don’t necessarily want people to stop posting about their workouts or the strides they’ve made. I want people to be proud of their bodies and of their fitness levels.

But I also want people to stop and pause, to try to separate “working out” from morality. They aren’t the same thing.

Suck it up now. Or not. You don’t need to suck it in later, either.

“Excuses” is another word for life. Your life is your result. 

You can do what you want. You can always do what you want.

Life. Just Do It.

 

 

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