My Fitness Obsession Burned Me Out Instead of Empowering Me

As a fitness professional I often feel the ridiculous and impossible need to have my health all figured out, but honestly, I don't.
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This summer, numerous health professionals warned me that if I didn't slow down I would hurt myself.

How did I let myself get to this breaking point? Believe me, I've been trying to figure this out.

I think my constant need to be "doing" is based in large part on an unconscious worry that if I let my guard down, even for a moment, I'll slip back into the teenage version of me, who was unhealthy and desperately unhappy. Plus, it's currently easy for me to work long hours and prioritize it over sleep and vacation because I genuinely love my job as a personal trainer and fitness writer.

This combination finally caught up with me. The ironic part is that I became this Energizer Bunny largely out of fear of reverting back to the depressed, unhappy teenage version of Kathleen, but in trying to never be this "old me" I came desperately close to being simply a thinner and fitter version of her.

In my burnt out state I was chronically tired, cranky and sad. As a fitness professional I often feel the ridiculous and impossible need to have my health all figured out. Well, I don't have it all figured out. All cards on the table: that was hard for me to write, to admit.

More honesty? I had an almost visceral repulsion to the wise — and in retrospect, obvious — advice to "mellow out, sleep more and prioritize activities like yoga." I fell into the all-too-common, "I'm not the type of person who does X" trap. I didn't "chill." I was a runner not a yogi; the "type" of person who stayed up until all emails were dealt with.

Now, here's the thing: I consistently advise clients that stubborn "not the type of person who does X" statements are unproductive. They don't allow for growth, and keep us invested in our current, typically less than healthy, self.

Every habit and personality trait has the ability to become counterproductive

My hypocrisy severely annoyed me, so I decided to walk my walk. I parked my "I'm not the type of person" attitude, and committed to 20 minutes of yoga and seven or more hours of sleep for 21 days, even if that meant finishing my work the next day!

What did I learn?

Not being tired all the time is amazing! My new sleep routine is a keeper.

I will never love yoga, but I no longer hate it, and I learned to appreciate why people do love yoga.

Every habit and personality trait has the ability to become counterproductive; the fire that feeds us can also kill us. I don't have to ditch or denigrate my desire and ability to be productive and dedicated, but I have to learn to harness the positives of my "dig deep" nature and mitigate the negatives.

Ultimately, there's a time and place for everything. In fact, my perseverance is one of my best qualities.

I don't have it all figured out, and that's OK. None of us do. That's what life is for: gradually figuring stuff out.

Main take-away

If you never have the courage to question who you are and try new things, you'll never evolve. Don't become a prisoner of your own making.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a process, and part of that process is being curious and open. According to author Seth Godin, "Twelve years from now, your future self is going to thank you for something you did today, for an asset you began to build, a habit you formed, a seed you planted. Even if you're not sure of where it will lead, today's the day to begin".

To create a healthier future self, you have to be willing to make different choices today! The only moment you have true control over is now.

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