I never thought I would hate exercise. As someone whose identity was heavily defined by their athletic pursuits, if someone told me where I would be today I wouldn’t believe them. I lived and breathed soccer. It was my morning, evening, & night. It was my weekdays and weekends from Grade 1 until my 4th year University. (16 years!)
I loved playing soccer. And I was good at it. So it became my everything. It became my social life. It became my dating life. It was even my reason to go to university. But when things started to change, when I started to change, I couldn’t rely on this identity anymore.
I became no one.
Identifying as a High-Level Athlete.
In my university career I had: a stress fracture, tore both my groins, a concussion, rolled my ankles almost everyday, suffered plantar fasciitis, patellar tendonitis, muscle spasms, and dealt with terrible back pain.
There are so many positives I could write about my experience as a child athlete. It gave me friendships, physical strength, time management skills, and a sense of purpose. I never once considered drugs, cigarettes, or sex in high-school because I was so busy to even know that it was what the cool kids were doing.That is something I am grateful for to this day.
As I continued to excel and eventually make the varsity soccer team at university, I was so busy to notice my life outside of sports. I didn’t socialize besides my teammates. I didn’t date. I didn’t think about my future. I didn’t dream big. I didn’t leave my comfort zone like ever. I assumed I would continue to play soccer and maybe this would take me to represent Canada one day.
I also developed some weird habits. For example, whenever I would go hiking with my friends in the summer, I HAD to be at the front. I wanted to make sure I was seen as most fit of the group due to deeply rooted insecurities that I was not aware of yet. If anyone went ahead of me, the rest of the hike I would obsess over believing I was being judged as a failure and overweight (I was always one of the bigger girls on the pitch, which I was highly aware of). If someone was better at something than I was, I could feel my entire identity on the verge of collapse. And if I failed, well I won’t go into detail of the self-hatred I would spew at myself, but it wasn’t nice.
As we now know, I clearly did not go on to represent Canada. When I think back to this time of my life, I sometimes envision my body and myself at war, not only because of my negative body image but also because of the injuries.
My soccer career involved a lot of physical pain. The fitness training, strength training, practices each day, and the two games per weekend were almost all solely done on unforgiving astroturf. In my university I had: a stress fracture, tore both my groins, a concussion, rolled my ankles almost everyday, suffered plantar fasciitis, patellar tendonitis, many muscle spasms, and dealt with terrible back pain. Ice bath after ice bath, I would only manage my pain but never really heal. Eventually that pain and the stress of not being able to play turned into mental pain.
Exercise Is Cancelled.
I started working out again with my motivation being my hatred for who I was.
After quitting soccer, I didn’t understand who I was anymore. I stopped working out yet still ate the same amount as if I was still an athlete. I gained weight which lead to me hating my body even more than I already did. I started working out again with my motivation being the hatred for who I was. I would internally scream at myself when I wanted to give up on the workout, saying I didn’t deserve to be happy until I lost the weight. It was very very very toxic and I eventually grew to hate anything to do with exercising.
With the loss of sports, I no longer had a reward system. I couldn’t use playing a good game or scoring a goal to find the validation that I craved. I didn’t have coaches or parents praising me anymore. And I certainly did not have the skillset to validate myself. And so years went by using this toxic motivation to survive.
This next part is long & chaotic AF so here it is in short-form:
- Self-Hatred Burn Out = No Exercise for Months.
- Gets First Full-time Job. Hates it. Quits After a Year.
- A Complete and Catastrophic Mental Breakdown. Starts Therapy.
- Anxiety & Depression. Loss of Desire to Do Anything.
- Too Scared, Sad, or Angry to Workout.
- End Up Being The Lowest Weight I Have Ever Been ( and not in a good way).
- Feeling as if I am Dying Inside.
- Therapy. Medication. Slowly Healing.
Finding Peace With Exercise.
So you are probably wonder how in the heck did I ever come to find peace in exercise again? Well it so happens that my debilitating anxiety ended up being MUCH worse than my hatred for exercise. Exercise is scientifically proven to reduce your body’s stress hormones, while also releasing dopamine, one of our happy hormones.
It just so happens that my debilitating anxiety ended up being MUCH worse than my hatred for exercise.
I began to exercise after my doctor and friends recommend it to me for my anxiety. What I came to realize was that exercise gave me a relief from my own anxious mind. I couldn’t focus on my thoughts because I was busy in my movements. Exercise also helped med sleep, as my anxiety left me with many sleepless nights. Because of these reasons I began to view exercise in a new way. I was no longer working out with the motivation to lose weight, but with the motivation to feel better. And THAT was the game changer.
Another game changer was finding out that exercise was not about how much pain one could endure, but that it could actually be fun. Walking my dogs had me surrounded by beautiful nature. Online yoga videos helped silence my mind and connect with my inner heart. Swimming lengths fuelled my love of water, with a few mermaid moments thrown in. I even randomly joined a baseball team because I knew I would be bad at it and it was a chance to laugh at myself.
I only wish I had figured this out sooner.
Mental Health Awareness & Athletes
Clearly this blog is not claiming a ‘One-Size-Fits-All” solution to enjoying exercise again. Yet a large reason I started this blog and my Instagram career was because I did not want anyone to go through what I went through alone. Your story might be vastly different from mine or maybe there are parts where you know exactly what I went through, but if you have, are or know you will eventually retire from your sport, this is something that needs to be talked about. It is not uncommon to hear of high-level athletes losing their will to live after their sport is taken away from them, such as injury or not being a good enough player anymore.
Sports teaches you mental stamina, focus, and resilience. Sports however do not teach you what to do after.
Take care of your mind 🙂 xx
Here are some other blog posts you may like:
Play For Adults: The Secret To Mental Wellness?
10 Things I Have Noticed Being Without Alcohol For One Year.
Retail Therapy: 5 Easy Tips to Curb Emotional Spending
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