Evaluating My Workouts: Doing What’s Best For Me Right Now

This is a very lengthy, personal post, so brace yourselves (and perhaps grab a seat and a cup o’ tea).

In this past year, I’ve come to love fitness and just moving more and more as I’ve read awesome fitness blogs and met fitness goals that I never thought I could achieve. I’ve never been considered athletic. Yes, I dance, which definitely requires athleticism, but I had never really dabbled with sports or other forms of fitness until last year. I discovered things like tabatas, strength training, and circuit training. I started going from 15-minute elliptical workouts to 15-minute elliptical warm-ups. I added more weight training into my routine and discovered other equipment such as kettlebells and BOSU balls, and most importantly how to use them. Of course I started slow with a lot of my workouts, and I had to modify workouts to fit my level. As I persisted though, I became stronger and my stamina increased (something I had lost after quitting figure skating).

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You might be thinking, “Well, duh.” Yes, I understand that these things happen when you dedicate yourself to exercise, but to me, each improvement was an amazing achievement. This little girl actually has some strength in her! Without even running much (just lots of burpees and circuit training) I was able to run a mile in 7:30. That may be super slow for some people, but until then, I had never run a mile under 8 minutes. Squatting with weights on my back was something I thought only big men could do. I feel stronger in dance. Basically, I overcame my fear of failure in physical activities, and that has helped boost my confidence in and out of the gym. Now, I appreciate fitness more than ever and hope that everyone and anyone of any fitness level can experience the joy of movement and improvement.

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But there’s a problem for me now. 

As I increased the intensity and duration of my exercise last year, I also decreased the amount of food I ate. My eating habits became disordered and I also started becoming addicted to exercise. I would be cranky if I had to miss a workout. I would go to the gym even if I was so sore that I couldn’t walk. All the while, I wasn’t eating enough. Amanda’s recent post on rest days is good summation of my past experiences. Today, I embrace rest days, and realize that I actually have better workouts after I rest. Go figure, huh?

Despite taking more rest days, I’ve kept the intensity of my workouts pretty high. My favorite workouts are strength + cardio circuits (like this or this) that can be done in a half hour, more or less. My heart rate gets pumping really quickly and I feel the burn! Thus, these workouts require a ton of energy, which I’ve been giving my body a lot more of in the past half year. However, even with more food, my body is constantly under the stress of these intense workouts. Now, I’m certain that there are young girls out there that do much more intense exercise than me, but everyone is different. My body has a little bit of an issue…

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You see, I haven’t gotten my first period yet. I’m 17 years old, but I look like I’m 12 years old. I know that some people hit puberty very late (even at 18 years old), and perhaps I’m one of those people, but I’m still concerned. I’ve put my body through a lot in this past year with depriving it and losing weight, then gaining weight back and introducing intense exercise to it. I’ve talked to my doctor about it, and she told me that I can exercise as much as I’d like as long as I eat more. So I’ve done that, but things still haven’t changed. Even though I’ve eaten more, the amount of exercise I’ve been doing has still kept me very lean. I also got my thyroid and bone density checked out, and those are both a-okay. It seems that perhaps I’ve done enough damage in the past year and a half to cause my body to still be in a weary state; it doesn’t want to start anything that takes a good deal of energy just in case I deprive it again.

I’ve been thinking about my issue for a while, especially after reading so many bloggers’ experience with not having their periods or fertility (such as Ashley, Courtney, Linz, and Clare). Obviously, I’m not going to have a baby any time soon, but if God wants me to be a mother one day, I want to be able to have kids! All those lovely ladies made the courageous choice to cut back on fitness quite significantly, or even completely, AND increase food intake  in order to regain their cycles. Thanks be to God, it worked for all of them. Ashley and Courtney are both mothers of adorable boys, Linz is pregnant, and Clare has the ability to be a mother one day! After reading all their stories, I thought about my own situation for a long time, even before seeing the doctor and everything. I’ve concluded that I need to make some changes to my routine as well. 

Honestly, I’ve procrastinated this decision for so long, because I really do not want to give up the feelings of accomplishment, strength, and improvement from working out. Who really does want to slow down progress when he/she already has the momentum going? But I think my body has been dealing with both physical and mental stress long enough, and it’s time for me to respect it and give it rest. 

What will I do now? I’ll probably be focusing more on low-impact bodyweight exercises, yoga, Pilates, and dance for now. I’ll also make sure to keep eating a little more than I’d normally feel comfortable with on rest days. I already foresee that this is really going to be a test of humility and patience. Prayer, prayer, prayer. I am so blessed to have a wonderful family, friends, fellow bloggers, and readers to support me. Thank you. 🙂

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These words from Clare are definitely encouraging: “…this would only work if I stuck with the plan and let my body start to trust me again. It had to KNOW that I was going to give it enough fuel and not deplete it with exercise.”

Do I know if this plan will help me get my period or how long it will take? No. Do I think it’s a worth a shot? Yes. I don’t want to end up waiting until a few weeks before going off to college next year to figure out that I still haven’t gotten it yet. That would not be fun.

My uncle, a nutritionist and fitness enthusiast, gave me words of wisdom and encouragement this summer too. He said I probably have to be a little pudgier than I’d prefer right now. Although I may know what my body needs, I need to break away from the desire to look fit. My focus right now should be making sure my body is functioning properly, which includes a regular period. Then when I’m a mature adult, I can shift my focus back to reaching whatever fitness goals I have. But I am in the crucial time window to grow now, so I have to make sure I get it right.

I’ll still be moving and grooving, don’t worry 😉 Just less intensely. If getting my body to function properly means going up a couple pant sizes and putting on a little more cushioning, so be it. After all, health means more than just how the body looks.

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So tell me: Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you change your routine to make things work?

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35 thoughts on “Evaluating My Workouts: Doing What’s Best For Me Right Now

  1. Great post. I’ve had the same issues. I went from being overweight to losing my period because I was working out so much and not eating enough. I toned it down, partly because my body wasn’t okay with working out so much anymore (my heart rate was so low that I would get light-headed from getting up), and got my period back. I do have to say that it’s now a HUGE struggle physically to lose weight again, but mentally and emotionally, I’m better. I was disordered and wouldn’t even go out anymore. I stopped enjoying life. I’m still working at it, but it gets easier.

  2. WOW. I wish I had the maturity and foresight that you do when I was your age!! You are beautiful and incredible – I’m so happy that you are deciding to cut back and let your body get healthy. And you’re right – you can ALWAYS get back into it later!! <3<3 good luck! keep me posted:)

  3. I am going through basically the same thing now. Some days are harder than others but as long as you keep your eyes on the prize you will no doubt be able to get yourself to a great place!I wish I had the courage and wisdom you have when I was your age! I think that by you doing this now you are definitely going to set yourself up for a healthy promising future! I’m very inspired by you and will be saying prayers for you!

  4. HUGE hugs to you, girl ❤ You're so wise beyond your years 🙂 Good for you for being able to see what your body needs and commit to doing it — you'll experience nothing but positives down the road. I had to take a good long while off from exercise to let my body sort itself out, but it was more than worth it to get things working like they should. Exercise is a beautiful thing, but it's easy to overestimate how much activity we need to keep us healthy. You're beautiful and wonderful and let me know if you ever need to chat ❤ ❤

  5. I recently came across your blog, and have enjoyed reading it so far! I felt compelled to comment on this post because I went through something very similar about five years ago, when I was 15. I developed orthorexia, becoming obsessed with eating the “perfect” diet and exercising for a specific amount of time each day. I am a dancer as well, and while my disordered habits were not related to dance in any way, I definitely caused my teachers to be concerned about my dangerously low weight. I had to cut back on exercise and eat far more food, and I didn’t get my period for the first time until earlier this year (I was 19). It took several years for my body to get back into a healthier state, but now that I am at a healthy weight, I feel much stronger, both mentally and physically. I am still dancing, thank goodness, and haven’t lost any passion for it. Anyway, have faith that you WILL be able to achieve your goals! You seem like a very intelligent and mature young woman, and I think it’s wonderful that you have taken it upon yourself to do what is necessary to become healthier:) Good luck with everything!

    • Thank you so, so much for sharing your story. Dance actually didn’t have much to do with my disordered habits either, and my teachers even called my parents out of concern for my dropping weight and energy levels last year. I’m so happy to hear that you are healthy and still loving dancing now! I really appreciate your support. 🙂

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  7. I wish I was as strong and intelligent as you are when I was your age. I also lost my period for a long time. I never exercised too much, I suffered from anorexia. I smartened up around the time I was getting married because I knew I wanted to start a family soon. I went from a BMI of 13.7 to a healthier bmi of 19 by the time we were ready to start a family. It wasn’t enough and my period didn’t return so I ended up needing lots of help fertility-wise. Once I had my twins I really let go and last year I got to a bmi of 20 and my period came back. I have to say, it was really tough but once you get there, you feel so much better. If I would have known how good it feels, both mentally and physically, to have female hormones, I probably would have tried to speed up the process. I wish you all the best on your journey.

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  9. Oh sweet girl, I’m so sorry to hear you are going through a tough time. I’ve never had this struggle so I can’t say “I know exactly how you feel.” But I can tell you that you are absolutely beautiful, inside and out, and no matter how you change your habits, I can already tell that you are always going to be a HEALTHY person. You may increase your food intake, but it’s not like you eat junk! You’ll just be eating more HEALTHY stuff. Can’t be a bad thing. You are someone of faith–just keep praying about this. Ask for peace. God always has a plan–maybe this is just a lesson he wants you to be aware of. Praying for you!!

  10. sending hugs your way, girl! i can’t really say i know how you feel since i’ve never gone through something like this, but you are so strong and wise for realizing that something needs to change. i know you’re going to handle anything that comes your way because He’s got your back and is right there with you through it all!<3

  11. Hi there,

    I’m Kloe, and I blog over at runningshoeschocolatemousse.com. I just came across your blog and really love it, will definitely be keeping up with what you get up to!

    This post in particular stood out to me. Now at 21, I’ve been through exactly what you’re tackling now, so I know how much of a difficult realisation it is. But, you’re so incredibly wise beyond your years in the way you talk about it, and are absolutely doing the right thing to let your body rest and recuperate 🙂
    Seriously, you’re an amazing girl. Keep up the fantastic work!

    Looking forward to reading more.

    Kloe 🙂 x

    • Hey Kloe! You have no idea how much it means to me that you have stopped by my little blog here! It has been quite a bummer, but support from people like you keeps me focused on what truly matters. I just checked out your blog and I love it!! I can’t wait to follow more of your posts too 🙂

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  21. Alison, your story it truly inspiring and I wish you all the luck in th world!!
    I’m 16 and have suffered from an eating disorder for3 years (CBMI 19.9!) however, like you, I’ve never had a period and look considerably younger….I suffer badly from nausea/lack of appetite and would love some advice! Did you experience anything similar? Is my body still out of balance even though I’m weight restored? Is that why I still have no period?
    Any help would be much appreciated!
    Love Sophie x

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