Commitment and consistency are the keys when you want to achieve something. Want to have great grades? You have to study a ton. Want to be good at writing? You gotta practice every day. Want to learn a new language? Put in some hard work and learn as much as you can.
Want your period back? Put your heart and soul into it and commit fully to recovery.
Goals are awesome. When you achieve them, you feel proud and empowered. And you want to crush some more.
But your goals have to be right for you and your current situation.
Many women who now have hypothalamic amenorrhea once started working out and dieting, because they had a specific goal in mind – probably related to their weight or to the way they look. They kept their diets “clean”, were super committed and showed up at the gym or went running every day.
And now they’re told that they have to stop doing it, because exercise is one of the three main contributors to hypothalamic amenorrhea.
How can it be that it was all wrong?? Is committing to exercise a wrong thing then?
Your Fitness Goals During Recovery
Dedication and commitment definitely aren’t bad things, and I’m not trying to say that you should never ever set yourself fitness related goals anymore.
Goals are totally fine, but the time has to be right for them as well. When you’re recovering form hypothalamic amenorrhea, it’s not a good time to set new fitness and diet goals or come up with new exercise plans. This is the time to let go of all rules and numbers.
As a recovering perfectionist, you probably find it very hard to do. You want to have a plan, something to hold on to and follow, something that makes you feel in control.
I know how you feel.
When I started my recovery, I didn’t let go of all my fitness rules immediately. Sure, I accepted pretty quickly that I need to let go of intense exercise. My running was already pretty minimal, so that made things easier. But letting go of HIIT and lifting was difficult.
Then I read that it’s okay to still do yoga and walking. So I decided to stick with those as well as I could. But because my workout addiction was still pretty strong, I wanted to have a plan for these things as well. Something that holds me accountable, right!
I have to go and do yoga 2-3 x / week no matter what. I have to walk 10K every day, rain or shine.
These may be fine goals to have for someone else, but not for a woman who is trying to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea. Stopping intense exercise is one important thing, but another one is also giving your monkey mind a rest and not to schedule, plan and panic if things aren’t going the way you wanted.
You have to get really, really intuitive with your movement during hypothalamic amenorrhea. You should walk only when you feel like it, and you can’t plan to do 10K first thing in the morning (or any time of the day) if you are actually tired. You will likely notice that when you start recovery, the more you rest, the more tired you get. As odd as it seems, your body is finally starting to catch up, making you more tired, and you have to give it that rest. Even if walking 10K every day is less than what you used to do before, if you are tired, you shouldn’t do it.
Committing to yoga 3x / week was another obsession for me. I just had to go, because I was used to having all those rules in my life. But again, when I was tired or just didn’t feel like it, was it smart to take a yoga class? Even if it’s just yoga, as I used to tell myself?
Fitness Goals Aren’t Bad
We hear all the time how we’re not supposed to make excuses for not working out. And I think for certain population, this advice is good because there are a lot of people who want to change, but just can’t get started.
Of course athletes have goals. A kettlebell lifter can’t think that it would be fun to snatch 20kg kettlebells, but if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. With a mindset like this, she’ll probably never lift these weights.
But if you have hypothalamic amenorrhea or if you’re just extremely over trained (these two often go hand in hand), then right now, your only fitness related goal should be to get your period back.
Wait, how is that a fitness goal?
In two ways. First, you can’t be fit when you don’t have a normally functioning cycle. The way I think about it is this: When you don’t have a cycle, you aren’t healthy, and if you aren’t healthy, you can’t be fit.
Second, the sooner you restore your cycle, the faster you can get back to training. You don’t have to get back to training as soon as you recover, because who knows, maybe it’s not your priority anymore, and that’s fine. But if you want to get back to working out, then the sooner you restore your cycle, the sooner you can put on those running shoes again.
Your Future Fitness Goals
After you restore your cycle (and you know how to do that), I think it’s fine to set some fitness goals. BUT you’ll have to be very careful with them. Forget about having to lose 30 lbs, dropping your body fat percentage again and so on. These goals are pretty much the surefire way to get back to the beginning, losing your cycle and having to start over again.
Find a goal that is not related to your appearance. I’ve really started enjoying lifting barbells, because I just like the feeling of getting stronger. I like how it makes me feel empowered. However, I’m careful and train with weights just once a week, because it’s too early to start chasing specific numbers.
Do what makes you feel good. When I think back to my workouts when I still had HA, I was often tired and exhausted even before I started my workout. I was just so burned out. And I’m pretty sure that if I tried to do those intense HIIT workouts that I used to do, now, I would be absolutely exhausted.
Try to find a way of moving that makes you energized, not wiped out. And of course, if you’re already wiped out before you start your workout, it’s better to skip it altogether.
Focus on movement, not working out. At least in the beginning, when you’re just getting back to more physical activity, try to think in terms of moving your body as opposed to having to pour a ton of sweat and getting a good workout in. You probably spent at least few months recovering, so take it easy when you start again. If a workout doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Moving and just walking, taking stairs etc might be enough movement for you on that day, so don’t over think it.
While you’re recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea, try to not set yourself any fitness goals. They can wait! Besides, you’ve probably been following plans and programs for a long time now, it’s time to let all of them go for a while. Try how living without rules and plans, because that way you will also learn what your body really likes. Use that information later when you are recovered and ready to start exercising again.