My husband, Brian, relies primarily on the P90x home video workout program (see photo above) for his fitness needs. He told me he’s burned out from exercising.
“So take some time off, change up your schedule, or try something different,” I said.
“No, I’m mentally drained from exercising 5-6 days per week,” he replied.
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean What do you mean? I’m emotionally exhausted from working out so often! What’s so hard to understand about that?”
“Do you mean your muscles are worn out, so it sucks that you can’t do the moves you’d like to do?”
His frustrated sigh told me the answer was no.
At this point Brian got angry. He hates when I don’t intuitively understand how he’s feeling and jump into compassionate Crisis Counselor mode. I’m naturally good at being an emotional caregiver with my therapy clients, but sometimes I run out of gas by the time I get home from work.
(“You’re like The Terminator with me,” he once said.)
“I’m emotionally exhausted from working out because I’ve been doing it for years and I still don’t look the way I want to. No matter what I do, nothing changes.”
“Aren’t you satisfied with being a lot healthier and stronger than you used to be? Isn’t that good enough?”
I was so, so sad for him. For me, exercise feels awesome even when it’s kicking my butt. It makes me feel confident and cared for, because when I’m physically active I know it’s an act of compassion toward myself.
But for my husband, exercise is a means to a very specific end: looking like Brad Pitt.
But before I get all “Ball Preacher” on you, I confess to not always having a healthy view of exercise. In fact, throughout most of my life, exercise was a torturous means to an end. I’m the only person in history who was on a high school track team yet hated running– but hey, doing school sports every year gave me an edge on my college applications. I also hated running in my early 20′s, but I was trying to lose weight since a couple of handsome men were seeing me naked in those days. (Oh, umm…hi, Mom!)
So maybe I DO understand what my husband means by “emotional exhaustion from exercise”. Maybe I’m not The Terminator.
But here’s a more recent photo of me joyfully jogging at night, after work, in freezing cold temperatures:
Life is much more fun when you reward yourself with fancy exercise equipment rather than rely on it to reduce your own shame and self-hatred. (That’s what therapy and self-help books are for, not elliptical machines!) Check out my new toy, scheduled to arrive next week:
Granted, exercise isn’t always fun. But if there’s a disconnect between your soul and your body– if you’re not able to experience the pure joy of being physically active, minus the mean voice in your head who tells you you’re fat and ugly– you’ll have to deal with the emotional exhaustion of trying to look like Brad Pitt.