How to Cut Back on Exercise and Not Go Crazy

When OB told me my lack of period was due to too much intense exercise (and too little calories, but we’ll tackle that beast another day!), I had zero idea how to change my routine.

If I wasn’t focused on my training, what the hell else would I do?!
Wouldn’t I gain a ton of weight if I stopped running?!

The thing is, I wanted a baby more than I wanted to run another marathon. But how to drastically cut back right then and there was totally lost on me.

Maybe you’ll relate to this: running was part of who I was. It’s where I made many friends, what I did on the weekends, and a big part of planning my week. Also, at least half my wardrobe was intended for exercise.

Many avid exercisers are missing their periods, and that is not OK!

In (very) short, too much intense exercise – specifically running, and after that, crossfit – can interfere with your hypothalamus, shutting down your hormone production. To get it back, you have to cut back or even cut out. Here’s how.

What to Avoid and What to Add

Intense is really subjective. I wanted my doctor to tell me exactly how many miles a week I could still run and what weights would be OK to lift. The (frustrating) thing is, it’s highly individual.

However, the hardest hitter is running. In general, you know high intensity when you feel it. Gasping for breath, pushing yourself to do more, are both signs that it’s too intense.

The best exercises to add, or keep, are yoga (not 90 minute hot yoga!) and walking.

Timeline

I know it’s terrifying to break up with your routine. But, if you don’t make big changes, you will not get your cycle back.

There are two ways to go about this. Going cold turkey, and taking steps. The cold turkey method will highly likely get you there faster, but what you do is more based on your personality than anything. For me, I took the step down approach.

Cold turkey means completely cutting out all running or other high intensity workouts, and only walking and doing yoga.

The step down method is cutting your workouts in half for 2-4 weeks, then cutting that in half, until you get to walking and yoga.

You do not know how your body will respond. You could find that cutting out running and keeping weights is enough to do the trick. This could be after a month, or 6 months, the crazy-making part is that you don’t know until you try!

What to do Instead

This is a hurdle for everyone. You spent hours workout out every week, and likely significant time planning those workouts. What are you going to do with those open and endless hours?!

Ummm, anything you want! Seriously instead of looking at this like a timeout, look at it as a vacation.

I will not lie to you: The first two weeks it will feel like you’re playing hooky. It won’t feel like your life, and you’re going to feel guilty.

At first, you’ll likely want to fill those time blocks with other exercise. That’s fine, as long as it’s an approved recovery exercise. This is not power walking up a steep hill or advanced hot yoga! Go for a walk, try a yoga class that you’ve never had time for before.

You will soon find a new, fertility friendly routine, I promise! Once you’ve find a new groove, discover life outside of workout out.

  • Take up invites, or initiate, friend dates.
  • Join a book club.
  • Learn how to cross stitch.
  • Start a training that will advance your career.
  • Take cooking classes.
  • OMG there are so many things you can do with this time and energy!!

Basically, you want to fill this time with something else you enjoy and look forward to as equally as a long run. Again, it’s not going to click in a week, but have fun trying out new things and seeing what sticks.

Mindset Tips

A lot of the women I work with are worried about people wondering what’s going on. Maybe it’s an off-hand comment from a neighbor, “I haven’t seen you running in the mornings!”, or a run group friend asking if you’re doing the 10K next month.

The changes you are making are BIG to you, but no one else cares. Give them as much info as you want, “Yeah, I’m cutting back a bit”, and ask about them, “do you have a time goal?”. Then you can tune out while they talk about their splits. I promise, they are not going home and discussing with their spouse over dinner how you aren’t running as much!

When things get hard, as they will, really think back to the whole picture of what life looked when you were overexercising and undereating. I kept seeing photos with those pesky Facebook Time Hops and finally realized I did not actually want to go back there! There was stress about getting my workouts in and had so much guilt over food, not a a totally rosey place.

So many people do not understand how hard it is to workout less. If you’re ready for a fresh perspective, let’s talk. I offer a free 30 minute Mindset Jump Start Session that provides the boost you need to reset your outlook. Get it on your calendar now!

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