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A Summer Without Exercise + WIAW

That depends, however, on what you call “exercise.”

This summer at the YMCA of the Rockies where I work, I decided to challenge myself by not worrying about any kind of “exercise-just-for-exercise-sake,” like running, lifting, spin class, or aerobics.

Still, I spend much of the day at work on my feet, I walk a quarter mile up the road just to get to the dining hall at each meal and about half a mile to work from my dorm, I do yoga, and I’m living at a high altitude, which means my metabolism is naturally raised because the body needs more energy to process oxygen in the thinner atmosphere.

I have a complicated relationship with exercise, as I’ve written about in previous posts. On the one hand, I genuinely enjoy it. It makes me feel strong and powerful, helps me work of stress, helps me sleep at night, and I suspect it also helps some with my IBS symptoms. On the other hand, I’ve also been known to use exercise as a way to manage my guilt about food and my fear of weight gain.

Last time I worked at an outdoor education and retreat center, not dissimilar to the YMCA I work at now, I ran and did body weight exercises most days a week because I felt that I had to get my “exercise” in. But even if I hadn’t done so, I still would have been getting plenty of movement. I was walking constantly at work, I set up events and went on hikes with friends after work and on weekends, and I was, like now, living at a high altitude. I wasn’t eating nearly enough to support even that level of activity, let alone a four mile run every other morning, and my weight plummeted.

When I started my job this summer, I chose not to run or do pushups or any of that, not because I worried I’d lose weight again if I did it, but as a mental challenge. It’s important for me to remember that nothing terrible will happen if I take a few months of from “exercise-for-exercise-sake,” especially considering I’m otherwise active. And it’s been nice. I still get home at the end of each day tired and sore, and while I sometimes have energy to do my 30 Days of Yoga, I sometimes just read or work on my blog.

I’m glad I’ve done it. The hope is that, if I take this challenge now, then when I have to take time off of exercise in the future because I’m busy or on vacation or something like that, I’ll feel comfortable and confident taking that rest time without feeling the need to restrict food.

And with that in mind, here were my odd noms from Monday:


Breakfast: Cheerios with vanilla soy milk, pineapple, and tea with more vanilla soy milk. It’s funny how the Y serves all kinds of goodies for breakfast–eggs, sausage, potatoes, bacon, gluten-free muffins and bagels, salsa, yogurt, granola–and so often all I want is Cheerios. 😛

Elevensies: gluten-free chicken tenders with salsa verde. I found a large, unopened bag of these puppies (organic!) in a freezer when I was cleaning a cabin a few weeks ago. Those things aren't cheap!

Elevensies: gluten-free chicken tenders with salsa verde. I found a large, unopened bag of these puppies (organic!) in a freezer when I was cleaning a cabin a few weeks ago. Those things aren’t cheap!


Rather than snarfing a lunch in the dining hall before my shift started at 11:30 am, I made myself a gf pb&j to take along. I made it on my dresser, which as you can see, was a little messy. :S


The PB&J was followed shortly by an orange.


Supper: Often, when the Y serves pasta, I make myself some instant grits as a gluten-free alternative. I topped my grits with a ladle of tomato and red pepper soup and feta cheese, with a generous helping of ratatouille on the side. I <3 ratatouille.


I helped myself to an ice cream for dessert.

Finally, unpictured, I heated up a few more chicken tenders for an evening snack when I got home from work. It feels weird to me to eat meat as a snack, but those things have been my craving of choice lately.

Have you ever taken time away from regular exercise? Was it challenging? How did you feel?


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  1. Cora says:

    Congratulations, Joyce. This is brave and very important challenge to set upon yourself. Like you said, more for your mental health than anything. We never know when we may be “surprised” with not being able to exercise for a length of time, and if we’ve never proven to ourselves that we can absolutely do so without the whole crashing down, then this could become a very hard and messy situation. You can handle anything.
    Also, those chicken fingers. I would like some now please. With honey dill mayo. And definitely would have had them as a snack as well.

    1. Joyce says:

      Definitely, Cora. I think one of the reasons earlier adventures I’ve had in my life, like studying abroad or visiting friends/family, were so hard simply because I was so afraid to be away from the gym. When I should have let it go. If I could send you chicken fingers via email, I would. 🙂

  2. Ellie says:

    You certainly get enough movement in your day to be healthy. If exercising makes you obsessive and unhappy, there’s no point to it. As I’ve read along with you this summer, you seem content and happy, proving you don’t need exercise to function.
    I actually really want Cherrios right now, Honey Nut please!

  3. Emma says:

    Awesome post, Joyce. I have had to take breaks from exercise and know how difficult that can be. Today’s culture is so obsessed with exercise that there’s so much pressure involved. Exercise is for ourselves, though, not the people around us! Good for you putting your wellness first, trust me, it pays off 🙂
    Those chicken tenders look soooo good btw!
    – emma

    1. Joyce says:

      I love that–“exercise is for ourselves, not the people around us.” Specifically, it’s self-care, not self-punishment, and it’s no one’s business but our own. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  4. I’m so glad you took this step Joyce! I don’t know if you ever saw one of the posts from my Bikini Body Break Up series, but it was the same idea of taking time off from exercising for exercise sake in order to show myself that it wouldn’t affect my body severely and would make it easier to take rest days. You’re so strong and that ice cream looks delish

    1. Joyce says:

      I did see a couple of your posts from that series! It’s so important to be able to accept our body as it is, so that exercise, if we choose to do it, becomes about celebrating what that body can do rather than trying to make it into something different.

  5. When I’d only read the title and not further into the post I thought “she’s clearly getting more of a workout in running around, cleaning and everything else than if she hit the gym once a day”. Well, you clearly have that figured out already :). Honestly, I think we all – myself included – underestimate the effect of simple everyday movement.
    It’s great you challenged yourself and from what you write it sounds like you’ve already seen improvements in your relationship with exercise/the ability to call it a day and relax instead of doing yoga.
    Also, I’m now craving polenta as I guess it’s similar to grits and you had those. Mmmh.

    1. Joyce says:

      Honestly, I think polenta and grits might be the same thing. 🙂

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