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Jan 18, 2023

How To Make The Mindset Shift To Movement That Heals

Last week, I wrote a blog post about body system imbalances you need to know about when choosing your exercise routine. You can read that blog post here When Exercise Is Doing More Harm Than Good to learn about when you should back-off on exercise, when you should increase exercise, and when you should shift to a different movement plan in order to heal, rather than cause more body burnout.

Today I want to talk specifically about when exercise makes you feel worse, and how to create a mindset shift to move towards restorative movement that heals. This is specifically for those go-getter peeps out there who can’t live without the gym or running (or whatever), or who are obsessively exercising to lose weight, get a six-pack, etc., but secretly know it’s causing more damage to the body.


Signs Exercise Is Doing More Damage Than Good

First up, here are some common red flags that show up when you’re ‘over-exercising’. And by the way, over-exercising isn’t just about going to the gym 2 x a day, or training obsessively for a marathon. If your body is in a very depleted state, over-exercising could show up when you go for a 1 hour walk, or when you do a quick 10-minute HIIT workout at home. I’ve even seen clients who are over-exercising doing a yoga or low-key pilates class! Exercise is a form of stress - and while it’s a healthy stressor that can help you grow stronger and fitter, it can be too much of a stressor if your body systems are cooked (see blog post last week - ADD BLOG LINK).  

So here are some signs to look out for, to know if you’re pushing your body a bit too much with exercise:

  • You feel more tired and drained after exercise, rather than energised.
  • Your muscles are ultra sore for days afterwards, more so than your usual delayed-onset-muscle soreness that occurs when starting a new exercise regime.
  • You feel crabby and irritated after exercise.
  • You feel like you have nothing left to ‘give’ during an exercise session (especially an issue if occurring at the start of a session).
  • You’re constantly coming down with a cold or flu after exercise, or skin is breaking out, or developing thrush (immune system issues).
  • You’re experiencing joint injuries and niggles.
  • Your cycle becomes irregular, period has disappeared, or experiencing infertility. 
  • You’re constantly experiencing a crash-burn cycle in energy - i.e. feel perks of energy, exercise because you feel great, but then crash the next day.
  • Your fitness and/or strength is declining, despite trying your best to stick to an exercise regime.
  • Needing longer periods of rest. 
  • You’re not losing any weight, or putting on weight even though you’re exercising more!


My Experience With Over-Exercising

If you’re an avid exerciser and you’ve been feeling a bit anxious reading this article, thinking: how can I give up my CrossFit classes or half-marathons?! (even though you secretly know it’s burning you out), I see you. This mindset shift around exercise was something I struggled with, big time. In fact, I struggled with it so much that it took me years to finally honour my body, stop, slow down, and pivot to movement that was restorative, rather than damaging.

Prior to setting up our functional medicine practice, Chris was a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach. He owned a gym, and I was his most diligent student. Always showing up to his Bootcamp and CrossFit classes. Before kids, I trained everyday - sometimes twice a day. I was fast and strong and fit. I could do 100+ pushups without stopping. 20+ pull-ups without a break. But when I started having babies, and my health fell apart, so did my physical prowess. I struggled to run. I trembled as I tried to do one pushup. I kept getting sick after intense workouts. Yet still I kept on pushing my body, trying to ‘do’ what I used to be able to do. Until one day, when I attempted a kettlebell deadlift, I heard my lower back crack. For 18-months I lived with chronic sciatica pain, sometimes so bad I couldn’t get out of bed. And even then, I kept pushing my body in the gym on the days I felt ‘ok.’ It always ended badly. I knew deep in my heart that I was hurting my body with exercise, that I was preventing it to heal. Yet my mind kept saying: No! You used to be able to do this. You should be able to do it now! I was trying to chase that fit girl back in the past, I was yet again trying to prove my worth and capability by what I could do - this time, physically. And I was also secretly scared that if I stopped exercising intensely, I would stack on the weight.

The pain eventually stacked up enough that I knew I had to change. I finally acknowledged that all the supps in the world, and all the healthy foods, were not going to deep heal my body systems, if I constantly stressed-out my body with the wrong type of exercise. It required a huge mindset shift to let go of that ‘fit girl’ from the past, and my need to get external validation of how good I was, by how fit and strong I was. But it was made possible because I created such a compelling vision of who I wanted to become - a loving mother and wife, a practitioner that has walked the talk, a woman that is deeply connected to herself - and worked through self-limiting beliefs that caused me to cling onto the ‘fit girl’ in the first place. And guess what? Not only did my body heal, but I didn’t put on any weight. In fact, I looked more ‘toned’ because there was far less inflammation in my body. At the time of writing this, I continue to exercise slower - walking, swimming, yoga, playing with the kids and puppy - and my body feels the best it has ever felt, and still no extra weight.


Exercise & The Mindset Shift

If you’re in a state of body burnout, and you need to change up your exercise regime to heal (whether that be dropping the intensity, or moving more) but you’re feeling yourself resisting, here are some questions to ponder:

  • What are your thoughts when it comes to exercise? 
  • What are the stories that you tell yourself about exercise? Are they things like:
    • No pain, no gain.
    • Quitters are losers. 
    • I have to feel dead to know I had a good workout.
    • I need to sweat to lose weight.
    • I'm too fat to exercise.
    • I don’t have time to exercise. 
    • I don’t like the way exercise makes me feel.
  • What mantras do you say to yourself over and over again, that may not be serving you? 
  • What am I trying to prove with exercise?
  • Am I honouring my body with movement? If not, why not?

Whatever your non-serving story is, there's going to be internal friction if you need to change what you’re currently doing. Get clear on your vision again, clear self-limiting beliefs, adult up and give yourself permission to experience something different. Only goodness can come when you lean in and listen to your body :)

If you want a handy tool to help you connect the dots to see where you’re body is at, take our Ending Body Burnout Assessment.


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.

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