Why I Got A Gym Membership After Quitting the Gym For Two Years

I am excited to write this post because I feel like it could open up a really interesting conversation, and know that I would love to hear your thoughts!

So I’ll start here: I haven’t gone to a proper “gym” in about 2 years. I have exercised, but I’ve done yoga, classes, and ran outside or worked out at home.

When I went into recovery for my really bad ED in Spring of 2018, I quickly got put on exercise restriction. This is pretty common in recovery, because often times (not all the time), the person has weight that they need to gain to be stabilized, and working out could really hinder getting healthy. And that is both from a physical and mental standpoint.

Physically, exercise can be really strenuous on the body. Obviously, if you’re needing to gain body fat, it isn’t the best idea to be consistently working out. But also, if you are in an ED and you’re restricting, your body can be in a very vulnerable place. Not to start this post off on a super serious note, but it’s just the truth. I could have died where I was at, so I was not allowed to exercise and was even strongly advised against walking up stairs or parking in the garage on campus that was a half mile from my classes.

Mentally, exercise can be a form of purging. In a similar sense to purging your food after eating (i.e. bulimic behaviors), exercising to compensate for something you ate or eating in general is a serious form of purging. I definitely fell into this camp a few years ago, so that was just another reason to step away and re-examine my relationship with exercise.

I was probably on exercise restriction for about 4 months. I had been exercising most days of the week my whole life, so this felt so uncomfortable for me. (But that just goes to show that I really needed to give it a try by giving it a rest.)

I was a competitive dancer by the time I was 11 years old, and had practice most days after school and that continued till high school. And then when I quit dance, I felt nervous about “not being active enough” and I convinced myself I still needed to work out every day in some capacity. At the time, that was going to the neighborhood gym. From then on, I knew what to do in a gym so I went to the rec center in college, started doing group exercise (and loved it!) and also got really into yoga.

As you can see from that last paragraph, exercise for me hasn’t been all bad. It can be fun! It can be a release! It’s when you do something that you feel like you “have” to do or you push yourself past comfortable limits that it can become a problem.

And it’s so easy to cross over that line today.

I’ve been in exercise classes recently where the instructor talks about changing your body or pushing yourself past your limit and I am like “noooo!” I know where that crosses a line and where I can block it out, but ultimately, I avoid workouts where that kind of language is used.

For those of us that are trying to develop a better relationship with our bodies, the exercise component is really dicey. There’s a lot you become aware of, and it really changes you. You often won’t look at exercise the same, and to me – it’s a good thing. I’m glad I moved from a place of punishment to a place of appreciation, but I had to take baby steps to get there.

When I first got back into exercise, I started with yoga at home. Slow and steady, Yoga With Adriene was my go-to. When I moved into my last apartment, there was a great yoga studio just across the street that I got a membership to and started taking a couple vinyasa classes twice a week. I really stayed there because I found a yoga instructor who was awesome and really preached about listening to your body and going at your own pace.

After exclusively doing yoga and occasionally going out for a run, I felt ready to switch things up a bit. A couple months ago, I bought a promotion with a friend of mine to try out 4 different work out studios for only $30! I knew that I was far along in my recovery that I could be open and try new things, but also it would be easy for me to admit if it wasn’t for me or didn’t make my body feel good.

I mentioned in this post what workouts were just too intense for me – or perhaps just too expensive!

When I got to Austin, I decided to do a 2-week Classpass free trial because I’d been curious about getting to do some studio hopping and switching things up from exclusive yoga – variety is the spice of life, they say. However, I didn’t love it in my city because I didn’t find enough variation in the selection of classes! For one, there was only hot yoga and no regular vinyasa or Hatha. And it was always the same barre and kickboxing classes. I ended my trial after the free period and new I’d find something else that would work for me. No harm – no foul!

Now, if you read my post about my most recent neurologist visit, then you’ll know that my doctor recommended that I take a serious pause from high intensity workouts like running and really do some cardiovascular and strengthening movement types such as yoga and swimming. That’s when I started to look into actual gyms!

I really wanted an indoor pool that I could use all year round, so I knew I’d find that at a gym. I haven’t been to a gym in two years – personally, I don’t love weight training and I like the atmosphere of group exercise, so I just figured a gym wasn’t for me. However, I guess I’d kinda ignored the flexibility and freedom that a gym membership gives you.

For example, at the Y – it’s $38/month for a young adult (18-26) membership and that gives you access to the cardio machine room (ellipticals, bikes, etc.) , the weight room for squat racks and free weights, the outdoor and indoor pools, and all group exercise including barre, yoga, kickboxing, cycling, and more! It was everything in one! And there are other perks, like if you have children, there is free childcare and there are sports leagues you can sign up for, or sign your kids up for.

In this season of life, this just appeared like a perfect fit to me right now. I wanted to pay less than $80/month because anything more just seemed to steep in my budget. I wanted an indoor pool and yoga classes, but I also wanted the option to try new things. Staying rigid and routine in movement can be a breeding ground for a disordered relationship with movement. It should be fun and it should be whatever you wanted it to be. I also liked that I wasn’t paying so much money to where I would feel guilt-tripped into going every single day or several days a week. I’m comfortable with that price to the point where if I go in one day and just do the stationary bike for 20 minutes and then never come back at all that week – it’s totally ok.

Setting up a healthy exercise routine for your relationship with your body is really important – yet really hard to do this day in age with all the apps, programs, influencers, and just general societal norms making us feel lazy if we don’t have a current “workout routine”. I’m really happy that I’ve re-wired my relationship to exercise and I’ve found what works for me. I genuinely like to be active when I feel like being active and right now – the Y really works for me in that aspect!

Would love to know your thoughts on how to build healthy boundaries with exercise and how you like to move your body!