Phases of Workouts: From Exercise Obsession to Exercise Freedom

Giving up intense workouts is a pillar of recovering a healthy period, and exercise obsession in general, but it has a ton of anxiety around it.⁠

I’m going to be honest, there is no way anyone can tell you exactly how much exercise your body can handle, but these guidelines will help put things in perspective!

Here’s more detail on exercise from Obsession to Freedom

1️⃣ Exercise in the Obsessive Phase:⁠

The majority of women who have an obsessive relationship with exercise are classically overtraining. They are typically exercising an hour at a time 6-7 days a week. Also, much of it is at a high intensity.

Mentally, they place the highest priority on getting their workout in, despite when not feeling up to it or when life threatens to get in the way. ⁠

👉 The stress of exercise I see in the obsessive phase manifests in two ways: reducing available calorie for the body to function, and raising the stress hormones like cortisol.⁠

✅ Typical exercise during this phase:

Cardio (most at high intensity like running) 6-7 days a week, an hour or more
Heavy lifting 3-4 days a week
0-1 planned rest day, usually consisting of yoga or some type of movement

2️⃣ Exercise while restoring: IT’S A PHASE! ⁠

I cannot stress this enough. Please look at the big picture: Even if restoring takes a year, that sounds like an eternity, but it is one year of your entire life! ⁠

You can cut it all and reset, or start by greatly reducing. The more you cut out, the faster you should get your cycle back if you’ve lost it, and start feeling better overall.

👉The biggest goal is to let your body recover. Let all of the calories you’re eating go to repairing your body and building up what was depleted. ⁠

✅ Typical exercise during this phase:

Walking (not power walking for an hour uphill, just a nice walk)
Yoga or Pilates, think gentle restorative movement
Light strength training 1-2 times a week can work for most women, as long as the calories meet their needs and they listen to their body throughout.

3️⃣ Exercise Freedom:⁠

The biggest signs that you have reached exercise freedom is not only when your body has healed, but your mind has healed.

Signs of a healed body:

  • Period returns (3 cycles)
  • Not cold all the time
  • Sick less often
  • No longer bloated or gut discomfort
Signs of a healed mindset:
  • Can take an unplanned rest day without guilt
  • No longer ties how much to eat with how much you’ve worked out
  • Able to recognize and honor hunger cues and rest cues

Now you can add in more exercise if you wish! Start with strength, and slowly ramp up any cardio if you want. Continue taking a few actual rest days a week. Most important, is listening to what your body needs.⁠ When you need more sleep, when you need an extra rest day, TAKE IT! Allow yourself to take a week off when going on vacation, you don’t need to stick to a rigid schedule anymore 🙌

Read This: My Fitness Drastically Decreased (and That’s OK!)

👉Think of it as Whole30. You cut everything out, now you are adding exercise that agrees with you back in.⁠Start slow and monitor your cycle to avoid backsliding. ⁠

✅ There’s a lot of variation here, but is a typical exercise routine while having exercise freedom:

Low to moderate cardio a few days a week around 30 minutes (walking counts!)
Moderate-heavy strength training 2-3 days a week
Yoga or restorative movement as much as you enjoy
1-2 HIIT days, 10-20 minutes if you truly enjoy it

If your workouts are taking over, but you don’t know how to scale back, let’s talk. I offer free 30-minute calls to set you up with more knowledge and a goal to start with.

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