Watch on. Hair back. Headband placed. Heart rate strap across chest. Shoes laced.
A simple series of steps that became so routine to me before runs and heading to the gym that I didn’t even have to think about it.
My “getting ready for a workout” routine looks pretty similar nowadays minus a major change. That fourth step? Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore. And honestly, I’ve never been happier.
That’s right, I don’t wear a heart rate monitor anymore when I exercise. Most of you probably weren’t even aware that I did because I never really talked about it on here before. It’s also become such a habit that I didn’t even really think twice about it. It came with my Garmin when I got it initially so I just sort of started using it without a real reason to.
It wasn’t until I was forced to think about it recently that I really stopped to question the purpose it was serving in my life. A few weeks ago my Garmin HR strap stopped syncing with my watch. I figured it was just a one time and didn’t let it bother me. But then when it started happening day after day I started to get anxious. I couldn’t even place where the anxiety was coming from because I don’t track my workouts, calories burned, or calories consumed. I try to stay away from numbers as much as I can actually. But for some reason not seeing that read out of small numbers on my wrist after a workout (even though it would be totally forgotten moments later) put me one edge. And THAT was what bothered me the most.
That I was letting numbers affect my state of mind.
I realized then that I had started a ritual. As someone who suffers from OCD, I never know when my next ritual will make an appearance. While mine are more mental and thought-based than physical actions (like tapping or counting), I have to stay mindful of my behaviors and keep them from turning from “it’s something I do” to “it’s something I must do.”
It was pretty clear from how much a defective HR strap was affecting me that it was becoming a “must”.
I found the only way to get past my fears, whether they’re around food, thoughts, my body, my future, school, work, or exercise, is to expose myself to them. Let myself FEEL the anxiety. Work through it and realize it’s never as bad as I make it out to be in my mind. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but over time, after repeated exposures, the anxiety DOES start to abate.
I also realized I had started this series of exposures already without even meaning to because I kept working out despite my faulty piece of equipment. So by the time I had made the purposeful decision that the HR monitor would no longer strap me in (pun intended), I had really done most of the hard work.
This type of exposure work can be used for any type of anxiety or mental struggle and I use it in all areas of my life.
Expose…yourself to it
Feel…the emotions, anxieties, and thoughts surrounding it
Repeat…the exposures as needed
Realize…anxiety is temporary and you are strong enough to get through it
Eventually, you’ll be able to stop that ritual/behavior/habit from controlling you in any capacity.
So, no. I don’t wear a HR monitor when I workout. A simple, mindless decision for some. But a whole process for someone who suffers from anxiety. You know what though? As much as I hate it, I am also grateful for my anxious mind. It helps me be more reflective, mindful, and present. It also lets me identify with, have empathy for, and give compassion to others sufferers of mental illness. Those qualities are worth ANY obstacle I may face.
Do you wear a HR monitor when you work out?
Do you find knowing numbers (like HR, distance, calories, etc.) is motivating or detrimental to your state of mind?
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