"Fitness has always defined me. Now I'm just like, 'You know what? I'm just doing the best I can and that's good enough.'"
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If you still exercise by the maxim that fitness needs to hurt to work, you're doing it wrong. Sure, there are mental and physical benefits to pushing past your comfort zone and getting used to feeling uncomfortable. I mean, burpees? Not exactly a cozy nap on the couch. But the upsurge of tough AF workouts (à la CrossFit or HIIT) and programs (like Insanity and P90X) can make even the toughest, fittest, strongest badass out there wonder, "Am I doing enough?" "Should I be doing more?" "If I'm not sore the next day, did it even count?"
After his shocking heart attack back in February, Bob Harper, health and fitness legend and The Biggest Loser alum, had to ask himself the same questions and totally reevaluate his entire fitness philosophy. After all, if someone that physically fit—Bob was and still is a regular in the CrossFit scene—could experience that kind of life-changing setback, what does that mean for the athletes he trains and those of us who are just struggling through our next heavy-lifting Tabatas?
Last Sunday was a BIG and super emotional day for me. Not only was I able to really do my first @crossfit workout again, I did it in the room where I had my heart attack AND I did it in the exact same spot where I went down into cardiac arrest. Thank you so much to Anthony and my good luck charm Sean for supporting me. @bricknewyork #heartattacksurvivor
Bob's answer? Cut yourself some slack. He has. "I'm just being more kind to myself," he says. "Fitness has always defined me. I've felt like, 'I've got to do this and I've got to be the best,' and now I'm just like, 'You know what? I'm just doing the best I can and that's good enough."
It's no stretch to say his health scare changed not just his fitness mentality, but his view on self-care as a whole. One important thing Bob has always championed, but is even more vocal about now: Listening to your body. "For years that has been a staple of what I've said to people; 'listen to your body,'" he says. "If something doesn't feel right, it's your body trying to tell you that it's not right." He shared why he knows this all too well now: Six weeks before his heart attack, he fainted in the gym. He battled dizzy spells, adapted his workouts to avoid nausea triggers, but still ignored signs that something was seriously wrong. "The Friday before [my heart attack, on Sunday], I had to leave a CrossFit workout because I was so dizzy, and I was so upset about it," he says. "And I was on the street in New York on my hands and knees because I was having a such a dizzy spell." Looking back, he says he should have listened to his body and told doctors, who initially wrote his symptoms off as vertigo, that something felt seriously wrong.
Use his lesson as motivation to reset your own goals because it's a losing battle to try to do it all or be great at everything, says Bob. "It's impossible and it starts to make you feel like shit," he says candidly. It's something he says he's had to remind himself of regularly as he builds up the strength he lost during recovery. "You know, I'm getting it back, and that has to be okay because if it's not, what's the alternative? Just feeling so bad about myself?" Bob says. "That's not worth it anymore."
Another game-changer for the all-star trainer post-heart attack was his impulse to slow down—slow down his workouts, his go-go-go business mindset, and even his training sessions with clients and friends. The goal? To be more present or "be here now," as one of his favorite bracelets says. "I was always so focused on what's next," he admits. "That was always a big driving force for me—'What's the next book?' 'What's the next show? It's got to be big.' But I realized now more than ever that you have to appreciate wherever it is that you are, because life can change on a dime."
So if you're feeling burned out or you just aren't having fun with fitness anymore, Bob suggests taking your workout back to the basics. "I'm rediscovering working out, and it's been really fun," he says. While he still practices CrossFit, you can find him mixing it up with SoulCycle and hot yoga. "I hated yoga," he admits. "But I hated it for competitive reasons. I'd be in there and I would just be like look at 'Miss Cirque du Soleil' over here, and I couldn't do half of it. But now? I don't really care."