Monday Musings: On FOME

No, that’s not a typo. You may be familiar with FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out (which I undoubtedly have). This is when you have actually have anxiety caused by believing you are missing out on all the fun. FOME is something else entirely.

Fear of Missing Exercise

(Also, I may have actually coined this term. It’s not on the first page of Google results, which clearly means it doesn’t exist.)

That last part is neither here nor there. What you need to know is that FOME is a real thing. It is anxiety that comes from fearing that you will miss a workout because you associate missed workouts with irrational and cataclysmic consequences such as:

  • Immediate and drastic decrease in fitness
  • Total inability to gain back any loss in fitness
  • Spontaneous loss of any future desire to exercise. Ever again. Ever.
  • Instant and substantial weight gain

    I cannot stress enough, FOME is completely irrational. I obviously understand that an extra day off here or there will make no difference to my fitness. But my FOME has roots in reality. It initially developed out of a history of ups and down in my exercise and training patterns, in which I legitimately lost and had to regain fitness.  But here’s the thing, those situations all involved prolonged absences from working out, sometimes because of injury and sometimes because of pure laziness.

    It is the memory of struggling to regain my fitness, to motivate myself to keep going, and to lose the dreaded jiggle that lingers from those absences, though.  And now the little reptilian amygdala in my brain cannot distinguish between the real likelihood of losing fitness if I abandon training for weeks or months on end, and a completely irrational and unlikely fear of lost fitness if I miss a few days here and there.  Think I’m kidding? The amygdala hijack is a very real, and often unhelpful, thing that occurs in our brains more often than we think.

If you’re reading this and identifying with what I’m saying, you may also suffer from FOME. Don’t panic! Let me assure you that you can evade the dreaded amygdala hijack. Here’s some things to consider in the fight against FOME:

Calm and reason are the amygdala’s enemy.  A deep breath and some focused, rational thought will silence the anxiety monsters and let you rationally reflect on the fact that you will be fine if you miss a day here or there.

Meet the monster in the middle. I have been amazed by how a 10 minute core workout can make me feel like I’m not being utterly useless, even though rationally I know that it is in no way maintaining nor enhancing my fitness.  But sometimes, it’s about clever trickery.

Phone a friend. Your friends (and I mean good friends that you can rely on for the truth, not just to tell you what you want to hear) can tell you whether you’re being lazy and at real risk of spiralling into sloth-like status or whether you’re just being…overly dramatic.

If you have other tips for managing FOME or if you fear you suffer from it (FFOME), I welcome your thoughts or commiseration. We can fight this together!


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