“I am so exhausted, two hours on the elliptical! I can barely move.” It was like a badge of honor, a red sash that read in large letters “I win.” Because apparently pushing your body to the brink of exhaustion was something to be proud of, something to showcase.
Exercise is an amazing thing; both our bodies and our minds need physical activity. However, I allowed my exercise schedule to consume me; I passed up on things I used to love to do just to get a workout in. Choosing not to go out to dinner with my family, or watch a movie with my friends, and opting instead to go to the gym, to go on a run.
Everything in moderation applies to exercise as well. I exhausted my body. I worked out before school and after school and the obsession grew even worse in the summer. Every morning I woke myself up at 7am to drag my tired, worn out body to barre classes, boot camp classes, four mile runs – anything to work off the banana I had had for breakfast.
Working out should be fun, it should get your heart pumping and blood flowing. It should not be a daily obligation and you should not feel terrible if you miss a day at the gym.
There was one day that I had an eight-hour work shift starting at 10am. I was utterly exhausted and slept through my 7am alarm, missing my morning workout. I went through the day feeling terribly guilty. That voice in my head told me “missing a day of working out will make you fat.” And however messed up and twisted that logic was, I believed it.
I got off work at 6pm and didn’t even bother to drive home, I began to run – in all my work clothes – until my legs could no longer take it.
This was a very dangerous mental state for me. My happiness seemed to depend on the length and intensity of my gym session and I craved the temporary high a good workout gave me. I still love working out, but I no longer depend on it and I no longer feel the need to compete with those around me.
“How long did you workout for?” “How many calories did you burn?” Those questions were unhealthy and rooted in my own self esteem issues. Because the fact is it does not matter how others choose to stay healthy, what matters is that you listen to your body. Take a rest day, hell take a rest week, when you need one.
I wish I had listened to that advice when I was the deepest into my eating disorder. I missed out on a lot because working out and barely eating became my entire world. Rather than let this discourage me, I am using it as motivation to ensure I do not allow myself to fall back into my old ways. I missed out on too much, and the fact is life is short. Do I want to spend the rest of my days obsessing over my exercise schedule? My answer to that question will always be no, because life is about so much more than how many hours you ran on the elliptical.