Wednesday, September 14, 2011

i never thought i'd say this...

...but i'm done with working out. at least in my disorder's sense of the idea.

i think the fundamental error of my previous perception of exercise was that it wasn't my perception at all. it was my eating disorder's insistence that anything short of an all-out sprint fest was nothing more active or healthy than an afternoon spent on the couch. 

i don't want to get into specifics, because i'd hate to trigger anyone or worse, give someone's eating disorder ideas. but i will say that the majority of days i've lived over the course of the past 8 or so months have revolved around workouts. i woke up thinking about working out and i thought about it until it was done. i enjoyed my workouts immensely. not because i was enjoying my chosen forms of activity, but because i was enjoying the feeling of working too hard too often; i was enjoying the feeling of pushing my body to do something to an extreme for which it was not created. it was like an hour-long dose of my eating disorder each day and it felt good.

my counselor and nutritionist regularly encouraged me to reevaluate my approach to exercise, but it made me feel good to be living out a remnant of my disorder, and i was eating enough to support the calories i was burning, so it was a "best of both worlds" scenario. 

it's hard to believe, but today marks exactly three weeks since i moved to colorado. i'd had every intention of carrying my obsessive workout habits into my life here, but it was during my first run around the neighborhood that i realized it was time to make a change. 

it was a godsend of a combination, i think. because the air here is so thin that it's really hard to breathe at first. even for people in decent shape, running here is a whole new story. as i struggled to maintain my usual pace, my head began to ache i felt a little dizzy. i slowed to a walk, frustrated with myself for not being able to "beat the altitude".

 as i got my breathe back, i looked around. the sky looked so big. it made me feel close to the old neighborhood trees and the rooftops because the blueness was so far off and beautiful and vast that they could never touch it. i felt myself wanting to stop exercising inside my head, to quit taking in the sinister thoughts and pride in my ability to self-destruct with the same reverence with which i was taking in the trees and the sky.

i realized that if i was ever going to make a change, it would have to be from that moment forward. i realized that i could drag my old habits into this newness, or i could take advantage of the obliteration of all things familiar and of the lack air that's easily breathed and i could try exercise again, the way that it's meant to be.

so i loosened my grip on the notion that nothing counts as exercise unless at its utmost intensity and i left it behind. i remembered how much i love walking and stopped supplementing my walks with extra workouts to make them "count". I stopped running to prove my superiority and started running to enjoy running. i stopped timing myself. 

i realize that cardio intervals are quite the rage in the workout world, but i don't care. i'm in an old testament class this semester and right now, we're studying genesis. when i think about the earth in its rawest form, before we had machines to do everything for us, i think about the fact that there wasn't much sedentary living going on. i doubt anyone jumped up and down or ran sprints or tried to see how much they could lift, because cardio and strength related activity were a built-in aspect of daily life. no one thought, "phew! that was a workout!" because living life was a workout. 

i think it'd be healthy if we could somehow get back the idea of physical activity being a part of our daily function. instead of having a workout mode and an everyday life mode, integrating the two so they're one in the same. i realize it would take a little more intentionality than it did for people who lived thousands of years ago, because we can't change the reality of cars and computers and all the other stuff we have. but walking somewhere close by to run an errand or two, or while talking on the phone or talking to God is a great place to start. {note: this does not mean walking everywhere, or for hours at a time. if you are in recovery, this would be something to discuss with your dietician and counselor}.

of course, there are times that a good run or gym session just sounds right. but the point, i think, is balance. 

there were times i wondered how i was ever going to keep up with my workout schedule once i became responsible for more than just myself. thankfully, i've now got a workout schedule that is much more reasonably maintained. a few months ago, i would have thought myself better than anyone with the approach to exercise i'm now taking. i would've thought it weak and self-indulgent to enjoy exercise in any form other than its most intense. 

i'm thankful for the thin colorado air and the change it instigated in me. i'm thankful for walking and for slow, enjoyable runs. i'm thankful for yoga and for the fact that i don't have dumbbells in my room anymore. i'm thankful that my body image is better now that i ever remember it being. 

most of all, i'm thankful for truth.

"then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." john 8:32




  1. this is good. especially love reference to physical activity as it once was.

  2. So much wisdom in this post, especially the idea of the balanced lifestyle. Welcome to the thin air and gorgeous skies of Colorado - and oh yeah, Mt. Evens too! Love our home the earth, it's maker, and it's inhabitants, and perhaps the rest will fall into place. ;) Julie