Exercise was always something I shared a love – hate relationship with.
My passion for exercise came early on in my life. I loved doing gymnastics, ballet, played tennis and danced Jazz. Later, I added to that list my beloved HipHop, a hobby, I wish I would not have given up during a time of depression.
When anorexia kicked in, everything turned around.
I started to abuse exercise in many ways. Dancing alone wasn’t enough anymore. I began to work out radically, crying while doing so.
A day without a workout was a strenuous task for my mind. I would feel like a failure, literally feeling the fat expand on my hips, my butt and in my face minute by minute.
On most days of my teenage years and early twenties, I would worry all day long about the treaded workout at night. Would my legs be too weak this time and give in? Would I have the willpower to endure? Would the minutes seem like hours again?
Even after a full day of school, my piano lesson and 2 hours of dancing class afterwards, I would jump on my stationary bike like an obsessed young girl. Without eating nearly sufficiently, mind you.
Enjoying the evening with my family was totally unimaginable. The sergeant in my head was drilling me to never relax. If I gave in today, I would surely lose control tomorrow.
So, I continued to feed my addiction, the workout sessions getting longer and longer, filling hours upon hours of my days, weeks, months and years. I was caught in a vicious circle and it was hard to find a way out.
Help came in the form of committing to recovery. As part of my therapy program, I was not allowed to do hard workouts (naturally). I was allowed to participate in a few classes where movement was minimal. Had I ever reached a BMI of 16, I would even have been allowed to do yoga once a week. I never achieved this goal though.
That in mind, I intensified my workouts until the day I had a room at the clinic. My behavior was nothing but crazy.
The first weeks without workouts were easy. I was so weak and so tired and exhausted that I did not have any impulse to break the rules.
I was just relieved my anorexia was no longer the only one who was making the decisions. If my inner sergeant was yelling at me for being a lazy pig, I could argue back. I needed to recover and those were the rules I needed to obey. A new sergeant was in charge now.
After a while however, I started to see the rules more like guidelines that could be stretched at times. So, I went running again. I was walking a very, very fine line. Had this been noticed, I would have been kicked out right away. I didn’t care. Anorexia was stronger.
After I left the clinic, I went right back to the gym. This time, however, I was able to reduce my workouts to a reasonable time. Partly due to the fact that I was still very fragile. I just didn’t have the energy yet. This was definitely a big difference between the time before and after I attended the clinic. Before I started treatment, it didn’t matter how shaky I was, I needed to exercise. And, I don’t know how, but I always made it through.
Fortunately, this has changed. Maybe my eating disorder did start to lose influence after all?
When I got more and more stable and my eating habits improved drastically, I started doing yoga and instantly fell in love with it. I started feeling my body again in ways I hadn’t for so many years. I started appreciating my strength again and I started tuning down that horrible voice telling me that I could do so much more effective workouts right now. Effective meaning calorie-burning.
But my priorities had changed. I didn’t want to slave away anymore for hours upon hours going right back to my misery.
Over the past 6 months, I was able to stick to a healthy routine of workouts alternating between yoga sessions, dancing and other forms of exercise.
For the first time in years, I was enjoying going to the gym. I came home full of energy instead of shaking and weak. I was proud of myself, thinking that I was making such great progress.
This was until Friday.
I hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days. I had come down with a terrible cold. After going back and forth in my mind , I decided to take it slow and skip my Bikram Yoga practice for the day.
All I wanted to do was cuddle up in bed with a hot-water bottle reading Tiny Buddha (a book, I totally recommend).
I could not concentrate for very long though. My thoughts were circling around my failure to go to yoga. My mind would repeatedly think of which posture I would be doing right now, which muscles I would be using right now, which part of the body I would stretch and ultimately, how many calories I would burn.
I was literally grieving for the practice.
It was horrible.I was so mad at myself, almost wanting to scream with frustration. I was sick, so why was this so hard? A workout would have been more damaging to myself than it would have been beneficial. Why oh why then, did it hurt so much?
So much for having overcome my addiction. All I had done was control it.
But this is not a bad thing. It is all I should have hoped for at this point in recovery. I just have to deal with it for the moment and then, maybe at some point in the future, it won’t be so hard to take a day off from working out.
Have you dealt with this kind of inner conflict? Have you every grieved for a missed workout?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice.