Thursday, June 12, 2008

Exercise balance--where is it?

Ever since I was young, I have always exercised in some form. For years, it was gymnastics. After that, it was cheerleading and track and field. In college, it was mostly running and continues to be to this day. Now, I find myself going from recreational runner to more "marathoner" type status if you want to call it that. I find exercise a double-edge sword. I love it for the feelings it brings about--the runner's high, the calmness, the stress relief, the going "into the zone." However, at the same time, there is an obsessional quality to it as well which goes hand in hand with the ED.

Throughout the years, exercise has truly done an up and down type of thing. There were times I'd exercise multiple times a day, other times, I was so demotivated, I did nothing. Then there were other times when I'd go for a run simply due to high amounts of anxiety that only seemed to be suppressed through exercise. I struggle to find this balance and feel OKAY with it.

For example, I recently joined a running challenge. It's good in that it keeps me motivated. I admit I do like seeing my mileage increase, but I also enjoy seeing others joining in the team effort by putting in miles. However, I also feel unworthy in a sense when I have the big goose egg in number of miles. There is no doubt that I know rest is important. But I'm finding it harder to do. Last week, I did take two rest days, knowing I was beginning to fall into this trap. I was okay with that, but this week, it's a struggle.

The last two days, dog obedience classes were cancelled. On Tuesday, I took an evening run since it was cooler. Wednesday was going to be my rest day. Though I did not run, it was all I had to distract myself not to just put on my running clothes and go. Instead, I dremeled the dogs' nails. I was interrupted twice by my dad calling me. After that, I did some much needed weed eating around my place which has now left my left arm numb seriously. So I guess I was successful, but that anxious feeling of knowing I need to put in more miles tomorrow creeps in. I had a planned an early morning run, but I'm not sure I'll make that one since it's already past 1 AM. Therefore, I feel like I just have to suffer through the heat.

So I ask the question, where is the balance?

A few months ago, I read the book, The Exercise Balance. The Exercise Balance: What's Too Much, What's Too Little, and What's Just Right for You!
image: amazon

I thought it might help me with this question. Though it did not answer my question completely for me, it was a nice basic book. The book looks at underexercisers, overexercisers, and normal, balanced exercisers. In each group, the authors, both who have treated eating disorders, talk about the physical, mental, medical issues and give suggestions to find this exercise balance. There are also some good questionnaires to distinguish whether you are an overexerciser which is helpful.

One thing that was interesting was that the authors broke down overexercise into two categories: obligatory and compulsive. The obligatory exerciser must exercise no matter what condition--sickness, illness, changed plans, doesn't matter. Not exercising is not an option. The compulsive exerciser feels compelled to exercise in the same way, duration, and frequency. Individuals can be one or the other or both with some not truly being excessive exercisers. If you are both obligatory, compulsive, and exercise excessively, then you're really screwed, or more like it takes a lot more to overcome the exercise habits.

I never really thought about it broken up like that. I just mashed everything into the category of compulsive exercise. I guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter. If you have a problem, you have a problem.

So how do I keep myself in check? I do not want to forgo the running challenge. I need to somehow feel okay with rest days again. I've done it before, so I need to get back to that understanding and acceptance of it. I seem to only get to that point when I'm injured which in essence is too late. I especially need to be able to do this if I am planning a fall marathon and want to be healthy, do well, and be injury-free. :sigh: It's hard sometimes, but I need to sit with those feelings again, maybe journal too again?


Deb said...

What a great book resource!

Anonymous said...

i understand. i know my body needs at least one day for rest and recovery but when that day comes the anxiety is too much so i go for a run and promise myself that tomorrow i will rest. it goes in this cycle for about a 9-14 day stretch. i even have an injury that i know will balloon into something else but i can't make myself stop. i must run no matter what..the same less or i am a failure.

this info was helpful. but now i don't know what to do with it.

stay strong...i love your blog


Tiptoe said...

Deb, yes, it really is a helpful guide in terms of basics--well needed too.

Anon, thanks for understanding. I wish I had more answers or the right answer for you. Anxiety is hard to deal with--maybe other alternatives? I know it is hard though.

The book does gives recommendations for how to cut down/cut back. Maybe journaling your exercise with thoughts would be helpful, similar to a food log?

I hope you do take some rest if you are injured. Yes, the injuries can get worst fast. Your body truly does need it.

Kim said...

Thanks for directing me to this post :) Very insightful. I think my exercise has been obligatory and compulsive (though not excessive). It seems more like OCD to me (ie, I have to walk at least 25 minutes/day). I'm still figuring it out. Lately, it feels good to do nothing. Of course, I have those worries of, "I'll NEVER exercise again." But, like you, I've always been active (gymnastics, track) so I'm hoping that as I get healthier, I'll feel the healthy pull toward exercise. Right now, though, I'm ok with resting...most of the time ;)