For the first 15 years of my life, my only source of activity was my weekly dance class. Then I gained a lot of weight (or so I thought at the time) and joined a gym. And I still phoned in a power walk on the treadmill and huffed and puffed my way through the elliptical. It was always an effort, but I forced myself through – so I could be thin.
Somewhere along the line, as my fitness increased to an acceptable level and I broadened my horizons a little past tedious moderate cardio, I became an endorphin addict. I found yoga, participated in step and spin classes, learned to lift weights, discovered ExerciseTv and best of all, I started to run. It was a double edged sword: the more I could do, the more I felt I needed to do; the thinner I got, the more calories I needed to burn to keep losing weight. Exercising was my first and foremost priority. I would blow off tea with friends and postpone dates with my then-boyfriend if it meant I could fit in an extra mile or two. It wasn’t fun, but it was necessary.
Clearly, this couldn’t last. I was under nourished, over exhausted and injuries were impossible to avoid. If I was forced to take a rest day, I would eat even less to compensate – exactly the opposite from what a body needs to heal. I have worked out at 6am and midnight to avoid being caught for the amount of exercise I was engaging in. If I had binged the night before, my efforts needed to be doubled to compensate.
At college, everything fell apart and I was diagnosed with exercise bulimia. I had to stop, I had to eat, I had to reassess everything.
The thing is, regardless of my eating patterns now (I have gone from underweight to overweight in less than a year,) I still exercise 5-6 days out of 7. What’s changed between now and then?
I workout harder than I ever have in my life – but I eat enough to sustain it.
I have had a few injuries – but I learned to rest and recover.
I still hate blowing off a run or yoga session – but some things are more important than getting a sweat on.
The difference is exercise is something I love. Something I choose. Something that makes me happy. If it ever becomes less than enjoyable, I will stop. If it limits what I can do in my everyday life, I will stop. If I ever stop loving that endorphin hit, I will stop.
Right now? I don’t have to exercise. But for the first time in my life, I want to.