I love this song, it always makes me smile
And I also love to move it move it.
Before you think I’m psycho or something I’ll explain. I love to move, I always have.
Growing up we didn’t have TV or more than one computer so about 90% of my time was spent outside. Rain or shine, summer or winter you’d find me somewhere outdoors – either rollerblading, ice-skating, bike riding, playing sports or just running around. It was the culture of the time, kids were outside as often as possible. And quite frankly you couldn’t get me to sit still indoors if you paid me (well depends how much :P). Not that I was a hyper child, I could sit still and read a book for hours at a time. But not before I got my “sunshine” time, because it felt just wrong. What can I say – I loved to move it.
As I got older I became more interested in dancing, soccer and jogging. I learned that this was called “exercise” as opposed to “being outside”. Not like it made any difference anyway, because I enjoyed it just the same as I had when I was a kid. No one ever made me do it, I did it because it made me feel good. I did something active almost every day, and hardly even realized it.
This only changed I got older and became more concerned about my body image. I started seeing exercise as a way to “perfect” something good I already had (my body). After a while it became a chore, something I did whether I wanted to or not because I “should”. Pretty soon the “should” turned into a “had to”, and my exercise became compulsive. I no longer enjoyed it, there were days it was the last things I felt like doing, and still I pushed through. During my ED my relationship with exercise continued to deteriorate (you can read about it in more detail here) and I no longer enjoyed it at all. It was hard to enjoy something that made me cry because I was so fatigued, or had me doubling over in pain at the end. Fun? I don’t think so. Still I was terrified at what would happen if I stopped, so I continued on.
During my first IP treatment I wasn’t allowed to exercise for about 2 months. I discovered then I could in fact live without exercise and I actually began to enjoy it again. I remember when I went for my first run after release – that feeling of freedom, abandonment and power. I enjoyed exercise once again! Unfortunately too often history repeats itself and I soon ended up loathing exercise again. When I went into recovery for the second time I was again banned from exercise. I was allowed to do as much walking as I wanted, but nothing above that. And so I spent 6 months without exercise and have only recently started introducing it back into my life in various forms.
Maybe “without exercise” isn’t the correct term as I wasn’t entirely inactive during that time. I was often out and about, walking, playing with my siblings, dancing. During that time I never committed to doing a “work out” per say, but overall I kept up a good, healthy level of activity. It showed me that exercise doesn’t have to be hours of sweating on a treadmill, or lifting weights, or doing hundreds of crunches. Exercise can be a walk through town on a sunny day. It can be playing tag with three-year olds. It can be dancing in your room when you feel like it. Being active and staying healthy while doing so is so much more than just our stereotypical idea of what it should be.
I wanted to get someone else’s thoughts on the matter, so I asked dear Katy to answer a few questions. Hers was the very first recovery blog I started reading and aside from inspiring me to start mine, reading it has been highly inspirational and motivating. She, in my opinion, is a great picture of happy, free life post-ED. Anyhow without any further ado – here’s what she had to say.
Before your ED would you consider yourself an active person. Did you enjoy exercise and movement?
Before my ED I wasn’t the most active of people, in fact I actually dreaded exercise! But I played a lot of team sports like netball, indoor netball, badminton and I would always walk home from the bus stop which would take about 30-45 minutes. (I never actually timed it.) I was even a part of the cross country team at primary and intermediate school. I was good at long distance running but I never really enjoyed it.
How did you know that your exercise routine had become and addiction and was getting out of hand?
I realized that my exercise was getting out of hand when it started to become a compulsion and I would freak out when I couldn’t do any. I started putting exercise before everything else in my life: my family, my friends, my uni work – everything! I would even workout when I was injured and I never ever took a rest day and doing so has left me with a permanent hip injury which prevents me from running full stop. It has also left me with a sore back and sore joints. If you’re unable to stop exercising when you feel pain, you have a problem.
During your recovery period did you continue exercising or did you stop. If so, why?
I actually stopped all exercise except for doing 20 minutes of gentle yoga a day to help me spiritually. I stopped exercising completely because at that point, exercise was doing me more harm than good. I had bradycardia which meant that my resting heart rate was under 60 beats per minute and by exercising I was making that worse so I was forced to stop by my medical team. There is also no point in exercising if you are needing to put on a lot of weight like I did. What’s the point in dragging out the process longer than it needs to be? The sooner you get to your healthy weight, the sooner you can start to mend your relationship with exercise. I knew for me that any exercise I did whilst gaining weight would be compulsive and since I was very injured by this point, I needed to stop.
What’s your relationship with exercise now. Around how much do you do and what kinds of exercise? Do you feel that it’s enough or do you feel like you’d like to do more.
My relationship with exercise is much better than it used to be but exercise and I still aren’t the best of friends. I still to feel a compulsion when it comes to exercise but now that I have a much healthier mindset, I am able to work through it and listen to my rational side. Unlike the exercise that I used to which was killing myself on an elliptical machine, running or doing workout DVDs, my favourite exercise now is simply just walking for 30-60 minutes a day. I really enjoy walking because it’s my time to go out, listen to my music and just have some “me” time. I also do yoga about twice a week and I do some strength training (weight-bearing exercises) 3-4 times a week. I feel that this is definitely enough for me. In the past I would have thought that this wasn’t enough because I used to do intense exercise for about 2 hours everyday on hardly any fuel. But even though this is a lot less exercise than I used to do, it’s still more than many of my friends and family! On difficult days where I feel stressed due to uni work or life in general I do get the urge to exercise unhealthily but I now realise that this urge is only due to the fact that exercise used to be my coping mechanism whereas now, I have new and much healthier coping mechanisms that I turn to in order to de-stress.
Do you keep any safeguards to ensure that you don’t slip back into your old exercise routines and habits?
Firstly, I have my family around me that know all about my exercise issues and they will know if I start to do anything unhealthily. For example, if I started running again, they’d be a little bit concerned. I tend to only get the urge to slip back into old habits when I need to find a method of coping with my feelings. So whenever I get stressed or upset I turn to a list of things that I can do that can help me instead of numbing myself through exercise. I will:
- Talk to a friend
- Write on my blog
- Watch something that will make me laugh
- Turn my music up really loud
- Do some Yoga
What’s your idea of keeping a balanced and moderate approach to exercise without letting it get extreme?
To me, exercising is about making yourself feel good mentally and physically but it shouldn’t get in the way of you living your life. I used to turn down invitations to go out on a Saturday in order to stay home torture myself with a Jillian Michaels DVD. (Just to note, I LOVE her DVDs but when you’re weak from an eating disorder, they aren’t the funnest of workouts…) These days I choose being social over exercising and I only exercise when I want to and not when I feel compelled to. You don’t realise it but you actually do more exercise than you think you do by just going to the store or going shopping with friends. You just have to realise that life will get in the way of your personal plans and that’s okay! That’s what makes life exciting. You don’t want to follow the same routine every single day. Believe me, I’ve been there and it was so dull and depressing. Always choose life > exercise. Always.
Thanks so much Katy!
Now over to you guys:
Are you the type of person that needs to sweat it out for an hour before considering it a work out?
What’s your favorite kind of exercise? Do you like to move it, move it ;)?