In the current issue of Fitness, Elisabeth Hasselbeck (apparently a controversial figure although I have no idea why as I’ve never seen Survivor, The View or Football), confesses that for years she had an “exercise-dependency issue.” Which, as it always is in magazine land, is totally and miraculously cured now. I hate how in our culture we are only allowed to talk about our problems in the past tense. If we mention that we are currently struggling with something, that makes us weak but if it’s all in the past, (even if the past is only 6 weeks in Elisabeth’s case) then we’re heroes. We’re survivors without the capital “s” and million-dollar purse.
But enough of my issues, back to hers. She says of her daily runs “I would think about that six-mile run every day with fear. More than looking forward to it, I dreaded not fitting it in. I used to hate my days off. I’d feel guilty, like I was lazy for not doing anything.”
On one level that really strikes a chord with me. I don’t dread my workouts at all, in fact I probably love them a little too much, but I definitely agree with the part about hating the off days and feeling guilty and lazy. It even sometimes extends to permission to eat that day. I don’t starve myself (anymore) but on my “rest” days I am often highly anxious and aware that every bite I eat hasn’t been “earned” and I’ll have to pay the debt the next day.
I can also relate to her fear of not fitting her workout in. I’m the kind of girl that when my baby pukes at midnight, my second thought, right after “Why did I feed him yogurt and pineapple chunks for dinner,” is how I’m going to adjust my workout schedule to compensate. Obviously I won’t be able to take him to the gym day care so that means I’ll either need to run outside before my husband leaves for work or ditch the kids the second he gets home to make that p.m. class. And if I choose the night class option? I worry about it all day. What if I end up not making it? What if my husband gets home late? What if I’m too tired? What if I get sick too?
Elisabeth concludes, “I’m finally learning to enjoy exercise because of how it makes me feel, not because I’m afraid of how I’ll feel if I miss it.” I work out when I’m sick or injured. I work out every holiday. I work out on vacation. I never miss a day. I even worked out the morning I went into labor. Part of it is that it is such a great stress reliever – I’m a very high strung girl with a lot of energy and exercise takes the ants out of my pants. Plus I’m totally addicted to the endorphin rush. But part of it is fear of how I’ll feel if I don’t exercise.
Lucky for me, there’s already an Exercise Dependency Checklist – love the Internet! Anyone else love self tests or am I the only one so warped by Cosmo? Get your pencils ready…
1. Bad Moods. Do you feel depressed over a bad workout? Is there a significant change in your mood before and after your workout? Do you feel guilty if you intentionally skip a workout? (My score: 1 for guilt but I actually think exercise helps with my depression – it’s really turned me into a chirpy, smiley, glass-half-full girl. I’m annoying, I know.)
2. Distorted Priorities. Do you get anxious when a social event or work interferes with exercise? Do friends or family members comment on the effect that your exercise schedule has on them? Do you unnecessarily take time off work to train or compete? Does only exercise provides you with a sense of accomplishment? (My score: um, 3. I actually told my husband once, in a fit of hysteria, “my workouts are the only time I feel good about myself!”)
3. Ignored Consequences. Have you have exercised in unsafe conditions or exercised in spite of injury, fatigue, or illness? (Totally. 1. But where’s the line between die-hard and crackpot? There is a line, right??)
4. Unrealistic Expectations. Do you frequently increase your intensity or volume to maintain a certain level of fitness? Does your training routine makes it difficult to exercise with others? (Probably 1, although I think I play well with others:))
5. Unwarranted Worries. Do you worry that a new job won’t allow enough time for exercise? Do you worry that taking just one day off will cause you to lose your motivation to exercise? Do you worry that you are not keeping pace with others in the weight room or elsewhere? (1. Maybe 2 if competing with Gym Buddy Allison counts for the third question.)
Total score: 7 out of 13. So I’m not code red yet. (Is that the highest level of the terrorist alert? I’ve always been so confused about how exactly that scale works. My airport is permanently stuck at orange. Frankly, I think it’s just an underachiever.) I would add that in our society, you almost have to be a little compulsive about your exercise. Our lifestyles are not conducive to unintentional exercise so sometimes you do have to go out of your way to plan it. And some of us plan everything else around it;)
Jay Morrow, PhD, a sports psychologist in New York adds, “It is the quality of exercise and the person’s attitude toward it that causes concern. Two people can do exactly the same amount of exercise, but their attitudes toward the activity can be completely different.” Which is probably my redeeming grace. I may be exercise dependent but I’m totally having a blast doing it!
PS> You want to see something really funny?? Somebody called me a “health and fitness expert”! Check out the awesomeness (plus Leslie & Crabby are on there too!).