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The Cure for Compulsive Over Exercise

Posted Aug 20 2009 10:31pm
This is what happens when you tell me you "have to go number 2" 10 minutes after we passed the last gas station for 100 miles.

My Summer Vacation
by Charlotte Andersen

I learned a lot of things on my summer vacation:

1. Not only do my kids not like audio books, it turns out my husband and I do not like them either. Narrators are boring compared to the voices in my head! They all talk funny. And slow.
2. There are 17 different Jen/Jennie/Jennifers in my cell phone but not a single Jenny - a strange factoid I discovered when we went 4 hours straight without a cell phone signal. Apparently I still feel the need to fondle the little gadget even if I can't use it. But hey, I have the neatest contacts list in the Midwest ever. And you should see my wallpaper!
3. I cannot tell the difference between Iowa and Ohio. My apologies to any of you who may live in those states. If it makes you feel any better, before I moved here Minnesota and Michigan were all part of the same cheese curd to me.

Oh, and I learned I can go nine straight days without formal exercise! As a compulsive exerciser, this is a big deal. A really big deal. A deal of Mount Rushmore-ian (we passed South Dakota, hey-o!) proportions.

The day before we embarked on our 7-states-in-two-weeks Trip O' Fun & Family (& Gas Station Bathrooms), I was chatting on the phone with my sister.

"So are you going to get up early and run every day like you normally do?" she asked more by way of conversation than curiosity. My dedication to my fanatical exercise is legendary in my family. I assuage my guilt for eating my brother's deliciously sinful chocolate zucchini cake and they get ample time to talk about me. Plus nothing beats watching the sun rise over the Rocky Mountains. Win-win!

This year was going to be different though. "Nope," I said trying to sound calm.

"Oh yeah, it hurts to run now, I remember. So you're going to kickbox? Power walk? Find a local park and Monkey Bar Gym all over it?"

"Nope."

"Nothing?" she sounded rightfully incredulous.

"Nothing organized. Not even yoga," I said firmly.

This year - without announcing it here first because I wasn't sure if I could stick to it and I'm wussy like that - I decided I was going to make my annual vacation an exercise vacation as well. All the experts agree that taking regular breaks from exercise is good for you. Elite athletes do it but you don't have to be Michael Phelps to benefit from a long(ish) period of active rest and relaxation.

Smart people build these breaks guilt-free into their workout schedule but in the past five years the only time I've ever taken a break was under doctor's orders. You remember what happened last year. And even then it was never longer than a week. True story: after my last baby was born, I was so anxious to get back into shape that I packed the little sucker into a carrier at two days old and headed for the treadmill at my gym. They kicked me out. Turns out there are rules against walking on treadmills with fragile infants strapped to your chest. Who knew?

One of the hallmarks of compulsive over exercising is the inability to take breaks. As opposed to exercise for the sake of joy and health, the routine becomes fear-based and unhealthy. I'd like to say that pregnancy cured me of my compulsion. While it nipped the two-a-day workouts in the bud midway through the first trimester and has caused me to modify my workouts, I still felt bound to my every day exercise routine even when my body was exhausted (growing a placenta is remarkably hard work!) and really wasn't up for it. I couldn't take a break.

And then came my vacation. I was Burned Out. In every aspect of my life. So I decided to make it a total vacation: no blogging, Internet surfing or reading about fitness and... no exercise. At least, no planned exercise. I packed my cross trainers - we were headed to the mountains after all - but I left all my other exercise stuff at home (even my sports bra!) to remove the temptation. It worked! Sure, I played a couple of heart-pumping games of frisbee and did some day hiking and swimming but I was so busy enjoying being with my family and friends (and trying to contain three little boys bent on throwing themselves off the nearest waterfall) that I was able to squelch that little knot of anxiety that formed in my stomach a couple of times a day, particularly at meal times.

I didn't work out and I didn't restrict my food. In case you missed the memo: The world did not end.

It felt good. Still, I was nervous coming home. Even though we got in at 2:30 in the morning after driving for 16 straight hours, I still went to the gym that same day for an hour of Body Pump (remarkably versatile class when you're pregnant!). Perhaps that wasn't smart. Or maybe it was okay. I'm not sure. I'm still thinking about my relationship to exercise. But at least now I know that I can (not) do it.

Oh, and I learned one more thing: Despite being gone nearly two weeks, my gym has not got one single new magazine. Do they not realize I have gone for two whole weeks without knowing who Jon Gosselin is dating?!? Priorities, people.

That's what I learned on my summer vacation - it's all about your priorities.

What do you do? Do you regularly schedule rests into your workout schedule? Do you just let life tell you when to rest? Anyone else unable to take a workout break? Or are you a recovered exercise addict? All suggestions welcome!

And to thank you all for waiting for me I have an exciting Week of Giveaways lined up! Next week, every day, I'll be giving stuff away. Good stuff too! Monday kicks off with a $100 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods so be sure to check back in.

Now I want to hear all about your summer vacations! Off to catch up on your blogs.

Yeah, we wear dresses and ties when we camp - don't you??
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