Um, can I ask a question – does getting into shape involve exercise?
Image from Purdue.edu
Because if it does, you can cross me out. To be honest, I have probably “worked out” only a handful of times since August of 2009! That’s a far cry from my 10-miler days back in 2007, 2008 and 2009, when I would go out, rain or shine, snow or hail, JUST to run for one to two hours – everyday! Indeed, if I wasn’t pounding the pavement (or more accurately, the packed snow), I was probably in the gym elliptical-ling my day way.
I look back on my former running-obsessed days and realize how much of my life and my time was actually consumed by my running obsession. Here are just a few examples of how my exercise addiction has interfered with my daily life in the past:
1. In grade 12, I skipped my first class on a regular basis because I couldn’t give up my time on the treadmill in the mornings.
2. I REFUSED to go on trips (road trip, plane trip, etc.). I REFUSED to accept plane rides whose departure time (and arrival time) compensated or somehow cut into my workout time. (Red-eye flights – a very common happenstance when flying – were therefore completely out of the question for me.) I turned down a chance to go to France to help translate the Recovery Version Bible into French because I was terrified of the long plane ride eating up a day in my runner’s existence.
3. In my grade 12 year, I was accepted into every school I applied to. My dream school? The University of British Columbia. Armed with my President’s scholarship in one hand, and my admission rights to the prestigious 90+ average-only Life Sciences program in the other, I had my sights set on UBC from Day one. I had even sent in my confirmation of acceptance and my family was all ready to help me pack it up – until I changed my mind the night before.
Why? Because I knew I couldn’t do it. You see, my heart wanted UBC. But my flesh wanted exercise. Here are some of the reasons why I chose to study at Waterloo as opposed to in British Columbia :
Moving to BC necessitated a plane ride, whereas the Loo was only about an hour drive away. I was very afraid that that one plane ride, a simple one-day-event in my large spectrum of days, would cost me a run. (It’s kind of pathetic to even type this out…)
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to ship my treadmill across the country (my parents are against gym memberships).
It rains A LOT in BC. Rain = no outdoor running. I was not happy about this.
4. When I came to university, my sudden realization of the lack of attendance monitoring seemed only to fuel the addiction I had to skipping classes to run. In my first year, I probably missed 75% of all my morning classes in order to schedule in long runs every single morning. My runs would last at minimum an hour and a half.
5. I have missed out on many opportunities to take classes that interest me in university because they coincided with my work-out times.
6. I am notorious for opting for a later date to set my doctor’s appointments (even when of urgent nature), simply because the time slots on sooner days happened at the same time that I was planning to run or work out (which, practically, meant the whole day).
And the list goes on… I haven’t even yet touched the matter of what kind of emotional impact the obsession had on me! Frankly, it was like, if I didn’t have my 10-miler that day, watch out. For real! It seemed that even the sunniest day could turn into a wretched day in my books, if I wasn’t able to put in one hour on that stupid machine or outdoors. Honestly, there were days where I even felt that life wasn’t worth living without running.
Fast forward to today. What happened? Honestly, I am not too sure. To tell you the truth, I’m completely perplexed by this phenomenon myself. How did I mysteriously turn from a complete fitness freak to someone who just cannot bring herself to sweat it out at least once a week (if even that)?
The strange thing is – I feel absolutely fine… I mean, of course, I know I could be doing more. And indeed I should – after all, it is healthy, it is right, to at least get my heart pumping a few times a week! But why the sudden lack in motivation? I’m not sure! I’m still trying to figure it out. I have tried to re-evaluate my motives for running. I have tried to blame it on tiredness. But I know that’s an excuse because I have been sleeping more than ever! I don’t know.
I find it interesting that since I’ve stopped exercising, I’ve dropped a dress size or two. (Which is pretty significant on my modest frame – I was a size 2 to begin with!) I also don’t feel lethargic like I used to when dire circumstances (they had to be extremely dire) did happen to force me to miss a day of running. My digestion is great, my complexion is fine, and no, not even a bloated belly! When I wake up in the morning, my muscles feel nice and tight, just as they used to feel the morning after a good workout! Is this weird?! And it can’t be all in my head because the mirror shows me that my arms are getting more toned by the day!
What’s going on?! But I digress. I read SO MANY blogs every day where (lovely) girls are just detailing their daily workouts and triumphs – morning workouts, bust-a-move workouts, Jillian Michaels, sweating it out with 7-milers, weights and pumping iron – the works! But I can’t figure out why they NEED so much exercise just to stay in shape or just to “feel grounded” or just to “relieve stress”. (I guess it’s a bit unfair for me to judge since I apparently can sit on my butt all day (okay that’s a lie – I walk to school everyday so that I can sit on my butt all day) and manage to get more toned!)
Nonetheless – the problem when all these “good” things happen though, is that I seem to have lost the motivation to do exercise. It’s like kind of like: but I’m already achieving my goals by sitting here, doing a few yoga poses here and there, so why do I have to work when I don’t have to?
The good from all of this is that it has allowed me to take a step back and really take the time to consider what exercise is to me. I don’t mean in a literal sense, of course. I mean – what am I exercising for? What do you exercise for? Ladies, if you’re honest with yourselves – isn’t a large part of the reason you’re doing it is actually something rather – dare I say it – shallow? I know, I know. You want to maintain your figure. Perhaps you’re not even there yet and you’re exercising to achieve a certain figure. I’m sorry but – and I’m saying this to myself as well so hypocrisy be damned! – how sad is that? Are we so much like hamsters on an exercise wheel, driven by this stupid idea in our heads of what we should or what we want to look like?
From Roy Stannard
But I know many of you want to get on that high horse of yours. You’ll want to say, Oh but Aletheia, I don’t exercise just to maintain my figure! I exercise because it gives me the kind of clarity that I need to move forward in my day. Sure, that sounds great. But if that is the case, then the real question you should be asking yourself is: why don’t you have clarity in your day?
Why don’t you have energy in the mornings? Why don’t you feel happy naturally, with or without exercise?
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the North American woman’s dependence on physical exercise to get our “daily fix” of endorphins, feel-good whatever mumbo jumbo, is actually just anartificial means to feeling good.
If you don’t believe me, try it. If you currently exercise on a near-daily basis, I challenge you to go one full week without exercise. You probably won’t – and can’t – do it. Because you’re afraid of what will happen if you do. What is that? That’s artificial dependence. And it takes a lot of courage to give up this kind of dependence. Still, I don’t want to be too harsh on you. I would like to encourage you, even if you can’t commit to such “drastic measures”, to take some time this week, just to ask yourself this question : why do I exercise? Can I live happily without exercise? If the answer is leaning towards the negative, try to figure out why this is. What are you allowing exercise to replace in your life? Most importantly, allow yourself the opportunity to be released and liberated from artificial dependence. Open your eyes to many new avenues of satisfaction and fulfilment! You’ll be surprised at how much longer-lasting those feelings can be, I promise.
Don’t get me wrong here. I know all too well the benefits of exercise, both physical and mental. I believe in them, too. I believethat exercise is good for the heart, good for the bones, good for the muscles. I believe that exercise is and can be an extremely effective mood-enhancer. What I don’t believe is that exercise should be a mood-replacer.