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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I don't have a problem

Sitting in a doctor's office for what seemed like forever yesterday with my daughter Grace, I finally had time to open and read my latest issue of Fitness. I quickly flipped through the usual articles - enjoying a few laughs with Grace. We had a great time making fun of the articles about how to incorporate your super expensive workout gear into your professional wardrobe - aerobic skirts doubling as office wear?!? I skimmed the beauty advice - most of that is way too much work for my low maintenance self. I was interested in the review of the most comfortable high heels until I realized the ones I liked were $300. That's a car payment - for shoes - they're not that cute!

I was the most excited about new exercise wear that incorporates slimming tummy panels - now that I could use. I need all the help I can get to look skinny in front of those atrociously humongous mirrors at the gym. Then I saw the pants were nearly $80. For sweat pants. I am not that seriously into fashion for my workout gear. Or even for my regular clothes. I don't remember the last time I paid more than $20 for any pair of pants.

I know, I know, get to the point, what does this have to do with a problem? Two things really made me stop and think in this month's issue. One was an add for New Balance running shoes. I loved the slogan, "Dear daily grind: save my spot. I'll be back in an hour." I thought that was a perfect encapsulation of why I run. I run to escape the daily grind and all of its stress for just a few minutes a day. That made me daydream about running. So I'm sitting in the doctors office, imagining my last run, daydreaming about running again soon, when I hit the article, "Confessions of a Cardioholic."

Cardioholic? What's a cardioholic? I've heard of women compulsively exercising to lose weight - often in conjunction with another eating disorder such as anorexia. However, this article broadened this definition to include people who cannot skip a work out because of the addiction to the endorphins. This article places estimates that more than 20 percent of people attending a gym regularly have this dependency. It's characterized by putting your workout before family and friends, workouts last 2 hours or longer, feeling a constant obligation to work out, compromise your safety to work out (example running at night alone), exercise even when you are sick, or when injured. Working out becomes a compulsion, an addiction, a way to escape rather than cope with life. Addicts find themselves thinking about their last workout and trying to plan for the next fix, the next high.

Okay, so honesty prevails here, right? I would probably just characterize myself in the very extreme enthusiast category. I love to run, but it does not completely control my life. I do find myself running on an injury, occasionally in unwise situations (after dark at a hotel in Atlanta comes to mind), but I can also enjoy hanging out with my friends, even if I have to skip my workout in order to do so. I do use running as an escape, but not to the point that I avoid coping with situations, it just diminishes the stress related to the situation. I do spend time thinking about running, but I don't know that I would qualify as an addict.

I will say that the addict phase would be easy to slip into. Especially in going to a gym and constantly comparing myself to the other women there. It is easy to see other gym rats, or instructors that have the body that I want and make unhealthy choices to get there. It is challenging to be at peace in my own skin and to exercise for the health benefits, for the strength and energy, and for the sheer enjoyment of the run, without worrying about the number on the scale or the size of my jeans.

Finding balance in life is always challenging, in anything people attempt.

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