Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Exercise Temptations

I haven't posted about my foot injury too much lately, mostly because it was getting seriously old and there wasn't much else to say other than ouch, still hurts. When it originally happened, I thought I might take a day off from running, maybe two, and then I'd be all better and back in action. Since that didn't happen and my foot kept hurting for weeks and weeks, I stopped ALL exercise (except for walking around campus) and have basically been sedentary for about two months. Actually wait, almost exactly two months! I hurt my foot on 11/11/11. I only remember that because I was rushing to meet S to watch the time change together at 11:11, and the limping slowed me down. But I made it! Unfortunately my camera was being lame and took the picture at 11:11:12, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, this injury was right after a hip injury from the summer that just would not get better even though I'd taken time off and iced and popped ibuprofen. THEN on Christmas Day, my mom and I went for a walk because it was beautiful outside and I managed to hurt my other foot. Seriously? So that's been bugging me for past couple weeks, but finally finally finally knock-on-wood-I'm-scared-to-jinx-it I think I am close to being injury free. My hip still twinges occasionally and my left ankle gets angry if I stop short or climb stairs too quickly, but the pain is almost entirely gone. All good, right?

Yesterday, R asked if I was tempted to exercise again. I just sort of stared at him. Tempted? Dude, I've been chomping at the bit to lace up my sneakers and show that treadmill who's boss. "Tempted" doesn't begin to cover it. I miss running so much it hurts. Without it, I feel yucky and sluggish and off-balance. I need my exercise like a junkie needs his high. (FYI Cammy has an awesome post about this.) I have a strong suspicion that the mega-out-of-control-anxiety I've been walloped with lately has something to do with my poor, confused, endorphin-starved brain not knowing which way is up. I'm dying to get back in a routine of working out - not to burn calories, but to feel like myself again.

So yes, R, I am extremely tempted to exercise. But here's the thing: I'm also scared. I'm scared of getting hurt again. Between my hip and then my foot and then my other foot, it seems like I haven't gone a single day without some kind of pain, even weeks after I'd stopped exercising altogether. The Christmas Morning Foot Fiasco was hugely disillusioning because I hurt myself just walking. Slowly. For barely twenty minutes. I've been afraid to do anything - walk to the mailbox, spend a day shopping in the city, get out of bed too fast - because who knows what body part will give out next? It makes me feel fragile and useless. I'm twenty-one years old, it shouldn't be like this.

Besides that, I'm also scared of going backwards in recovery. I'm scared of restarting the ritual, by which I march to the gym like a robot, pound out my XX minutes, and march home. The ritualistic exercise takes care of my anxiety and quiets the private fat talking, but it consumes way more time and energy than is necessary or reasonable. If I've gotten away from that, why would I want to go back? Honestly, it's a relief to not have that hanging over my head every day. But I feel disgusting and on edge all the damn time, so is it a fair trade-off? I don't know.

I think my therapist and dietician were both secretly thrilled when I stopped running, but here's the thing: my weight hasn't gone up an ounce. And I've increased my intake. So if they were hoping that cutting the workouts would boost my weight, that hasn't happened. Plus, I'm no less obsessional or compulsive about food weight, meal times, etc. than I was before; cutting exercise hasn't broken that mental pattern for me in the slightest.

So here's my dilemma: physically, I will probably be able to start exercising again in the very near future, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about doing it in a way that is healthy for both my body AND my brain. I do genuinely believe that, ED or no ED, exercise (in moderation) is good for my mental health, so I really want to get back into it. But I don't want to hurt myself again and I don't want to regress into exercise-obsessed ED Land.


  1. I agree with you about the high. It's a huge mental block to stop or even change exercise habits. Kudos to you for listening to your body while you were injured.
    I hope things keep getting better! :)

  2. This is a tricky issue. I know that the rush you get from running is pretty hard to give up, and that the urge to go back to that can be overwhelming. But I think your concerns about injury are well-founded. Even after some weight restoration, our bodies are still in "repair and rebuild" mode, and it's important to be conscious (as you are, obviously) that you might be more vulnerable than most people.

    Addressing how to exercise in a healthy, intuitive way is something that you'll have to address in recovery, either sooner or later. But I guess the question is whether you think now, when you're still in obsessional mode with food-related things, is the best time to do that. Then again, it may be good to do it at a time when you have the support of a treatment team, like now. I'm not weighing in on either side of the question, just musing. Have you tried making a list of all the benefits to the break from exercise (more free time, more schedule flexibility, less pain, etc etc)? And what benefit you expect to have from starting it up again? Or some rules to keep it from becoming too rigid (how oxymoronic does that sound, lol...). Just brainstorming here.

    I have to say I have a HUGE amount of respect for how you were able to go cold-turkey for the sake of your health, especially with increasing intake at the same time. That takes an immense amount of fortitude and you should be very proud.