Health Magazine

Patching up My Relationship with Fitness

Posted on the 14 January 2014 by Badgereverglade

My muscles and I need to see a couple’s counselor.

Exercise and I have never had the healthiest relationship. It began when I was a preteen, ebbing with all sorts of hormones and strange ideas, and it was the obsessive kind of relationship you expect from a young, hormonal person. I didn’t want to take it slow; I got down on one knee on the first date.

I felt similarly toward food — I was a binger. Excess was my game, so I took the same approach to working out.

I talk about being lazy a lot, but the fact is, I’ve been detoxing from exercise. Because for years, I exercised to the point of injury. Hours a day as a teen. I hurt myself quite a bit — tore my hamstring, sprained my hip, all from overexertion (coupled, likely, with undernourishment). I scoffed at the notion of listening to my body, of doing things the “healthy” way.

I didn’t want to “overcome” my limits; I wanted not to have limits in the first place.

I talk about being lazy and unathletic, when once I ran several miles every day. When I used to be able to do 60 push-ups, or 80 sit-ups (yes, with good form) in a single minute. I could do the splits. I was strong as hell, flexible, and fast.

And hurting myself.

I slowed my frantic pace only when a physical therapist insisted that I rest, that I’d hurt myself to the point that I’d need months to recover. So I slowed down. Eventually, I stopped. Eventually, I realized that just thinking of exercise — the ex I’d obsessed over — was painful.

I stopped working out completely. I flirted with picking it up on a few occasions — ran a few miles here, did some push-ups there. But I always gave up.

The only thing with working out is, it’s good for you. And I’m trying to do this whole being healthy thing, because I want to live a good long time. So I’m giving it another go.

I decided to take up yoga again, because yoga can be gentle.

When I say “gentle,” I certainly don’t mean “easy.” I did about an hour yesterday, and holy hell, are my muscles sore now. Holding even the most basic asanas required strength my body has long forgot; where once I could do splits, I can now barely touch my toes.

I say “gentle” because yoga forces you to slow down and respect your body. It’s not competitive. It’s contemplative. It’s kind. It begins and ends with meditation, with self-compassion. You can’t do corpse pose to fast-paced, violent-sounding music, or with somebody screaming at you to motivate you. You don’t win trophies for yoga.

You just do it, and take your time with it.

Here’s hoping I can stick to this, that the pain in my body won’t remind me too much of  a time when I romanticized pain in my body, when I saw it as a badge of honor. Here’s hoping we can make this relationship work. Here’s to real health, body and soul.

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