Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why do I exercise?

One of the side effects of taking an anti-depressant is weird, vivid dreams.  Last night I dreamt that I could not run around the school track, even one time.  The scene at the track was the most normal part of the whole dream.  I won’t tell you what was so weird about it.

Anyway, back to not being able to run.  After my marathon, I took some time off from running in order to heal properly.  I was having some trouble with my foot and my knees.  You see, I want to run until I am 80 years old, so I am in it for the long haul.  I don’t want to ruin my knees to the point that I won’t be able to run anymore.

Instead of doing other forms of exercise, like I thought I would this winter, I really haven’t been exercising at all.  In one sense, it has been good for me to detach my self-esteem from how much I work out.  Even if I don’t work out at all, I am still worthy and deserving of life.  I guess my goal this winter was to exercise to enhance my life instead of exercising as a required punishment.

So, my subconscious is still worried about becoming out of shape, hence the dream.  It was a terrible dream.  I had no muscle power whatsoever.  That is a scary feeling.

The experience made me realize that I still want to be strong.  Not obsessive body-building strong, but strong enough to keep up with little kids at the park, strong enough to run a road race in the summer, and strong enough to lift a big pot of chili for a cook-off.

I had an “aha” moment after I shook all the fuzziness out of my brain this morning.  I still want to exercise to be strong.  Our culture does not require us to use our muscles as they had to in the olden days in order to survive.  So, in order to use some of those muscles, we have to go out of our way.

I thought about it for a long time.  It was part of my hard-core staring out the window this morning.

In order to keep my muscles strong, I have to go out of my way.  How much am I willing to go out of my way to be strong?  How can I keep it in check and not get obsessive?  How can I avoid allowing weight and appearance to get all tangled up with exercise?

(Keep in mind that I fall in the “exercise obsessive” end of the spectrum.  I do not need more motivation when it comes to working out.)

Well, I don’t know the answer.  I feel like keeping a positive body image will be something I will always struggle with.  But there are things that I can do to help myself out.

For starters, I think it is good for me to take frequent exercise breaks.  Not just breaks throughout the week, but also long breaks, like taking a winter off from running.  The winter, at least in Ohio, is an obvious time for hibernation.  It is too cold to be outside most days, well, too cold to run and enjoy it, for me, at least.  The winter is a good time to take a step back and separate my self-importance from my appearance and weight.

The bottom line is: I exercise a lot because that is how I validate my self- worth.  I have to remind myself that I don’t need to run to be happy.  Running makes me happy, that is very true, but it is not the only thing that makes me happy.

This winter, I taught myself how to knit and crochet from YouTube videos.  It was such a uniquely entertaining experience.  I never thought I would have been able to learn something new on my own.  I probably wouldn’t have even tried to learn if I was too concerned about getting a workout in every single day.

So, yes, I had a weird dream, and I hope I forget about all the details soon.  But, I am glad that a good reflection came from it.  Just because I took the winter off from running doesn’t mean I will never be able to run again.  It will be hard to get back into it in the beginning of the spring, of course.  But I know I that I can do it; I know that I will at least try.  And even if I can’t run anymore, it is not the end of the world.  I will find some other form of exercise that I like to do.

Do you feel like a failure if you don’t exercise?  Do you tie your self-worth to your workouts?  Where and when did that belief begin?

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