When I was in the grips of the bulimic stage of my eating disorder, I was at university. I would hit the gym twice a day, every single day, with the goal to burn off as many calories as I could. I would run for as long as I had the energy, then power walk, then use the cross trainer. I would then sum the number of calories I’d burned and divide it by 3, just to be sure I wasn’t over estimating (this was before fitness watch and fancy gadgets were about that do this for you!). I would not allow myself to eat more than the amount burned off at the gym in a day. I would cancel social arrangements and panic about going home to my parents for the weekend as I’d miss a gym session. The only thing I didn’t let slide was my lecture attendance (good to know one thing surpassed my eating disorder in its importance!). I think we can all agree that this level of gym going was far from healthy.
Fast forward about 8 years, and I’m in training for my first ultra. I’m going to be running 30+ miles some weekends. I run 5 times a week. I also try to fit in a couple of strength sessions from Sean’s Leading Lady Program when I can. I work full time. I have a boyfriend who will be leaving for forces training in a few weeks. So outside of work and spending time with him, sometimes I have to make the call whether to fit in a training session or see a friend. I do see my friends, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes there has to be a call, what is my main priority? At this moment in time, making sure I will be able to run 69 miles in one day is my priority!
(Aside – does anyone else genuinely feel that exercising is not seen as a valid excuse for not being free for a social arrangement? If someone had an appointment – hair, nails, whatever – then this would be considered reasonable, but not being able to go for coffee with my friend because I’ve got to fit a long run in? For some reason that’s viewed as selfish and not something that should be prioritised. In reality its far from it; exercise in my case is necessary to keep me from sliding back into depression. It’s a healthy form of escapism that I need in order to stay mentally well. And I also just bloody love it!)
Anyway, back to my initial point: what’s the difference between now and 8 years ago? How do I know I’m not taking things too far? How do I know that when I choose a run over a coffee date this is not because I’m obsessively prioritising training at the expense of everything else? Well firstly, my training is structured and incorporates rest days. Secondly, I love it. The running and weights sessions I am doing give me enjoyment, they are not a chore. Sure, I am not necessarily skipping to do every single run, sometimes I have to push myself, but I am working towards a goal, and not a goal which is just “be thinner”. Endurance and hybrid training have become an interest of mine far beyond just doing the training sessions; I love researching and trying to implement different methods in my training.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that my training is no longer a source of punishment but a source of enjoyment. I do exercise a lot, but I also try to make sure I fuel and rest right. And I have f*ck it days where I just can’t be arsed, yet this doesn’t make me go into a panicked frenzy and fit of self punishment. Yes I beat myself up, but it doesn’t take over my life. And I’m not superwoman! We all only have so many hours in the day, so it is our choice how to prioritise them. As long as we are retaining some sort of balance, then we’re doing ok.