My love/hate/love relationship with exercise

This week's article is a guest post written by my good friend, Jody Gavin.

Like many women, my love/hate relationship with exercise started in college.

College was the first time in my life I had to work out on my own.  Up until then I had coaches pushing me along, but in college it was all on me.  I was terrified of gaining the “freshmen fifteen” so I pushed as hard as I could.  And thus began my obsession with the elliptical.

Elliptical Blues  

Everyday I would begrudgingly walk across campus to the gym and force myself to spend 60-90 minutes on the elliptical pushing myself to my breaking point.  Then I would reward myself with beer.  Lots and lots of beer.

 Drinking Lots and Lots of Beer (or in this case wine).

Drinking Lots and Lots of Beer (or in this case wine).

It seems completely crazy when I think about it now – no wonder I gained weight in college.  But at the time, I couldn’t see it.  I would get so upset with my skinny friends that could eat and drink whatever they wanted and never went to they gym, when I was there busting my butt everyday.  It seemed so unfair.  Yet I knew if I stopped obsessively ellipticaling everyday I would gain double the weight (because cutting down on my booze intake was just NEVER going to happen), so I kept pushing and pushing.  For four years.  It was one of the most un-healthy periods of my life.

A Love Affair with Running

After college I moved out West and found a new obsession – long distance running.  One 10K and I was hooked.  I replaced late-night drinking with carbo-loading for long runs.  I signed up for a half marathon and then a full.  And then another full, and eventually another.  I liked having something to work for – something that forced me to workout everyday even when I wasn’t in the mood.  But as much as I liked being held to a schedule, I also hated it.  Come Thursday I would start dreading the thought of my weekend long run.  All day Friday I would obsess over it.  And then if I didn’t get up first thing Saturday morning and run, my entire weekend would be spent feeling guilty.  But once I did complete that week’s long run I would feel like a million bucks.  Runner’s high is a REAL thing I tell you.  A real, wonderful, beautiful thing. 

 Experiencing the Runner's High After Running the Army 10 Miler!

Experiencing the Runner's High After Running the Army 10 Miler!

I kept up with running for several years - through several jobs, diet crazes, heartaches, and cross-country moves.  Running was always there for me.  No matter where I was, I could put on my running shoes and in a matter of minutes be pounding the pavement – taking my fears and frustrations out on the road.

Downward Spiral

But then came that fateful day when running let me down.  I was training for my fourth marathon and started dealing with some terrible foot pain.  I went to a specialist that confirmed a case of tendonitis and he didn’t recommend doing the race.  I was upset, but also relieved.  My long runs were causing me so much anxiety and the post-run “highs” just weren’t outweighing the dread anymore.  When the doctor told me to take a break I did.  I took the longest exercise break of my life. Nearly an entire year.  And while I thought it would be really good for me to dial things down it turned out to be one of the lowest points of my life.

Not exercising broke me.

I became deeply depressed- some days not even wanting to get out of bed.  I had some dark, dark days, but eventually I woke up to what was happening and realized I needed to bring exercise back into my life.  I met with a personal trainer and that’s when everything started turning around.  

 It feels super crappy to be injured and as a result not being able to exercise.

It feels super crappy to be injured and as a result not being able to exercise.

I traded 2-3 hour long runs and 90-minute elliptical sessions for 30-45 min circuit training sessions 4-6 days a week. I also incorporated strength training into my exercise program for the first time since high school.  And almost immediately my mood changed.  I started to feel more like myself again.  I was happy and hopeful and re-energized about exercise.

 Now that I am back in balance, I FEEL GREAT AGAIN!

Now that I am back in balance, I FEEL GREAT AGAIN!

I looked back at my relationship with exercise over the years and realized that it really had kept me sane.  But it also made me crazy because I couldn’t find a healthy balance.

Today, I feel like I’ve finally found that healthy balance and by reframing the benefits – mental health first, physical benefits second – I can honestly say that I love exercise again.  I don’t love/hate it. I simply love it.  It’s my favorite part of the day!