An Obsession with Exercise
Since I started this blog I’ve received many emails asking me for advice on subjects such as eating and exercise. I am very flattered that people consider my advice worthwhile! I too have struggled with the same issues (and a whole lot more). I’m not sure I am qualified to be giving advice but I will do my best to answer your questions, including one from a reader who would like to know what type of exercise I do and how often. There is no short answer to this question, so bear with me!
After I turned 30 I realized that for the first time in my life I needed to make an effort to lose a few pounds! I really had no clue where to start so I hired a trainer and hit the gym daily for a hardcore workout. I’d be in the gym by 5:15 every morning and I would follow the very regimented schedule that the trainer set up. In keeping with my Type A personality I never missed a single day. Even when I was sick! And my preoccupation with exercise didn’t end when I was finished at the gym. During my lunch break at work I would take a 3-4 mile walk. When I came home from work I would do Pilates between giving Maya a bath and cooking dinner. I fit exercise in every extra second that I could even though I knew I was doing way too much and not eating nearly enough to sustain my activity level. What can I say? I never do anything halfway.
After a while my knees started killing me from the 50+ lunges I was doing a day and my killer runs. I was also sick all the time. I felt terrible and looked even worse. I was stressed out trying to find time to get in enough activity. All signs indicated that I needed to lay off of the gym but my ever-important schedule took precedence over common sense.
By fall of 2008 my knee was in really bad shape. I had an MRI done and I found out that not only had I worn my cartilage down to nothing but I also found out that I had arthritis! (Yes, I am a 100-year-old trapped in a 33-year-old’s body). The doctor told me I had to stop running or my knee would get worse. So I stopped running but became addicted to the exercise bike instead. I channeled Lance Armstrong and did ridiculous intervals that he probably couldn’t even keep up with (okay I’m sure he could). But then one day I pedaled too hard and it suddenly felt like my knee cap was no longer attached to my knee. It was extremely painful and for after a few days with no improvement I visited the doctor again. He took one look at me and said, “You need to stop exercising. There is nothing else I can do for you.”
After I moved past my irritation at his lack of concern and the waste of my $35 copay, I totally panicked. I was convinced that if I stopped going to the gym I would gain weight. I decided that a bad knee was better than the alternative and I ignored my crappy doctor’s advice. I bought a knee brace and started running and using the elliptical again. I also swam laps like my life depended on it…for 50 minutes at 5:30 in the morning! Can we say…obsessive?
One day I was telling my dad how much my knee hurt and how annoyed I was that it was never going to get better. My dad listened and then looked at me and asked me why I kept killing myself at the gym if my knee hurt? So I gave him the whole story…that I was nervous I would gain a bunch of weight if I stopped, that I had to stick to my schedule, etc. and he said, “Ameena, maybe if you stop thinking about it so much the weight will take care of itself.”
While I’d heard my father’s words before – from Ali, a dietician, and many friends – the fact that they came from my dad of all people really hit home. He was right. I needed to let things fall into place on their own. I couldn’t keep obsessing! I soon began the long process of changing my outlook on eating and exercise: I adopted a much less strenuous workout schedule. I joined YogaWorks. I bought a proper bike rode it without thinking about the distance and speed I was going. Instead of my morning death march on the treadmill I walked with Maya through the neighborhood at a leisurely pace. On top of all that I kicked my sugar habit. And guess what? I didn’t gain a single pound. In fact, I actually lost a few.
I still exercise every day but no longer at the pace I used to. I do yoga 3-4 days a week (from yogadownload.com), I run 1-2 days a week, I do strength training 2-3 days a week, and I walk a few miles every day. Sometimes I throw in the 30-day Shred for good measure. I also did the Fat Flush Plan which changed my entire outlook on eating. And guess what? I weigh six pounds less now than I did at the height of my exercising days. I am back to my pre-Maya weight! But more importantly I feel better because I am not fixated on how best to utilize my time to burn another calorie.
I can’t say that I don’t ever wonder if I am getting in enough cardio. Is my 45 minute walk enough? Should I be running more than 1-2 times a week? Is yoga really a workout? Sometimes I cave and do more than I should. And then my knee starts hurting again and I realize how stupid I was and I vow to change and I do. Until the next time I cave. But nobody’s perfect though, right? All I can do is keep trying.
Can anyone else relate? Any suggestions on how to overcome this kind of thing?