MISSUSRIVERRAT's blog on October 11th www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
touched on many thought provoking topics, but the one that really caught my attention was her reference to "positive addictions," most notably exercise.
I think we have all heard the research of how exercise releases endorphins in our brains, making us feel happy and less sensitive to pain. And most of us have experienced a sense of well-being during and/or after exercising. There is the long known "runner's high" (which always eluded me during my few and brief efforts at jogging). Then also we notice other benefits such as lost pounds and inches, increased energy, and better endurance. Those also make exercise highly reinforcing.
MISSUSRIVERRAT suggested maybe we should call positive addictions "ingrained good habits," and certainly that is how I think of what has become a need to exercise daily, as well as my need to stay in a certain calorie range. Those ingrained habits allowed me to lose a whole bunch of weight, go off blood pressure medication and just be in better shape for most things in life.
But here is the thing. I'm a little compulsive. Ok, a little more than a little compulsive. I don't need medication, but I can get really driven about things. Like exercise. I don't do really strenuous exercise. My main exercise is walking briskly. I do that about an hour a day with some supplemental activities and aim for a minimum of 500 minutes of exercise a week and the hope I am burning at least 2000 calories in that period. I don't think it is excessive, but others might. I sometimes wonder at the amount of exercise others do but they don't think it is excessive either.
Where does the positive part of the addiction take a negative turn? In the summer of 2011, I managed to get tendonitis along the top of both my feet. I still walked each and every day. At that point in my weight loss, I was probably only walking 30 minutes. Some days I was in such pain, my regular route (because you KNOW I have a regular route, being as compulsive as I am, LOL) took 40 or 45 minutes due to how hard it was for me to walk. But I kept moving. Is that will power? Addiction? Nuts? Not sure, but that is how I am.
Last April, I had minor, outpatient surgery on my parathyroid and had to go under anesthesia. I walked the morning of my surgery and the next day went for 30 minutes instead of my usual 60. The day after that, I was very tired and skipped the walk, taking a nap instead. I haven't missed exercising in some form, to burn at least 200 calories, since that late day in April. Is that too much? Too compulsive?
What about when we're just exhausted? How do we know if it is our bodies telling us it is important to rest or if exercising will make us feel better? I think a lot of us aren't the best at listening to our bodies. I know my skills in that area can be pretty shaky. Or what if we are actually sick? If it is just a cold, I'd say exercise if you feel like it and wouldn't think twice about exercising myself. What about a bad cold? What about the flu? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't keep going if I had a fever and other flu symptoms. What about a minor injury? I kept walking last summer with my injured feet, though I did stop going to the beach until they healed because the sand is so unstable. Which broke my heart because I love walking on the beach with friends and dogs, beach combing and soaking in the serenity.
Anyway, no deep thoughts here. Just pondering and wanting to be aware of how helpful my positive addictions are but also aware that at some point I might need to take a break for a day or two or more. And the world WILL go on and I WILL exercise again. It just might not feel that way at first.