This is a long one….so get settled in!
I have been running since I was 16 years old, nearly 2 decades. It’s an amazing amount of time. There have been breaks here and there, but for the most part, I have been a consistent runner.
I have written about running MANY times on this blog and I absolutely love running. I love the rhythm of my foot strikes on the pavement, crisp white mornings covered in frost and the sense of accomplishment and strength I feel after each run.
When I was 16 years old, I began running for a boy. It sounds weird when I type the sentence, but I know that’s the real reason. I began running for a boy because a boy I was interested in was a runner.We never actually ran together, and I’m not even sure he knew I was running, too. I would run around the pasture at home on our farm. It began very slow, running one stretch of path and walking the next, but I’ll never forget the day I ran an entire lap around the field — and then when I ran 4 laps. It was in those square paths around barbed wire fencing and Cat Tails that I found myself. I began running for a boy, but I continued to run for me.
Over the years running would turn into a passion, each day ending with a run and feeling a sense of power build within myself. Knowing that I was able to tackle mile after mile and do something many could never even think of gave me confidence, peace of mind, stress relief and grounding.
You may remember in 2015 I ran a half marathon, and I made several posts about training for the half marathon. It was an amazing feat, one that I definitely do not regret. However, it was during this time, I think I began to lose myself in running. Running further than I ever had before was a great accomplishment. I’ll never forget the day I ran 10 miles, it was truly like running that first grassy lap all over again. But during this time, an obsession began to take hold.
I wanted to run more miles, more training, be better, do better and run ALL THE RACES. So, despite having a full time job, working a part-time business, spending time with friends and family, I began to prioritize running above all else. Running slowly became a chore. And because of my training schedule, it felt like something I was tied to. So I began to ask myself — WHY?
WHY am I training for a race I no longer wanted to do?
WHY do I feel disappointed in myself?
WHY do I feel like I’m failing?
WHY am I doing this?
WHY am I scared to quit?
In all of these questions, I realized I had lost myself. Something that once brought such joy and strength in my life was slowly tearing me apart, crushing my spirit and taking away everything I loved about running in the first place. I felt weak. I was weak.
Along with all of this, another problem was emerging. Bulimia was taking hold, more specifically, Exercise Bulimia. Behind every race, every training day and every mile logged was also a precise count of every calorie burned. Deep down, my one thought behind all of the training — Maybe I’ll lose some weight, too.
So I logged more and more miles without properly fueling myself. I logged more and more miles, putting stress on my body and causing more stress on my emotional state. I logged more and more miles even though I was both mentally and physically exhausted. I thought I needed to push through the anguish because that is what is expected and the only way for reassurance and strength. After all, everyone feels like giving up, but only the true fighters push through.
In April of last year (2016), I began experiencing irregular cycles (known as amenorrehea), a problem I hadn’t had since my starvation days of high school. At first, I didn’t tie it to overexercising. I actually was very concerned. As a female in my early 30’s, I worried it was pre-menopause. My doctor confirmed that I had depleted my estrogen levels, a symptom common in those with bulimia or anorexia. I knew in that moment that I had relapsed.
So I stopped. I stopped racing. I stopped obsessing. I stopped counting. I stopped hating and chose to love myself more. So, I stopped running.
And you know what? I am happier.
I FEEL healthier. I feel like I got my life back. When I stopped training for races, running 5 miles after a long day’s work and stopped dreading having to spend an entire Saturday doing the mandatory “long run,” I actually realized all the things I had been missing out on in my life.
Like late nights enjoying a glass of wine…
Enjoying more time with family….
More couch time with these two…
More Redbox date nights with the hubby…
More time moving my body in ways that I want to, like taking walks…
Investing more time in my passion…
Time to be more creative in the kitchen…
And enjoy donuts without feeling one bit guilty…
I have not completely stopped running, but I’m definitely only running to the point that I WANT to be running. I have brought back the enjoyment of running, usually running no more than a couple of miles at a time. My cycle has returned to normal AND I FEEL much more saner. I think most of all I have REALLY enjoyed just getting to come home every evening and enjoy some relaxation time, family time and treat myself to some personal freedom from having to be tethered to a training plan.
If you believe you have become OBSESSED with your training plan, with exercise, then I highly recommend you just STOP. Life is too short and the people in your life are too important. There are more parts of your life that make up YOU besides just your training plan. It is amazing to exercise to the extent that you feel happy with what you’re doing – that you ENJOY doing it. But if you start to feel yourself slipping away, then reassess why you’re doing it!
If you would like to learn more about your own behavior, there is a Compulsive Exercising Questionnaire available for you to take here.
For more recommended reading on this topic, a few other great female bloggers have also written on the topic. Their posts inspired me to share my own story and I would love for you to read theirs!
Not Having Your Period is Not Normal – Robyn Coale, RD, NP
Exercise Bulimia and Drunkorexia: The Lesser Known Disorders – Eating Disorder Hope
Exercise Bulimia: Symptoms, Treatments and More – Healthline
(Edited to add the below articles.)