So I went to the gym this morning early enough to beat the Monday morning crowd. The thing is, I’m not sure there is such a thing.
There was one person, though, who challenged my focus on training. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a real bummer. Regardless, I almost always learn something from such situations. This time was no different.
Story time: “The Girl Who Punished Herself”
When I walked into the gym, there was a very thin lady truckin’ away on a treadmill. She must have seen that I was about to hit the weights (very limited selection), because she literally jumped off the tread and jumped (again…literally) directly in front of the weight rack.
Now that, in itself, was not a big deal. I figured she just really wanted to make sure she got her preferred weights. Who am I to stop anyone from getting their workout done?
It’s what happened next, though, that really blew my mind.
Right there in front of the rack, with no weights in hand, the lady dropped to the floor and started doing side leg raises. Being polite and generally supportive of other people’s fitness efforts, I was patient and stretched while waiting (with my back to her so she didn’t think I was a creeper *).
* Mad props to my teen for gifting me this new term for “creepy stalker.”
If her apparent lack of situational awareness wasn’t enough, things got even MORE weird.
I’ve done side leg raises before. Who hasn’t? But this lady’s leg-flailing Kung Fu was out of this world! As it turned out, they weren’t exactly leg raises. They were more spasmodic upward flippings of the lower leg, totally uncontrolled and on the verge of being dangerous to others (and possibly herself).
She did this for at least five minutes…before switching to hit the other side. My workout hadn’t even begun at this point. I was actually starting to look around for the hidden camera!
Am I Being Punked?
As it turns out, this was totally legit. Well…as legit as it could be. She clearly had no idea what she was doing, but it was also clear she had a very specific goal in mind. What that goal might have been, other than perhaps to throw out a hip, I had no idea.
And then, in the midst of all that judgmental gym rat stuff, I had a moment of clarity. In an instant, I went from being unnerved to understanding–and more than a little ashamed of myself.
10 lbs of self loathing = 50 lbs of fat? That can’t be right…
Earlier I mentioned how thin the lady was, right? Well as she got up from 10 minutes of radically fierce leg raises, she kicked off her shoes and stepped onto the scale. I didn’t catch her weight (none of my business), but I didn’t have to. Her knee bones were wider than her calves and her thighs.
She jumped off the scale–apparently unsatisfied–and left the gym at a run. I finally began my own routine, but I thought about this poor stranger the whole time.
She might very well suffer from a serious disorder called exercise compulsion. My heart went out to her as I wondered if anyone has ever tried to confront her about this? Does she even suspect a possible problem?
How much is too much?
It’s a fine line between exercising for health and exercising for control. Here’s a short list of questions WebMD asks to help one determine if he or she may suffer from exercise compulsion:
Do you have exercise compulsion? Look at the following statements and see which ones apply to you. If two or more of the statements apply, talk to your school counselor or your health care provider about your compulsion to exercise:
– I exercise even when I run a fever or have a bad cold.
– The first thing that comes to my mind each morning is “exercise.”
– When I can’t exercise, I’m so afraid that I will gain weight.
– I break dates with friends and family so I can exercise more.
– When I miss exercise, I feel irritable and depressed.
– I work out rain or shine, even in freezing temperatures or thunderstorms.
– I crave the “high” feeling that I get from exercise.
– I am underweight for my height.
– Losing weight has become more of a priority than maintaining a healthy weight.
Now be careful here. Not all of these symptoms are, by themselves, bad.
I run a busy schedule, so I get up earlier than I would otherwise in order to fit in a training session. When my alarm goes off at 04:30, of course I’m going to think about my workout.
When I miss a session, I do feel a bit bummed. If I miss two or three in a row, my friends and family notice my mood going south.
I love the post-workout buzz. There’s just nothing like it!
The remaining symptoms are the clear signs of an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Couple any of those with the more positive symptoms I myself experience, and you’ve probably got a real problem on your hands. That’s what makes it so difficult to differentiate an exercise fiend from an exercise victim. One symptom can overshadow another.
Ask yourself the questions above. If you think you may have a problem with excessive exercising, PLEASE seek medical attention. Do it now; not later. Be inspired and get help!
Why do you care? It’s my body, anyway…
BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH MY CONCERN!
Be a hero!
If you know of anyone who may suffer from exercise compulsion, talk to them. Be courageous, and be proactive. Wingman. Battle Buddy. Friend. Lover. Associate. Neighbor. Whatever you are to them, do something!
For more information on exercise compulsion, here are some links to get you started:
Until next time…
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