Stress Monster

I believe in fitness. I advocate fitness. I encourage everyone to sweat themselves healthy.

Also, I still kinda hate to work out.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the results. I looooove the feeling of successfully completing a hard workout. I know how vital it is to my health. But, it still doesn’t come naturally. My dear husband still has to listen to me whine and complain when it’s time to get my sweat on.

It’s why I write so much about finding motivation. I know that if you’re anything like me, you’ll need something with super strength to push you into the discomfort of effective exercise.

I know there are people out there who crave their workouts. I have -on occasion- expressed concern for their mental health.

Then, a couple weeks ago, it was late in the afternoon and I hadn’t worked out yet. It was looking like I might not have time to work out that day. I had the following thought: “Damn. I REALLY need to work out.”

Then, I almost drove off the road.

No, I wasn’t having a stroke. But the organic compulsion to work out was so new and so foreign, it felt a bit like I had been momentarily subjected to alien possession.

After righting myself and my vehicle, I took a minute to think. Where on earth had such a thought come from? I’m the girl who works out because of strong cerebral motivation, not because it’s something I enjoy. So how did the addiction-style thought appear?

Well, on the day in question, I was feeling particularly stressed out. There was nothing especially traumatic going on, but I’m not exactly what you’d call a low-stress individual. One or two screaming 3-year-old supermarket temper tantrums and my blood pressure will be on the rise for sure.

It reminded me of the compulsion I used to have for a cigarette. (Filthy, dirty habit. I dropped it the instant I learned I was pregnant the first time around. Never looked back. But I digress.) Smoking used to calm me down, give me a minute to regroup. It was rarely a conscious “I should smoke to calm myself down” train of thought. Instead, it came to me in the form of “Argh! I’m freaking stressed out of my head! I need a cig!”

On the day I was feeling stressed out, I had the exact same sensation. Stress! Must work out!

Hmmm…. Well, that’s new.

I was very excited. Scarcely a workout has gone by that I didn’t think to myself “Oh, how I wish I was the kind of person who did this for pleasure!”

I’d kill for a full-blown fitness addiction.

Of course, the next day, I tweaked my knee doing a Jillian Michaels kick boxing video. I talked to the resident fitness trainer about it, and he noted that my description of where it hurt sounded a lot like the pain he had when he tore his meniscus. His injury required knee surgery and months without leg exercises.

I pulled back on the reins HARD. I want this fitness thing to be long-term. I’m not about to mess around and injure myself in a way that could take me out of the game.

So, I took about 10 days off from my workouts to nurse my knee.

Yesterday was the last of those 10 days. And, as we were going to bed my husband said “I hope you have a nice, low-stress day tomorrow. Maybe go and get a massage or something?”

I am married to a very attentive and loving man. But, for him to suggest a MASSAGE? On a Thursday? And it’s not our anniversary or anything? My nerves were clearly showing in a big way.

Without the workouts that I seem to have developed into my go-to stress relief, I’ve been slowly becoming one seriously stressed out mama.

At least 4 nights in the last week, I closed the door after putting the kids to bed and went straight to pour myself a glass of wine. I don’t usually drink while minding my fitness. But I was bumping up against the red zone.

If you have kids, you can probably relate to the parental red zone. The one where you’re tempted to lock them in a tower and throw away the key if they whine at you One. More. Time.?

I don’t like the version of myself that doesn’t work out, stresses her face off, and uses alcohol to unwind.

So, today I did a knee-gentle workout. I modified things along the way, but I got my heart rate up. I got sweaty. I physically felt stress leaving the body.

And, when my son threw a screaming fit because I used the wrong flavor of jelly on his PB&J?

I laughed!

Cardio. It’s the new nicotine.

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2 thoughts on “Stress Monster

  1. It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? People stare at me in disbelief when I tell them they are likely to become addicted, or at least habituated, to working out nearly every day if they just do it long enough. The body and brain will adapt. I wanted to kill whomever wrote that stupid article on HuffPo a while ago that basically said “Well, some people are just born hating exercise and it’s too much to ask of them to be in pain every day.” RIIIIIGGGGGHHHHT.

    For one thing, I remember what it was like when I started running and getting in shape again after nearly 8 years of surgery recovery, depression, and 14 hour work days. It hurt. My nose ran, my lungs coughed up gross things, my body fought me tooth and nail. If I had not remembered that this goes away, I would have been very tempted to stop right there – after all, who wants to be in agony like that the rest of your life?

    For another, when you finally adjust and you can sleep at night, regulate your hormones, deal with stress, and know you look good, I’d like to ask who’s really ‘in pain’ anymore. It’s probably the person sitting on the couch eating a doughnut who has convinced herself that she’s one of those people genetically predisposed to disliking exercise.

    • Diana – You crack me up!
      Does my nose still running when I go for a run mean I’m not in shape yet? 🙂
      I think achieving fitness brings so many benefits, but everyone needs to experience them for themselves before they believe what all of us fitness-pushers are on about. I blew them all off and assumed I was one of those ‘born hating exercise’ people right up until the day I changed my lifestyle and thus changed my life. I don’t even take antidepressants anymore! Who knew? (Well… aside from the hundreds of people who paraded through my stagnant life and tried to encourage me to get up off my ass…)

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