Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Breakdowns Can Lead to Breakthroughs

Me in October

I did it again - I never thought I would, I thought I knew the signs, but I did even so. I got addicted to exercise. 

The mad thing is, over summer I was deep in Melanie Tonia Evans' Quanta Freedom Healing and dealing with my eating problems, which involved peeling away no end of hidden layers of self-hatred. But even as I was up-levelling, I didn't notice how I was punishing my body.

It happened so subtly, but looking back, the start of it was my love of Insanity Max30. I adored the whole 'push yourself harder every time' thing - so much so that I began applying it to every workout I had. I had to get further through each time, or lift heavier each time. But there wasn't enough time to keep up my cardio fitness at peak, whilst also keeping my strength at peak too. So the workouts grew longer - half an hour cardio and half an hour weights in the week, then an hour cardio and an hour weights at the weekend. I stopped going out walking so regularly, because it felt like I was wasting time I could be 'pushing myself'. If a day passed when I didn't 'press play', I felt overwhelming guilt - even if I had a headache, or a cold or something. 

So all the parts of the Beachbody ethos that had once motivated me were now tools of my oppression. Meanwhile, my body was failing. 

I'd originally taken up exercise to ensure I was fit enough to work. The original aim was to not feel like an old lady when I woke in the mornings, and to be strong enough to continue working as a physio into my 80s and beyond. That aim was now lost, and there was no aim in sight. No achievement was going to be good enough. I now had an ever-moving 'better, stronger, faster' goal that was always two steps beyond what I was achieving. 

My performance - in fact my entire life - began to suffer. I began to have joint pain on getting out of bed again - every morning. I found I was exhausted by the end of the day. Sometimes I was dreading getting home because of the workouts ahead. I'd end them shaking and feeling faint. I had constant back and neck pain, even in bed, but I couldn't admit this, not least to myself. My body was screaming, but I had closed my ears. I was emotionally in such a good place that I was able to refuse to pay attention to my physical feelings.

Then on Halloween I got ill. And you know the mad thing? I had so lost touch with my body, that I didn't recognise I had a tummy bug, or food poisoning or something. I went into work with diarrhoea and feeling nauseous and feverish because I had decided that I was having - wait for it - a PANIC ATTACK.

I ended up with colleagues telling me to go home, and me just crying and saying I was being stupid and weak. Then I threw up. It was actually a relief, because even I couldn't deny that I was ill. I went home.

When I came out of the fuddle of fever, I looked back at what had happened, and realised I had been punishing my body - because I hated it for being fat. So I've QFHed on that (and on all the pains), and am coming to terms with that whole fat thing. Again, a whole new bunch of hidden self-hatred. But immediately I realised that I wanted to start listening to my body, so I ditched the workouts for a week and began doing yoga, specifically Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.

This is Adriene, and she's sorted me out - for now

I cannot believe how much I love yoga, and how much I love Adriene! She is so personable that she makes me feel happy even when I am contorted into positions that make it difficult for me to breathe. At which point she will usually say 'we'll stay here for three breaths', blithely disregarding how those three breaths are so shallow for me that they take about three seconds. 

After that week, I re-introduced my other workouts. But I don't look to see how far I got last time, or how much I lifted last time. I listen to how far I can go now, today. My weekday routine is now 20-40 minutes of cardio and/or weights, then 15-40 minutes of yoga, to make about an hour a day. At the weekend I go for a walk, or I don't exercise, or I do some more yoga, whatever I feel like doing. If I feel tired in the week, I just do the yoga. It's about listening to me and paying attention to me. 

The neck and back pain has gone. I am more supple already, and stronger on those chaturanga things than I was at the start, which has really surprised me given how many push-up variations I used to do. My energy is back - and it's nearly Christmas! Hooray! New Year, New Me - a me who listens to myself, my Inner Child and my own Body. 


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