A Good Habit Gone Bad

This is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down.
– Will Smith, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Theme Song

Growing up, I had always been a fairly active kid. I did gymnastics, karate, softball, swimming, and soccer. But back then, exercise was simply lacing up some cleats, galloping down the field (because running was actually fun back when your knees didn’t give out), making sure my leotard or swimsuit was on straight, or making sure no one rumpled my fancy looking gi when I sparred with them. And after my early-year fitness endeavors came to an end, it usually meant orange slices, a trip to Baskin Robbins for a celebratory scoop – or two – of ice cream, and a nap in front of the television.

And then high school came along and I found that I was fairly decent at running. I was on the varsity cross country and track and field teams all four years, and did everything I could to maintain my physical status. In fact, throughout my years in high school, I can probably count the number of times I had dessert on my hands and toes. I sadly couldn’t grasp the idea that it was okay to splurge sometimes. What’s life if we can’t enjoy the parts that include tiramisu? But even in high school, sports was two hours of practice after school every day (and then we threw in those freezing early morning swims), and racing meets on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t anything too strenuous – and my knees were still doing pretty good.

Throughout college I continued being active – I went to the gym daily, ate healthily enough, and balanced a part-time job working on campus as well as taking a full load of classes.

But over the past year, something changed. My parents noticed it, my boyfriend noticed it, and even some of my friends started commenting. I was getting in too over my head with this whole “being healthy” attitude. Lately I have found myself attempting to do workouts that, as my boyfriend says, “are only made for professional athletes.” Sometimes I’m averaging four hour long workouts a day – and couple that with a nearly 70 mile roundtrip commute for work, evening classes for my MBA, and attempting to maintain my friendships and relationship – well, essentially the story is summed up by the fact that something had to give. And that something for me was sleep. I only get around four to five hours of sleep on weekdays, which I know can’t be healthy.

And yet it’s like I’m a woman possessed obsessed. I know getting the right amount of Z’s is inclusive to one’s health, yet I’m willing to sacrifice it so that I can do longer workouts. I know, I’m one crazy ass broad. And not only that, but I have taken healthy eating to a whole new level. And no, that’s not a braggadocious statement. That’s a statement from someone who will only let herself eat carbs once a day now. What a sad little life I lead sometimes.

So essentially what we’ve learned here is that Sam trapped herself in a bit of a vicious cycle. And the cycle goes something like this: I exercise for three to four hours a day (a combination of weights, cardio, and then more cardio where I ogle over Shaun T. while attempting to get through an Insanity session), I commute to work, work for eight hours, go to evening classes for three hours, commute home, attempt to make it from my driveway to my bed all in one piece, and then sleep. Those are my weekdays. And the cycle is that the less sleep I get, the grumpier I become – I know this about myself – and the grumpier I become, the less friendly I am (I apologize to my family and my boyfriend who usually get the brunt of these emotional spells), and the less friendly I am, the worse I feel about myself, and the worse I feel about myself, the more I exercise, and the more I exercise, the more tired I feel, and round and round the carousel of hell we go.

I’ve become one of those people who focuses way too much on exercising and being healthy. My good habit is going to be the thing that ends up killing me. Okay, we won’t be that extreme, but my habit sure as hell is hurting me now more than it’s helping me. More studies are being done that say that our bodies have limits (duh, Sam), and that our heart can only take so much in terms of exertion. In a study published in June 2013 by The European Heart Journal, scientists found that too much exercise can literally break your heart. And of course, the study just had to focus on runners, which, as you can imagine, excited me (the person who’s been a hardcore runner for the past decade) to my very core – not. The study, while based on rats, found that a group of adult rats that ran for an hour (at a fairly strenuous pace) every day ended up having muscle scarring on their hearts and were also at an increased risk for arrhythmias.

Other research has also found that working your body hard every day ends up decreasing your longevity. So irony of ironies, I maybe should think about breaking my habit (or at least revising it) – it very well could save my life. I want to be healthy, I want to live a balanced lifestyle, but I don’t want to be a person that sacrifices their health well, for their health. I don’t want to nor do I need to train as hard as I do. Because if I keep going down the path I’m on (no runner pun intended there), I am at risk for an abnormal heartbeat, I can potentially damage my heart tissue, and even harden my arteries. And that’s bad news bears for me.

So if you’re at all like me or if you can relate to this in any way, just take a step back and stop. I know I need to. Our bodies and our minds both need a break. And from someone who comes from a long line of sweet-toothed individuals, I can easily say I miss my bread pudding, my chocolate chip cookies. I love cake like a fat kid loves it. I literally need someone to pour some sugar on me. But I guess that’s what boyfriends are for.

No, I’m not doing a complete 180 and saying let’s all overindulge and be unhealthy. I’m just saying that there’s a balance to everything in life, and it’s in our best interest to find that balance and take it in strides, so to speak. So maybe today, I’ll put down my weights, stick my running shoes in the closet, and choose food over fitness.

Easy A

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