(This could be triggering for some people. If you are easily triggered by descriptions of other people's disordered behaviors don't read on.)
I've always been a sporty type of girl. I genuinely enjoyed the adrenalin rush you get from work out videos, sports and dancing. Before I knew what a scale was (basically) I spent at least an hour or so a day engaging in some kind of physical activity. Be it dancing, soccer or a long walk - I did it for the pleasure. There was rarely another motive involved. Obviously I knew exercise was healthy and kept you fit, but that's not really why I did it. I did it because it made me feel good and I enjoyed it.
I'd describe my relationship at this point as healthy.
Then I started becoming more weight conscious. My body started developing and I gained weight. At first I wasn't too concerned, but after a few people commenting that I'd "better start working out" I decided it was time to try to change my appearance. First it started off pretty innocently, although there were more and more days I'd FORCE myself to exercise, even if I didn't feel like it.
Then it started snowballing out of control. I HAD to exercise and hour each day, with only one "free day" a week. I would work out in the oddest times if I knew I was going to be busy that day. I didn't really restrict during that time, although I did try "dieting" on and off. I got to a stage where I would work out up to 3 hours a day if I had the time. That stage stopped after a short time, but anyone in their right minds could have told me that something was wrong and I wasn't heading on the right track.
Slowly but surely my "diet" got stricter and stricter and my exercise increased. At this point it varied from 1-2 hours a day. My food intake became more and more minimal, and usually my exercise schedule was dependent on it. At this point there were no "free days" unless I was sick or didn't eat that day.
Then my family did a mini "intervention" and I was forced to stop my restrictive eating habits. My exercise on the other hand, didn't change one bit. I upped my exercise in order to compensate for the added food. I stopped losing weight, and even gained some, but obviously my behavior was still very much disordered.
After a month or so of "normal" eating I slowly began restricting again. My exercise stayed at the same intensity, pretty much regardless of my eating habits. As my weight started dropping I was banned from exercise. I would still go for long walks and work out at night in my room. I wore weights around my ankles and would sit down as rarely as possible, just so I could "burn more calories".
I would say this is when my relationship with exercise was at it's worst point.
Then I was put into IP and wasn't allowed to exercise at all till I was nearly weight restored. Afterward I would exercise for about 30 minutes each day. For a normal person this would be healthy and even advisable, but my mentality was that I "HAD" to and that made it wrong. Then I started going to the gym, where I would work out for at least an hour a day. I was still eating "normally" so no one minded that much. I was advised to "take it easy" and "not push myself too hard", but somehow I always managed to allay the worries of those around me. But they were rightfully concerned, and deep inside my heart I knew it as well. I just didn't want to face the fact that I was slowly slipping backward, because I didn't want to stop.
After a while I got a job and had no time to go the gym anymore. But by then my food intake had dropped so low that I didn't even have enough energy to exercise, even if I had wanted to. I was waitressing, so standing on my feet for 6 hours a day, combined with early working hours and not enough food made me too tired to exercise. I figured that meant I was doing well. "I'm not exercising anymore" I would tell myself "This means I'm doing better, right?" Of course I was still losing weight, despite not exercising. Even as tired as I was on the days I had less working hours I would try to fit in some gym time. But for the most part I was just to physically fatigued to do anything of the sort.
Once I went into recovery the third time I was banned from exercise because of the critical weight I was at. Thankfully I was not as obsessive about my exercise habits as I had been before, because I hadn't been regularly working out in a while. What I struggled the most with was eating, as my stomach had gotten used to very small portions. I would still go on walks from time to time, and that was enough for me.
Now, looking back at my history with exercise I can say it's an area of my life I need to proceed with caution. At this point my struggles with food have lessened a great deal, but I catch myself wanting to do more then just walk and do yoga. Exercise DOES benefit me, because it definitely increases my appetite and helps my mood (endorphines and all that). But I need to bear in mind that it is easy for my to spiral out of control. Detailing my relationship with it helps me to clearly see my history, and where I'm coming from. I long for the day when I can have the same approach to exercise as I did when I was younger - when I would do it just for pleasure. Who knows, maybe someday?
Till then I still need to fight not to compare myself with others who can exercise more then me. I need to remember that my body is different, and I have a different history then they do. For some of us it's fine to add a bit more activity to our lives, to others it isn't. I just learn to be content with the fact that for now I need to go easy on myself and give my body the time it needs to heal. Then someday, when I'm in a better place, I can enjoy this aspect of life once again.
What's your relationship with exercise like? Do your past issues affect the way you see it now?