Getting real about slowing down

This post is going to be pretty serious, so I’ll start out with something fun.

Look what I have on my feet today!

Yay for Vibrams! I promised one of my students (who is obsessed with his) that I would wear mine to work today. I have had these for about a month and love them. I used to make fun of them all the time, but then my trainer talked me into getting a pair. I really notice a difference when I run in them- I seem to find muscles that I didn’t know existed in my legs. But really, I like wearing them around the house, while walking the dogs, whatever. Now I’m one of those people. Here’s a warning though- don’t wear Vibrams in public or to the gym if you don’t want people coming up and talking to you- because they will.


So, on a serious note. I briefly mentioned something in my post from Tuesday about my workout with Ken (my trainer) being “interesting” and said I’d elaborate more later. Well, here goes. Got a while?

Just a little history on me: I was a “normal” thin kid until around age 10 when my parents divorced. I literally ate my emotions. I gained about 60 lbs. over two years (some of that weight was normal, since I was doing so much “growing” during that time anyway- but 60 lbs. is not normal). I kept that weight on all through high school and was probably somewhere over 200 lbs. I say probably because I don’t think I stepped on a scale during my entire high school career. I was inactive, a latch-key kid (meaning I usually cooked for myself) because my mom worked full-time and went to school at night. Dinners were usually fast food or something that came frozen in a convenient little box. When I got to college, I actually lost weight. I guess it was all the walking- something new for me! By the time I was in my sophomore year, I was down around 170 and had lost the baby fat in my face, and actually liked my looks for the first time. But, when I turned 21, I went out to too many bars, followed by late night trips to taco bell, and was up at 200 by the time I graduated.

Luckily, something in me decided to change. After college, I got a job, enrolled in grad school, and joined a gym. I lost 30 lbs. right away. Then, I changed my workouts to include interval and strength training and lost 30 more lbs. This was right around the time I met my husband. When look back now (and I’m about 10 lbs. heavier than I was at my lowest weight) at pictures of myself in 2007- I think I looked pretty awesome. But I remember that I still wanted to lose 10 more lbs.- always. No matter what I did, those last 10 lbs. wouldn’t come off. I increased my workouts- working out twice a day, 7 days a week. I ate less, I ate more- nothing worked. I ended up gaining 10 lbs back that I just can’t shake off. So, I’ve been battling this for years.

I’m addicted to the rush and endorphins I get from exercise- particularly cardio. I love to push myself to my limits- I guess it’s to compensate for years of being inactive and being “the fat girl.” I’m also addicted to numbers. I let this completely run my life:

Not just time- but the watch itself. I wear it almost all the time when I’m working out- and the data is in full control of how long I go. I started wearing a heart rate monitor years ago when I first starting taking spin classes and running. It can be really helpful, but it’s spiraled out of control.


For example, this was my workout on Monday:

1 hour and 27 minutes of pure cardio (well, I cooled down for all of 2 or 3 minutes after), 1059 calories, Average 80% MHR during workout.

This is typical. I have a “thing” about burning at least 1,000 calories in a workout. It’s stupid- because I’ve had metabolic testing done- and KNOW that I don’t really burn that many calories (probably about half, due to my freakishly slow metabolic rate). But, I don’t know. I let the number control me.

And this is the counter for the lifetime of my watch (which I started using Oct. 6, 2009):

That’s 727 exercise sessions, 981 hours of exercise, and 478,907 calories burned (yeah right- isn’t it supposed to take 3,000 calories to burn a pound??). I’m not showing this to brag. AT ALL. I’m showing it because I need to “out” myself and confront this addiction. And honestly- I’d add another 100 exercises on there for times that I didn’t wear my watch.

Anyway- what does this have to do with Tuesday? Well, on Tuesday, I warmed up for 15 minutes on the water rower (a rowing machine propelled by water- very cool actually) and was then going to move on to my workout with Ken. I told him that the back of my knee was sore, and that I had noticed it the other day when I was teaching spin. He had me stretch out on a mat and poked and prodded my hamstrings, quads, calves and hip flexors. He told me that they were insanely tight- and I was pretty much centimeters away from an injury. Too much over-training and too little recovery. I needed to BACK OFF. I confessed that I never stretch enough, I rarely foam roll  (even though I have the grid at home), I never do yoga and that I haven’t been getting deep-tissue massages on a regular basis anymore (which speeds up recovery time by a lot). When I put it all out there, I was shocked. Guess I’ve been in denial about all the “wrong” that I’ve been doing to my body.

I’ve had several people tell me before that I “work out too much.” Not to sound like a jerk, but normally I don’t listen to those people, because those statements are generally made by people that rarely work out, if at all. All of my crazy gym friends work out just as much as me- if not more… and I’ve seen many of them sustain injuries that keep them out of the gym for months.

But, KEN telling me that I am doing too much really struck a chord with me. I trust his opinion- he’s been in my shoes- he knows what he’s talking about. I am actually going to listen to him, because it all makes sense. The stress that I’ve been putting my body through is doing much more harm than good. And I know this! I know that it has made my cortisol levels skyrocket- which makes my body hold onto fat and makes it almost impossible to lose weight. I know that relaxing more would bring those levels down. I just have a hard time relaxing- whether it’s doing yoga, stretching, or simply sitting still. My body and mind always want to move.

So, this is the new plan. 3 days of intense workouts a week – no more. And those 3 days can’t be back to back. I need to allow adequate recovery time in between- whether it’s yoga, deep-tissue, or doing nothing at all. I’ll throw in a day of upper body strength training that will involve no strain on my lower body. I am VOWING to do yoga (and pilates too, maybe) as a regular thing. My gym offers classes (which are free to me) and there’s at least 2 great yoga studios within minutes of my house. And, geez- I even own half a dozen yoga DVDs.

It might sound ridiculous, but this is going to be really hard for me. I’m so addicted to working out at 100% intensity because I have the notion in my head that the more you work out, the more calories you burn, the more weight you lose, etc. Well, it hasn’t been working for me for four years now. Shouldn’t I have gotten the message a while back?

Having this blog is definitely theraputic, and it will be helpful to document how things are going. I’m extremely hopeful and optimistic. It’s time to be honest with myself and treat my body the way that it should be treated (and stop being so critical of it all the time).

So, to any readers- has anyone had a similar situation? Have you ever realized that you’re working out all wrong? Have you had to slow down? Any advice?

Thanks for reading my book. 🙂

6 Comments on “Getting real about slowing down”

  1. […] only 10:00 on Monday morning, but I already have a lot on my mind. Since my public confession and coming clean about my exercise addiction a couple of weeks ago, I have actually changed a lot […]

  2. Bob Gramm says:

    Hi Lauren – I’m glad that Ken was able to spot something before you injured yourself from over training. Like you, getting all the happy brain chemicals going from a hard cardio workout is my drug. I’ve started to do more cross-training (swim, bike, run) and try to mix up hard interval work with some slower tempo fun rides. Also, am including a yoga class that is so refreshing. Wishing you much luck as you find the right balance in your workouts!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate your honesty and perspective!!

  4. Ahhh, I’m so glad that your trainer told you that you need rest days. Because you can permantly damange your body from overexercise. I spent over two years starving and overexercising my body and caused permanant damaged. I’ve weakened many of my joints, my bones have become very brittle, and I get shin splints almost everytime I run. Even though I’ve gained back (a ton of) weight, my doctor told me I permanantly damaged my body. And you don’t want to do that!! You can push and push and push and one day your body will just completely rebel. I remember that fear of becoming that fat girl again and guess what it happened because my body couldn’t handle the intense workouts and starvation. I hope I can serve as a warning as what can happen if you are pushed too far! Trust me your body will thank you if you slow down. Mucho hugs and remember moderation is key!!

  5. I love reading blog entries as honest as this. Thanks for sharing with us. We can connect with you and identify with you a little better.

    As for working out, I know that yoga, stretching and walking every day is something that you can do without rest. They’re a kind of “active recovery.” Maybe do these on your days off and visualize your muscles re-stitching themselves and getting stronger.

    Keep in mind that as women age, we’re not supposed to keep looking like we did when we were 21. There are other factors at play like hormones, especially if you’re on the pill. It’s only what’s trapped inside our own heads that makes us believe we have to be something we’re not. Your friends, husband, students, and hell, even your readers all know you’re awesome and beautiful. Maybe focus on getting stronger, faster, or more flexible, rather than worrying about the scale?

    Two things:

    One, Check out and CaitlinHTP’s blog at

    Two, this link:
    The picture says it all. 🙂

    Good luck!! ❤

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