Lately, I have been thinking a lot about exercise addiction, and I had Carrie's post earlier this week to spur my thoughts. I have not "trained" for a sport since high school; while I exercised a lot in college, that felt obligatory to me, a punishment rather than a pleasure. Now, when ask myself if I am cycling is "too" much, I compare my exercise in my college days with this new hobby.
Then, I felt that I had to exercise every day or I would get fat. Now, I know how important it is to take breaks, and to give my body time to rest and recover. Then, I would hardly ever eat before or after my runs; now, I am sure to bring along a snack on any ride over 45 minutes, and I always eat after the ride, too. Then, I usually exercised alone; now, most of my rides are with other people. Then, I measured my success in terms of how my body looked; now, I look at how my body feels.
When I lay it all out like this, I know that this is much closer to how "ordinary" athletes feel about exercise, than how eating disordered folks feel. And it is pretty clear to me what kinds of behaviors would signal a return to that older, disordered patterns of exercise. But in the end, it really boils down to whether or not I'm having fun with my sport. There's no fooling myself in that regard: either it's fun, or it's not -- regardless of how strong or how healthy I think I am becoming, or how "good" it is for me.
I have never felt as free and joyful about exercise as I do about cycling; it is so clear to me that this is something that I like to do, rather than something that I have to do. That's the dividing line, I think, between hobby and obsession, between health and disorder.When it stops being fun and starts being a duty, that's when I'll stop. But for now, I can't wait for the next ride -- for all of the right reasons!