exercise obsession

As an impressionable eighteen-year-old woman of the 21st century I often get confused by the passing themes of each year. What is hip hop and happening and what is truly not (prime example: that appalling sentence).  From the age of sixteen I found out that exercise was an ingredient that added to the all-inclusive formula of ‘cool’. Spinning, gyming, running, Pilates, yoga, (heavy sigh), cycling…. have all had their moment of glory in pursuit of working your bare ripped abs you’re still yet to gain.

Back then, these activities didn’t really faze me. Guilt over lack of exercise wasn’t a feeling I had encountered yet. I ran on the occasion I felt like it, often to my regret with a full gut a la spaghetti Bolognese, and had a firm reliable relationship with my computer. But slowly, the idea that not joining the exercise fan club made me a blob on society: I must get my body shaking, my fat burning and of course my toes tinkering to the satisfaction of our current society. I began running intently everyday, wearing my newly purchased lavish gym clothes paired with my raggedy old trainers. It gave me a buzz like it always used to, but this time the aim was different. The aim began tumbling into the world of body consciousness, a world I didn’t like and didn’t want to be apart of. I soon gave up due to the height of summer socializing, which then became my number one priority, one of the most fabulous summers of my life just after those darned GCSE’s. I still can’t believe I was so young when it started.


Soon the rich goodness of Christmas made me feel like a sluggish train wreck so I began exercising again to feel ‘that’ feeling everyone was talking about. The burn. I joined a gym and paid my £18.00 a month to get my fix of ‘you’re alright’ and went every evening at 7pm. Meticulously, methodically and soon, religiously. This became a relentless task but I made it through till March! What a trooper. But still I encountered a problem; I didn’t quite understand how my body worked. At this current time I believed my metabolism was shattered, non-existent and my genes were a mere myth, a thing of the past. Without the constant use of exercise I felt like a slob. Sloshing on the weight day by day all because I hadn’t had my physical fix of hard extended exercise. I could feel my abs just fading away if a day without physical strain was amiss. This was my most extreme mode of thought, when it was at it’s worst. I would often cancel plans with people I cared about for the pure luxe of exercise; missing out on moments and falling back on work that I should really have been on top of.

My determination had subsided from my career and work ethic, shifting to spinning 45 minutes a session finished off with a hefty load of weight work. This didn’t feel like me. Finally I cancelled this membership, scuttling away from the personal trainer blabbering gibberish as to how and why ‘I just can’t afford it’ when in reality I was sick of the constant strain on not only my limbs but my life. A moment I’m proud to call a moment of sanity among what had begun to feel like an oppressive obsession.

I learnt how to temper myself; I just dabbled in Pilates and now currently do the occasional BalletBeautiful video. Oh the wonders of Youtube. But still the question remains, where to draw the line? How much is too much? What do I feel my best doing?

My personality seems to only work to extremes, I’m either obsessively and frustratingly determined to do or be something or utterly turned off, without a shadow of interest. The mind and body is a strange thing, it can truly play tricks on you, consuming you with one singular thought, no matter how illogical. These days I often still feel confused by who or what I’m supposed to be with the concept of exercise and body consciousness. As I’m sure most of our generation are. I don’t have a body shape in mind, whether I prefer myself with or without abs, or whether my butt could be perkier like a little firm furry peach (that sounds weird now that I’ve written it out loud).

I don’t know my preferences, feeling at a loss in a world of knowing and perfection.

It’s so often felt that people know what they want from their bodies, that everyone has a shape in mind, that you even have to have a body goal, but it’s not true. Although these thoughts will never fade, I’m happy I now understand the reality of my situation, that the amount of exercise I do or food I eat doesn’t equate to my self worth. One day without the gym doesn’t make me a slob; it makes me a human, with things to do and priorities. Whether I want to mountain bike as a casual hobby or read fabulous literature it’s only relevant to how I feel, not to how my body is perceived. I’m still finding my niche but I worry; with the fitness industry becoming more prominent and necessary within glossy mainstream media I hope that the pressure stops hitting harder than ever. Exercise isn’t always good for you.

Follow Claudia on twitter: @claudiaetherin

Illustration: Jaymie O’Callaghan