Exercising during recovery

I feel like this post could potentially get me a teeny tiny bit of backlash so I’m going to start off with a disclaimer. Everything I talk about today is of my own experience and no I’m not a doctor. If you’re in recovery from an ED yourself, please listen to what your doctor is saying to you about exercise and not me. They actually know what’s medically good for you. I’m just talking about my own experiences here and have had the all clear to be exercising under supervision. 

Now that the serious bit is over… I’ve started running and I’m loving it.

If 12-year-old me was reading this, they’d probably weep. Despite being a dancer, I found no pleasure in running what so ever. But now 7 years later, I’ve started to get the bug.

I can probably guarantee that some of you are probally thinking “you said you’re recovering from anorexia, why are you exercising? Have you relapsed?”

The answer is no, I haven’t relapsed nor is my disorder ‘fake’ becsue I’m running.

I while back I spoke about being a competitive dancer, and how I had so much energy as a kid that I was enrolled in two separate dance schools just so I could burn off the extra energy. All those years later, I’m still a ball full of energy. I’m a constant fidget and just need to get the energy out some how. Naturally, a lot has changed since I developed an eating disorder and it has stopped exercise for me. I’m not going to go into detail about my relationship with exercise at my worst points because I don’t want anyone who’s struggling to get any ideas, so you’re just going to have to take my word when I say I had a very bad relationship with working out.

A few months back my mum got the running bug, I think it was a friend who encouraged her to start running again. To start with she went out on her own, but over time she asked if I’d like to join her. Truth be told I wasn’t ecstatic on the idea. Not only do I not enjoy running, but I’d finally come to an understanding that I do not exercise during my recovery and had no intentions of exercising till I was better. I’m not sure what it was though, but I decided to go with her eventually.

To start with I’ll admit that it wasn’t ok, I wasn’t ok. I found myself on several occasions calculating how many calories I’d burned and doing many ED related actions. I had no intentions to ever go out running again. It wasn’t good for me or my recovery.

But then my mum suggested we sign up for a colour run.

I didn’t give an answer straight away. I felt pretty torn, I’d always wanted to do a colour run and this one was for a charity that helped people with cancer, what my granddad has. However, at the same time I didn’t want to run anymore because I was slipping.

So I decided to talk to my counsellor about it. It took a few sessions and a lot of hard work, but slowly we managed to change my approach to the colour run. There was a lot of focus on the fact that it was a ‘fun run’ and wasn’t what I’d class as exercise. We also focused on the fact that it was supporting a charity that helped people with cancer, I would be doing the run for my granddad and not for the ED. The run was only 3km, so we were confident that if I kept on eating how I was, that I’d do the run just fine.

Feeling more confident, I agreed to do the run.

I can’t say it was plain sailing. The build up to the run did see me relapse in style and on several occasions I thought I’d have to cancel on doing the run. I won’t say that running was the cause of my relapse, I think it had nothing to do with it. I think it was pure coincidence that the two overlapped. Not to mention that it’s been so hot here in England these past few weeks. My body simply couldn’t hand the heat.


However, I did it.

I completed the run.

It was too hot to run, so my mum and myself walked at least half of it, but I really enjoyed it. In fact I loved it.

The atmosphere was fantastic, there were people of all shapes, sizes, abilities and ages and the paint throwers did a great job of covering all the runners (I got hit in the face with a cloud of purple). I think I’d like to do another one soon.

It’s rare I’ll say that I’m proud of myself for doing something, but I was proud of this.

I think that it’s important during to recovery to prove to yourself that you can still have part of yourself back. I know I can no longer go back to the person I was before anorexia, I’m coming to terms with this. But it was nice to show myself, and everyone else, that I haven’t lost everything to the disorder.

I used to be athletic, I used to be able to have fun, to have a laugh and I’d lost a lot of that.

Through the day I found myself tearing up, thankfully though you had to wear sunglasses they provided so no one saw. I wish I could put into words just how big this run was for me, how much was at stake in my recovery. How after everything, I’d had one big victory over anorexia. I didn’t run for anorexia, my eating disorder had no part to play in crossing that finish line and that meant so much.

I haven’t claimed exercise back from its clutches, not yet and maybe I never will. I highly doubt I’ll never be able to exercise ‘normally’ again, but for that day it didn’t matter.

I proved to myself that the 12-year-old girl who used bounce around the house, compete in school athletics, who loved exercise and danced her heart out was still there.

Through the fog of anorexia, I am still there.

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