Friday, December 14, 2007

i caught OCD from a treadie ...

of course, the physical part of running is taxing to my thighs, my calves, my rumpus, which all feel like each individual fiber was pureed. i have a few mini greenhouse bubble blisters, and a shiv-shaped toenail is trying to whittle a stab wound into the skin of a neighboring toe.

and i think my old running shoes are giving me shin splints, but this could be a pavlovian response to the idea of running again. in high school, shin splints was a faux affliction -- based on a very real, very painful and very common affliction -- meaning "i don't want to do 12 800 meter intervals today, coach. i want to sit outside the locker room, running a coke-cola brad wax cup filled with ice up and down my tibia. oh, and i have super bad cramps. seriously. i'm sure i'll be fine tomorrow, when you just send us out on a leisurely five mile run."

i can handle the physical exhaustion. it is the obsessive compulsive disorder running causes that will eventually derail this most recent detour through the doors of the YMCA -- just like it has all the other's.

when i step onto a treadmill, i turn into a counter.

as you know, my life is based on approximations and hyperbole. i wake up around 1 p.m.; i have about this much money in my checking account; no, your hair looks fine; oh my god, i'm super full. when i finally complete my life's mission statement, it will have its own chapter based on things that i will not do exactly and this will almost all be about numbers. i am your cliche: a writer with the math skills of a drunk dyslexic.

things go wonky in that building. the treadmill's screen, from left to right, has a digital time counting my progress backward from 60 minutes. in the middle is a number that indicates how far i've traveled and my speed. the right measures how many calories a 135 pound, 32 year old will hypothetically burn -- based on the other numbers.

and that thing that just fell of the treadie's handrail, landed on the moving surface and was flung toward the radiator? that was the towel i grabbed specifically to cover those constantly changing, workout measuring, standard setting numbers. why did it fall? because 3 seconds ago, when i checked the digits for the third time in nine seconds, i jolted it loose.

in my head, things sound like this:

"if i listen to the black kids entire ep, it will take x long, i'll get y far and i'll burn z calories. it takes me 16 strides to get this far, so if i want to get this far, i have to take 192 strides ...
1, 2, 3, 4 ... 156, 157, 158 ...
i only have four minutes left. i can cover this much distance if i run this fast, but i'm not going to stop running until the calorie burner shows a number divisible by 10."

on top of this, i get very competitive with myself, willing bigger distances, faster speeds, more calories than yesterday and twice as many as last week. and then i multiply and divide the averages and see how to make that happen.

i have to distract myself. listen to a podcast, where someone else's voice will cancel out my counting. even then i sometimes catch myself suddenly thinking: 42, 43, 44, 45 ...

this doesn't end with my workout. my favorite shower at the YMCA sends out a two minute spray of water; i don't like to restart it more than three times. during the first interval, i have to completely shampoo my head. while it's off, i lather soap on my body, then hit the button to rinse. once rinsed, i add conditioner and hopefully get my face washed before it turns off again. i spend the last two minutes washing out conditioner. i don't like to deviate from this plan, and actually get annoyed if it takes longer.

once i leave the YMCA, i'm mostly free. except for the part where i record all these numbers -- including my weight, a total that only counts after monday's workout, but can be recreationally acknowledged throughout the week -- into a workout log that includes how i felt that day, what i listened to, who's abs sparked envy, and why a woman would apply lip gloss before leaving the locker room for a spin class.

and actually, when running outside, i've been known to count how many steps are in a block and how many blocks are in a mile and then multiplying to figure out how many steps are in a three mile run. then, suddenly, 241, 242, 243 ...

let's consider hand santizer as my metaphorical "safe word." perhaps popular with the real OCD'ers, but not so much with me. if you see a travel sized bottle in my purse, please plop me in front of the nearest marathon of "the hills" with a dorito buffet within distance of my fist, and hide my sports bra so i can kick this thing.

9 comments:

CDP said...

I thought I was the only person who counted actual steps on the treadmill; apparently not. I also cannot walk up or down a flight of steps without counting them.

fannie said...

When, heaven forbid, I used to use Lifetime's showers, I found my most efficient process to be: 1)wash,rinse,condition hair.
2)Wash,rinse body.
3)Rinse conditioner and wash face.

I go through the same issues on the elliptical machine...and now that I'm working out in my basement, there aren't even other people to distract me. I made a workout playlist, but have decided I need a DIFFERENT workout playlist for every day.

L Sass said...

Do not, under any circumstances, get a Nike+ iPod. It will only add fuel to the obsessive fire! Take it from someone who is already afflicted with Nike+ iPod obsessiveness!

Beverly said...

I was able to distance myself from you until you started writing about the hand sanitizer. When I'm with the kids in a public bathroom, I get all freaky. "Don't touch your face until you've washed your hands!" Cause they will, you know. They'll have their hands all over the toilet, and then rub their eyes, making me retch. Or they'll wash their hands, then touch something obviously dirty and crusty and I'll holler, "Aaaaa! Go wash your hands again. Wash them again!"
I'll give them OCD, but then again, they hardly ever get sick.

Clare said...

This is exactly why I have to read trashy celebrity magazines while on the elliptical trainer. I'm not quite this bad, but I probably would be if I didn't distract myself with the latest exploits of Britney, Paris and Lindsay. It only works with the celebrity magazines, though, because those generally don't involve much reading (unless you can't figure out from the picture that Jennifer Garner buying an apple at the farmer's market is just like YOU!). Plus, I figure that if I'm doing something good for my body, it's only fair that I should get to rot my mind a little in the process.

Becky said...

I get like that too with the counting. And I have to bill my time during the day in six minute increments, so sometimes working out is just more counting that I can take in one day.

Maurey Pierce said...

Oh no. I am a counter on the treadmill as well. I hate it. Doesn't happen to me outside, though.

I cover the console with a magazine so I can't watch and calculte that way, at least. Listening to MPR or a sporting event is the only thing that helps, even marginally.

Kristabella said...

My problem is the opposite. I try and figure out how many songs or how much of an episode of whatever is on TV until I FINISH my workout. Because, well, I just hate it.

I should look into podcasts.

christina said...

cdp -- um. i think i count steps, too.

lsass -- i have been investigating said nike demon. uh oh.