Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Exercise Addiction

So recently I joined a gym in town and began working out about four or five times a week. I’ve always had a general problem with laziness, and usually shortly after joining a gym I would just stop going because I didn’t feel like it anymore. Ever since I started taking my meds and taking better care of my health, however, I’ve found I have much more energy and motivation to meet my fitness goals. It’s been a few weeks now and I still thoroughly enjoy my workouts. In fact, I look forward to them, which is something completely foreign to me. I think it’s obvious that my exercise routine has been making me feel great.

But all this has brought something completely new into my life, a problem I have never had to deal with before. My problems have always stemmed from food – eating too much or too little – so having a problem when it comes to exercise is something I was not equipped to deal with. My gym visits started out being about 60 minutes long, which is perfectly acceptable, but over time they got longer and longer. Now I find myself there for at least two hours every time. I do over an hour of cardio. I’m intent upon burning at least 1000 calories. So I started to think maybe I have an addiction. I looked exercise addiction up online to get some more information, and I thought it would be beneficial to share it with you.

Exercise addiction has many symptoms.  You may think, “how can an addiction to something as healthy as working out be a bad thing?” Well, in my opinion, any sort of mental or physical dependency upon something is usually not a good thing, and exercise addiction is no exception. Addicts may feel a strong urge to exercise an excessive amount, and experience a feeling of real dread if their fitness schedule is interrupted. Oftentimes, they berate themselves if they are not able to make a workout. They begin exercising on their own to avoid attracting attention to themselves, and their relationships with friends and family suffer greatly. They may even miss work to exercise. Oftentimes, they have a goal that they wish to reach, but once they have, they create a new goal so that they can justify continuing with their obsessive need to exercise. To put it bluntly, exercising is the most important thing in their lives, and they feel unable to control themselves when it comes to how often and how long they work out.

Phew! That definitely doesn’t describe me. I am more than happy to reschedule or cancel my workout if a friend or family member would like to meet with me. Exercise is definitely not the most important thing in my life. However, I do feel like it’s very important that I looked up this information, because I was headed down a path that may very well have led to a bad addiction. It’s so important for us to remember to pace ourselves, especially when it comes to physical activity. Working out too much can lead to serious injury, and if you are not willing to pace yourself, you will never have time to heal. Remember, our main goal is health, not perfection. Burning too many calories is not healthy – it’s basically the same thing as not eating enough, and we all know how bad that is for you. You may lose weight, but you’ll be losing muscle mass and important vitamins and nutrients too, and that isn’t good for you.

If you feel like you may have a problem, be honest with yourself. Do the above symptoms describe you at all? If so, take a step back and examine your mindset while working out. Do you refuse to let yourself stop, even when you’re in pain or feel like you don’t have the energy to go on? Does everyone who was in the gym when you got there leave before you do? Do you get physical pleasure from the “workout high” we all experience, so much so that you push yourself beyond what you thought capable just to achieve a stronger sense of elation? 

If so, take a step back! Grab a friend and sit down with them. Ask them if they have noticed anything or been concerned. If exercise addiction is a real problem in your life, chances are a good friend will have noticed. They can give you some advice, but also help you to understand that your worth as a person does not come from how physically fit you are, but how healthy your relationships are, your heart, your generosity, etc. Ask yourself if you are really willing to give up those things just to achieve a better figure. I should hope not, and I think a few soft words with a good friend might help to put things into perspective.

I hope this information has been as helpful for you as it has been for me. I have enjoyed writing about this because it has helped me work a lot of things out in my mind and understand this situation a lot better. 

Remember, in order to be healthy, truly healthy, your mind must be healthy, too! 

<3 Namaste

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