Are You Addicted to Exercise?

Do you spend hours at the gym trying to burn off those extra calories?                  

Do you feel guilty for taking a rest day?

Are you addicted to exercise?

That was me 2 years ago and trying to steer clear from those thoughts, I have managed to minimize the hours down to just an hour and a half at the gym.  However, lately, I found myself back to these destructive beliefs that if I do not exercise, I will not eat.  There will be ups and downs when you are recovering from an ED but with the help of my loved ones, I DEFINITELY was once able to change these thoughts. Therefore, I am optimistic that I can get back on track and continue for a full recovery! What inspired me to write this post was what happened at the gym today. Before my class, I rushed to the gym to try to get half an hour in before my “real” workout after the lecture.  Not properly warming up, I managed to pull my gluteal muscles and ended up with a minor sprain.  Making my way to the lecture, I kept massaging my bum the entire time and I “believed” I got all the knots out and I could resume my workout after.  My classmate told me “Don’t run so much.  And if you do, don’t change direction too abruptly” – which was how I sprained my butt as well.  So with all this said, I STILL went to the gym after the lecture and big lesson learned. falling on treadmill Do not try to adjust your earphones while running.  Why? Because you will probably end up falling and looking like a fool. On the bright side, I have managed to pull myself off the treadmill when I feel like I’ve done enough.  I used to stay to the very last minute until the gym closes trying to run, run, and run. However, today, I told myself, “Okay, you’ve done enough.  You need to get off now.” So, how do you know if you are addicted to exercise? 

Here are the 7 signs of a running addiction:

1.  You have built up a tolerance to running:  Do you find yourself needing to run more often or further distances to get the same effects you were getting when you began running? 2.  Your life begins to revolve around running:  Do you plan your weekends, road trips, vacations, or other activities around when you will be able to get in your runs? 3.  You continue to run despite knowing it is hurting you:  Do you ever try to run through an injury that you shouldn’t?  Do you sometimes train on an injury at the risk of making it worse? 4.  Sudden weight loss or gain: When you first started running did you experience rapid weight loss or even weight gain if you were already slender but without much muscle?   5.  Changes in social groups/new and unusual friends:  Do you have running friends many people would find “unusual?”  Have you begin to hang out more with your running friends than you do with your non-running friends? 6.  Withdrawal:  When you do not get to run do you become irritable or experience the opposite effects of what you experience when you do get to run? 7.  Changes in energy – unexpectedly extremely tired or energetic:  Do you get a crazy boost of energy after a  great run or workout?  Do you sometimes finish  a long run and want to go to sleep for the rest of the day?   Now, if you realized you might be suffering from this addiction or just exercising in general, here are some of my suggestions as to what you can do:

1.     The First Step: Admit the Addiction

  • This is crucial because if you are in denial, then you will not be on the right path to recovering from this addiction.

2.     Surround Yourself with a Loving and Supportive Network

  • Having loved ones who know what you are going through and keep you optimistic is vital.  The reason I was able to get my time down to an hour and a half was because of my boyfriend.  He hasn’t given up and continues to encourage me and keep moving forward.

3.      Know Your Facts

  • There are so many studies out there that indicate 30 min of quality exercise at the gym will produce the same results than if you were to stay 2 hours.  Also, look up what the damaging effects are and what it does to your body when you excessively exercise.  Can you sustain this level of intensity for the rest of your life?  I highly doubt it.

4.     Reality vs. Beliefs

  • Next time you feel guilty for not exercising because you feel like the weight will come back on, sit back and think.  Have you ever gained those 5 pounds back just because you missed a day?  Forget 5 pounds – even just a pound!  Will taking a rest day kill everything you’ve been working towards? I can assure you (unless in one day you decided to mindlessly binge on cakes and cookies), your beliefs are false.  The reality is, your body needs rest and recovery time is essential to any exercise regimen.

5.      What Are you REALLY Trying to Achieve?

  • What’s your goal?  Is it 10 pounds… is it 5?  Think about it.  Let me tell you…. There’s a huge difference between “I want to lose 10 pounds to feel and look healthier” vs.  “I want to lose 10 pounds so I can look amazing like those models on Maxim”.  Societal pressures have forced many women into developing eating disorders and conforming to what public views as "beautiful".  Will losing those 10 pounds really make you feel better about yourself?  I can almost guarantee you when this obsession to lose weight begins, after you lose your 10 pounds, you will think, “Hmm… I can probably do 5 more” – and that's when you know your on a path to self destruction.

6.     Look at the Consequences of your Exercise Addiction

  • Spending hours at the gym everyday, what have you lost as a result of that obsession?  For me, I lost a lot of time that I could be spending with my classmates and friends, my emotional connection with my boyfriend suffered, I’ve gotten into huge arguments with my family about not spending time with them on our family days, I lost time that I could have spent with my Grandma before she passed – so as you can see, not only does this take a toll on your body and mind, it affects your relationships.

7.     Stay Strong and Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

  • No one said this was going to be easy.  Again, it’s going to be a constant battle but remind yourself to stay strong and that you can overcome this addiction.  These behaviours can be corrected and nothing is impossible.  However, as strong as you can be, there is no shame in asking for help.  It could be from a professional or just a family member or friend.  Share your feelings and talk to someone about what you are going through.
In conclusion, I'm not saying that one should not exercise.  I believe exercising and being active is crucial to leading a healthier lifestyle.  However, varying your workouts, listening to your body, taking rest days are also extremely important.  Remember, it's all about balance and be kind to your body!  

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