exercise addiction

Balance in Life

I recently read an article that I wanted to share with you guys. Here is the link: I Stopped Exercising For One Year: Here’s What Happened. I read the article and found myself nodding and saying “yes!” to a lot of stuff in the article. It was well-written and I think a lot of people can relate to it. I know I could.

When I first started losing weight I had to be super diligent–like almost obsessive. I was counting my calories and I had to be strict. I had over 100 pounds to lose and I felt weak–I didn’t think it would work or “stick” and so I was diligent about staying within my calorie range each day. That meant denying myself a lot of stuff.

During my exercise mania days, I ate “clean” most of the time, which means, I stripped every bit of fun out of the experience of eating. Every day I ate grilled whatchamadingle with a side of steamed doojawockey. I removed sugar, alcohol and complex carbs out of my diet, along with the will to live.

Yes yes and yes. I stopped drinking all alcohol for the year and a half it took to lose the weight. I just didn’t need the calories. I stopped drinking all of my calories, which was a smart move on my part. But did that mean I stopped doing fun things like going out with friends to happy hour? Yep, it sure did. I didn’t trust myself in the beginning to make good choices — with food or alcohol. In those early days of trying to lose weight I didn’t think I could have just one drink and I knew I wouldn’t be able to order a salad or something and skip the happy hour treats like deep fried foods and fatty treats. You know how it goes…having fun out with friends, have a cocktail, someone orders some fatty food for the table and you vow to have just one bite but then…things get away from you and suddenly you’ve completely tanked your calories for the day. So I just didn’t go out. It sucked.

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Eventually I felt more confident and trusted myself and I started going out again. I found that I could make better choices and I COULD limit myself to one drink and one happy hour treat instead of completely derailing my weight loss goals.

Once I reached my goal weight I was able to loosen the reigns a little bit. I didn’t stop doing what worked but I did allow myself to have treats here and there. Doing things in MODERATION worked so much better for me. Instead of the early days of weight loss where I was afraid of the slippery slope one treat or one drink could do to my diet, I enjoyed more things and enjoyed life. Instead of feeling restricted, I ate whatever I wanted in moderation and it worked for a really long time–years in fact.

After all, life is supposed to be fun–good food enjoyed with people you love.

Something that disappointed me about the article was that the author quit the gym and then proceeded to just eat junk food. As she said–the dam burst. She gained weight and gave in to all the junk. On some level I can understand that but I was hoping that she’d say she quit the gym and quit being obsessed with food and … somehow found a balance.

The article went on to talk about exercising a lot:

I lifted weights. I trained with kettle bells. I climbed a zillion steps to nowhere on the stairmaster. I yoga’d and spun and kick boxed. I set impractical and ludicrous fitness goals, like being able to do 20 unassisted pull ups.

There were other downsides to being an exercise devotee. Going to the gym was time-consuming. Aside from exercising, there’s also getting changed, traveling to and from the gym, showering afterwards – it took up hours of my day. I put more energy into my relationship with exercise than I did with a living human being.

Again, I could relate 100%. Like with food, I went through phases of being obsessed with it. In the early days I did overexercise. I didn’t take rest days like I should and that lead to burnout, overuse injuries and exhaustion. I learned my lesson and incorporated mandatory 2 rest days a week. I’m glad I learned that lesson early on in my “career” as a gym rat because it’s necessary. Rest days are good. For the mind and the body.

Even with rest days incorporated in my schedule, working out 5 days a week would take it’s toll once in awhile. It made it hard to do fun things after work because I “had to go to the gym.” It really limited my schedule. I wish it didn’t. It was frustrating how much effort it took. Like the author of the article said, it wasn’t just the workout, it was the travel time, changing clothes, showering afterward. For me that was about 90 minutes total of my day and that meant less time for other things.

Things that helped alleviate that in my life? When I used to run during my lunch hour at work. I loved that. It gave me so much freedom. I was able to break up the work day, get out of the office, burn off stress, get my workout done and out of the way and then I had my evenings free! To do STUFF! To have fun! See friends! Go on dates with Michael. The other thing that helped was biking to work. Again, that freed up my evenings immensely.

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Then the author said she woke up from the fog of not working out, eating junk and gaining weight and she DID find a balance that worked. Instead of hardcore everything, she found moderation.

I’ve had to reframe my whole idea of myself. My identity was wrapped around being very skinny, and I’ve had to give that up.

Now that I’m a mom I’m reevaluating my life. I think that’s why this article spoke to me so strongly. Priorities have changed in my life, obviously.

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When I was pregnant, that last month or two I started reducing my workout schedule. Instead of five days a week I went down to four. Then it was three. I was just tired, my body was starting to hurt, and I needed a break. I thought it would be a slippery slope for me–that I’d just stop exercising, that I’d fall off the horse–but I didn’t. I just took a little bit of time for myself. The world DID NOT END. It was ok.

Now that I’m easing back into the fit life postpartum, I’m thinking about the future and what I want it to look like. I know once I go back to work full time and Logan is in daycare, the last thing I’m going to want to do is drop him off at home every night and then go to the gym for an hour. I don’t want to miss these moments with my son. I don’t want to waste what tiny time I have in the evenings with Logan by leaving. I just don’t.

At the same time, I know I want to keep active, stay fit and healthy and have some ME time, too. So it’s about finding balance.

I’m already thinking about what the future might look like.

Biking to work after dropping him off at daycare once or twice a week will be a good option when the weather is nice. It means I can get my workout done and then have the whole evening at home with my family.

Running at lunch is something I’ve missed a lot! I would love to get back to that.

The gym at work is also an option. Is it ideal? No, but it’s something I can do during my lunch hour in a pinch, especially if the weather is crappy.

Working out on the weekends is still ok because Michael can be with Logan and honestly if we can find things to do together as a family that would be even better — like hiking as a family! That’s something I am really looking forward to.

Running with Logan once he’s old enough will be great.

The Warrior Room is another option, too, because they have childcare options if I need it. We also have kettlebells at home, so I can always do that if I can’t make it to the gym (or if there are childcare issues).

And maybe it’s ok to drop my schedule down to 3 or 4 days a week instead of going back to 5.

Basically what I’m saying is that my workout routine/schedule will look different in the future, but I think it is still doable. I don’t think I have to sacrifice me time, fitness and time with family as much as I thought. I just think it will take more planning and will definitely take ME to learn how to be more flexible and let somethings go if necessary. Maybe it’s doing quick sprints in the neighborhood instead of long runs on the weekend, for example.

Finding balance in life is hard, even without kids. You want to be able to enjoy the things you love to do (even if that includes sleeping in on a Saturday morning instead of getting up early for a run!) but still be fit, right? There’s GOT to be a way!

So what about you? Especially if you have small kids/babies, how did you find that balance and what worked for you? What did you think of this article?

 

Addicted to Exercise

“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.” ~Ellen Burstyn

Have you ever been addicted exercise? It’s similar to the topic of Over-training, which I’ve written about before. Addiction is a funny thing. Drugs, food, even positive things like exercise can turn into something negative…

I’ve been guilty of both over-training and exercise addiction. Thinking back to certain points in my weight loss journey I can pinpoint three different times when I was definitely bordering on an addiction.

When I first started losing weight and exercising, I was terrified that I’d be derailed and fail. It was definitely an “all or nothing” frame of thinking (which I am guilty of a lot). I’d made the decision to lose weight and I was NOT failing. I ate the same food every day and counted my calories. I stopped doing social things like happy hour, dinner in restaurants, desserts with friends, parties, holidays…I didn’t think I could be strong enough to resist the overeating these social events could cause.

I also became very rigid in my exercise schedule. I swam certain days of the week and I did not deviate from that. Why? I was worried that once I stopped, or took a few days off, that I’d quit exercising completely.

Once I got settled into my new routine of counting calories, eating better, and swimming I calmed down. The obsession improved and I no longer felt like I would fail if I took a break. I developed a much healthier relationship with food and exercise.

This healthy relationship worked well for about a year and a half. Then around 175 pounds I plateaued. I was frustrated at the long plateau and I thought the answer was more exercise. I exercised in some form every day for 28 days. That was way too much. After that experience I realized that I had to build in 2 Rest Days a week to my routine. No matter what. Since then I’ve calmed down. Plateaus are frustrating but they don’t send me to the gym for an obsessive workout now. I’ve learned to listen to my body and not freak out. Exercise is not always the answer. And exercise SHOULD NOT be a punishment!


The third time that I experienced some addictive tendencies was when I was running. I was training a LOT for Hood to Coast. I was definitely over-training and my body was telling me in various ways (bursitis in my ankle, strained sacrum, IT Band). My body was letting me know I was pushing it. That running high was hard to give up though. I kept pushing it–and injured myself. A break from running was much needed and ended up being a positive thing.

What is exercise addiction? “Exercise addicts may have a very rigid fitness schedule to which they always adhere. They may compulsively exercise alone to avoid attracting the attention of others, including trainers and gym staff. Addicts will exercise even though they are sick or injured, in the end causing more physical problems for themselves. They may miss work, school, or other social obligations to exercise.”

Excessive exercise can be a symptom of anorexia/bulimia. “Exercise addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic loss of perspective of the role of exercise in a full life. A healthy athlete and an exercise addict may share similar levels of training volume — the difference is in the attitude.”

 

Some things to ask yourself:

  • Do I neglect all social situations to exercise?
  • Does missing a workout makes me depressed, irritable and stressed?
  • Have family or friends have told me I exercise too much?
  • Does my body hurts all the time because I never rest?
  • Do I not have any other hobbies beyond the gym?
  • Do I set unrealistic goals for myself?
  • Do I have unrealistic goals for how much I should weigh?
  • Do I ignore the signs of injury and over-training?
  • Am I spending hours in the gym each day?

How to End the Addiction

Most of the time something like this will just work itself out. For me it just took time and learning some lessons on my own. The longer I went maintaining my 100 pound weight loss the less anxious I was about gaining it all back. Now? 3 years later? I know that I’ve changed my lifestyle in a positive way and I’ve created a balance in my life with vigorous but moderate exercise, rest days and healthy eating. That’s not a recipe for gaining 100 pounds.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

I learned that the hard way (IT band). But the injury turned into a blessing and I’ve definitely been much happier and healthier living in a balanced way.

  • Rest: Listen to the body—if it’s sore, rest! Schedule at least 1 rest day/week. (I do 2 a week.)
  • Get support from friends and family.
  • Sleep: don’t neglect your body’s basic needs.
  • Drink water.
  • Meditation: Find a positive mantra and do it every day.
  • Cross train: try swimming instead of running.
  • Get help. Therapy is a wonderful thing. It’s helped me over the years in different ways.
  • Don’t take out your frustration on loved ones. (I’ve definitely been guilty of that when injured.)
  • Get a new hobby. Maybe a cooking class? Something once a week that will allow you to have a break from exercising but will keep you occupied.
  • Schedule time with friends. Especially friends who AREN’T workout buddies. Grab a happy hour and enjoy it!

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” ~Carl Jung

QUESTION: Have you ever been addicted to exercise? How did you overcome it and find a healthy balance?