Are you addicted to exercise?
… and is it a bad thing?
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit… Do you remember that feeling when you first started in the gym? Every rep was hard and tiring. You really had to psych yourself up to go to your sessions. Then one day you started to look forward to going to the gym… and it actually felt good when you left? Yep. That feeling. Thats the psychological stage of training and its all to do with the same chemicals in your brain that make you feel good when you get praise, drink coffee, alcohol or take drugs.
Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins act on receptors in your brain that make you feel happy. It’s all part of the same ‘Reward System’, so exercise can actually be addictive.
This leads me onto my second point… is that a bad thing?
If you’re exercising everyday, feeling guilty on your rest days and not letting your body recover, then maybe it is a bad thing. Rest is vital for adaptation to exercise (adaptation is what we’re training for – the changes your body makes when exercise (a stress) is placed on the body – that means bigger muscles, stronger muscles or a fitter, more efficient cardiovascular system). If you’re not letting your body recover because you absolutely have to gym every single day of the week, or if you’re saying no to social activities then maybe you need to think a little harder about this potentially being a destructive issue for you.
But what if your addiction is actually just dedication? You really enjoy exercise and want to work hard towards achieving your goal. Surely that’s not a bad thing? There’s certainly worse things to be addicted to.
A body builder/bikini competitor may train twice a day and this may be seen by excessive to some, and they may get labelled as ‘gym addicts’, but actually they are working hard to compete in their sport. An olympic athlete running for hours every day might not get the same judgement.
For me, I train for the ‘me time’ – at the end of a busy day in hospital, I go to the gym and have an hour to work on myself. Sometimes when I watch tv, I feel guilty that I’m being unproductive, whereas training in the gym feels productive because I’m working on myself as a project. My mind is never as clear as when I’m training. I don’t feel stressed, I just focus on each rep and my form and the time flies by. I probably am addicted to the stress-relieving endorphins. But it doesn’t get in the way of my social life. If something fun comes up, or I go home for the weekend, i’ll skip a session and not get too hung up about it.
So I encourage YOU to think about why you’re training. Whilst your body might be healthy from good nutrition and regular exercise, your mind might not be healthy if you’re exercising to feed an addiction.
Food for thought,