There once was a time that I was addicted to exercise. Even though I was dancing five days a week, teaching group fitness classes five days a week, I ran plenty, and did Olympic lifting, I couldn’t get enough. I was working out, or moving my body, seven days a week. There was no such thing as a rest day. To me a rest day was for the weak. Resting meant that I would get fat, lazy, and lose all my gains. Even though-and here is the BIG part-I knew I was wrong.
In college I spent my time battling an ED, exercise addiction, all while studying Exercise and Sport Science. I knew everything about training and exercise. I knew that I had to take a day off because it makes you stronger…but try and tell my disordered self that. Also, spending time in a major that puts emphasis on exercise, weight lifting (Olympic style) it is hard to not to want to do more. Part of our major was to get in the gym and work out, all while building our own periodized training program.
I remember every time I was forced to take days off, be it due to injury or I had other things to do. I literally remember twitching, having anxiety, and all withdrawal symptoms. When I was injured and couldn’t work out I thought I was gonna die, or get fat. Then my anorexic mind would take over and I would eat nothing but fruit and soup. After all this I never thought that I was addicted. Until I took a sport psychology class and we studied exercise addiction. BAM! It was as if they were writing about me. I had all those symptoms. I scheduled life around my workout. I had the withdrawal symptoms. I exercised for more than just health reasons. I would do extra sets of squats or other exercises before I would put on certain clothes.
While I had all this, I never thought about changing it till I went into recovery. In recovery I had to use my knowledge of exercise and learn to use it properly. I had to make a program and stick with it. I had to do a program with set exercises on certain days. I scheduled in rest days, or active recovery days. People had to hold me accountable. It was tough. It has taken me quite some time to get use to it. It probably wasn’t till a year ago that I become fully ok with taking days off. And taking off more than one day in a row (but I never go more than two, I will at least walk). And now I workout for health sake not just to look good and burn calories (though sometimes that is great motivation to get through a tough workout). But I don’t beat myself up for missing a day or quitting a workout early because my body tells me too. I don’t crave exercise anymore. I crave being injury free. I LOVE not being over trained. I can actually sleep at night!
All of this is was inspired by a post I saw on the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) Facebook page. It was about exercise addiction. It is great to see exercise addiction being written about and taking seriously as an addiction. The link below is a really honest and true statement. Now, there were things we did differently, but like any recovery, we are all different. I do suggest that if this is you or someone you know PLEASE get help.
Peace and Namaste.