We are taught at an early age that exercise and fitness are essential. The media and popular culture also push the need to exercise frequently. While there’s nothing wrong with being active, you may be entering dangerous territory if you are a compulsive exerciser. This is when healthy can become harmful. According to the National Library of Medicine, compulsive exercise is characterized by a craving for physical training, resulting in uncontrollable excessive behavior with harmful consequences. These behaviors can cause injuries and impair social relationships. These people have a voice in their head that demands that they keep going, and if they don’t, they can’t shake the feeling of frustration, guilt, and failure. They are obsessive when it comes to exercise, working out as much as they can, to the point where they feel like they are a prisoner of their own mind. Here are six signs that may point to an unhealthy relationship with exercise.
You still choose to exercise despite illness or injury.
One of the big indicators of this condition usually involves exercising to punishing lengths. This may even involve choosing to exercise when you’re ill or injured. You feel like nothing should get in the way of you being able to work out. You are strong enough to push through the pain. This can cause even more harm and damage to your body. If you feel like you’re driven to work out daily for prolonged periods, this can signal a major problem even through illness and injury. If you feel a sense of guilt or that you’re out of control, this is another clue.
You workout to make up for meals or body parts you don’t like.
Another major sign that you’re working out for unhealthy reasons is exercising too often and intensely to try and compensate or punish yourself for the amount of food you eat or what you think is true about your body. This is not a healthy way to look at fitness. We should work out because we love and care about our bodies, never to punish ourselves. If you’re doing this, it’s time to ask yourself why and examine the behavior.
Missing a day in the gym fills you with anxiety and fear.
You can be the most dedicated to the gym and still find yourself skipping out on a workout sooner or later. We know that hitting the pause on workouts for more than a week can throw our fitness into rewind. This points to the importance of being active and maintaining a regular gym routine. When you feel a sense of anxiety or fear when you’re not in the gym, the problem comes in. You may even feel a sense of guilt or anxiety if your exercise routine is disrupted. You can’t remember the last time you took a day off at the gym. This isn’t simply dedication. This is a compulsion.
“While gym rats might spend a few hours a week at the gym, such as an hour a day, those who are obsessed with the gym and exercising might spend three or four hours there each day, or frequent the gym a few times a day,” Dr. Candice Seti, PsyD says in an interview with Healthline.
You may beat yourself up if you miss a day in the gym and can’t focus if you’re not back in there. There’s a difference between wanting to keep a healthy exercise routine up and being so obsessed that you can’t lift yourself up if you miss a workout. You feel like you need to be more disciplined. Those with unhealthy relationships with exercise often feel like they need to be more disciplined. The reality is that it’s not just discipline that is causing you to run for miles every morning or not take a day off. There may be something telling you it is not ok to stop or take a break. Remember, building discipline is ok. There is no problem with setting specific, measurable goals, and staying motivated in your exercise regimen. Just make sure your goals are healthy and reasonable. Your goal can be challenging, but it should never be unrealistic. Do what’s best for you and never compromise your well-being.
You may avoid social events due to exercise.
A big sign that you are crossing the line from health to obsession is when you begin to isolate yourself from others because you’re working out so much. Those who have an unhealthy relationship with exercise feel like every aspect of their life is dictated by it. The thought of simply missing one daily workout can trigger massive anxiety, so they may avoid social events and activities if it’s going to take them away from their routine.
You don’t think it’s ok to rest.
Consistency is important when it comes to your fitness regimen, but rest days are just as important. A big sign you may have an unhealthy relationship with exercise is when you’re unable to take rest days. A rest day allows your body to consolidate the hard work it’s been doing. This is also a time for your muscles to recover, adapt, and become stronger. You should be including an appropriate rest in your training program. Those who have unhealthy relationships with exercise often think that excessively exercising will help them achieve the goals that they’re seeking, but rest can help your body a great deal. It can prevent a workout plateau and overtrain, which often translates to a workout hangover.
It’s important to remember that the devil is a tempter. He has a mission to break us down phsyically and keep up from living our best lives. He wants us to be self-destructive when it comes to our fitness so that we separate ourselves from God. Yet, God wants more for us. He wants us to live active lives, but never at the expense of our help. We can be triumphant and victorious without compromising our physical well-being. If your relationship with exercise is unhealthy, you may need to seek help from a therapist specializing in compulsive exercise who can help you get your life back on track. This journey simply begins with awareness.