Wait, what? But I thought exercise was healthy? The more the better, right?
Hear me out.
While I 100% agree that engaging in physical activity for internal, healthy-minded reasons is good for the body, mind, and soul. However, engaging in physical activity for external, not-so-healthy-minded reasons is not and can lead to increased stress, a weakened immune system, and even depression. External reasons for movement may include to burn a certain number of calories, fit into a smaller size, justify food choices, and/or change your body weight or shape, whereas internal reasons include using activity as an opportunity to de-stress from busy workdays, get those feel-good hormones flowing, and to overall FEEL physically and mentally better. Incorporating ENJOYABLE activity into your daily life has amazing benefits and is SUSTAINABLE, meaning you’re excited to get your activity in and look forward to getting moving rather than dreading your after-work exercise.
So, how do you know if you are exercising for the right reasons?
Here are 5 signs your relationship with exercise might be getting out of control:
1. You can’t leave the gym until you've done X of repetitions or moved for X amount of time
If you find yourself stressing over the number of repetitions you’ve done or the amount of time spent at the gym, you might be putting too much pressure on yourself during your workout. Repetitions are great for tracking progress and for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, but it is important to recognize that numbers at the gym are not everything. Instead of starting over, try starting from where you thought you might have left off in your counting. Another tip to avoid overdoing it? Listen to your body. If you feel tired and over-it after 20 minutes (even though last week you were active for 30 or 60 minutes) that is your body’s way of telling you it needs some rest. Try not to push yourself to the point where you are no longer listening to your body. If you find yourself feeling forced to start over on repetitions or stay 30 more minutes, take a step back and listen to how your body feels.
2. You are working out more than once a day
Hitting the gym multiple times a day may sound like a “healthy” choice, but this may be a sign that you’re overdoing it on exercising. It’s important to make time for enjoyable physical activity, but it’s also important to recognize when it is taking priority over other important aspects of your life. Ask yourself why you feel like you need to go again. Is it because you’re stressed? Was your workout shorter than you planned? Do you feel like you didn’t do “enough?” Whatever the reason, look back at the movement you have already completed and be proud at what your body did. Some ways to try and combat the urge to workout more than once a day is to try something else to relax and unwind like stretching, reading, having a cup of tea, or catching up with a friend.
3. You feel guilty for taking a rest day
If you feel guilty for taking a day off from physical activity, you might be engaging in unhealthy exercise practices. Guilt should never be associated with a rest day because they serve great importance in recovering from activity. When you start to feel guilty about taking a day off, ask yourself where is this guilt coming from? Is it from a need to reach your fitness goal as soon as possible? Fear that taking a break will set you miles back? These worries can lead to increased stress and negative feel around exercise and rest days. Taking a rest day will do nothing but benefit you, not hurt you, and skipping out on them may lead to something called ‘over-training syndrome’.
Over-training syndrome results in a decrease in mental and physical performance over time, and people may feel tired and sore as well as burnt-out and unable to focus. Not allowing the body to recover can often lead to over-training, which puts the body at risk for injury and poor performance. It is actually more dangerous for your body to skip a rest day than to take a day to stretch, fuel your body, and to get some extra sleep. After all, this is the time when the benefits of exercise really kick in 😉
4. You feel the need to keep moving even after physical activity is complete
Not being able to stop moving after physical activity is a sure sign that things are getting out of control. If you’re finding that even after you complete a workout you feel that you need to keep moving, take a step back, and appreciate what your body was just able to do and how it made you feel. If you’re still feeling unaccomplished you may not be engaging in the RIGHT activity. Think about what activities you ENJOY while you’re doing them. Maybe you’re trying to love boot camp class when you would actually prefer joining a recreational sport. Finding the right form of movement that leaves you to feel happy and accomplished is key to sustainable, enjoyable physical activity. Be proud of what your body has accomplished and know that it is perfectly okay to rest after your workout. So go give yourself a pat on the back, and eat a satisfying snack 😉
5. You withdraw from social aspects of life to spend more time exercising
If you find that after the end of a long week you’re choosing a trip to the gym over a movie night with your friends there’s a strong chance you are a little bit too hooked on working out. It is perfectly normal to want to de-stress with some enjoyable movement at the end of the day if you’re too exhausted to be a social butterfly. But this becomes a red flag when you really want to see your friends but feel like you can’t because you have to go to the gym. Sacrificing activities you enjoy because you are forcing yourself to workout is only going to lead you to feel extremely unhappy and unfulfilled. A balanced lifestyle can only happen if you take time to do other activities besides working out. If you find yourself worrying that choosing a night out with your friends is a mistake, just think about the fun you’ll have and the laughs you’ll share that you can’t possibly get at the gym! The gym will always be there, but quality time with friends is irreplaceable!
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