What is the different between ‘training hard’ and exercise obsession? I define obsession as both a dependence and a compulsion. It is so much more than being committed or feeling a bit guilty if you missed a session, it is an intensity that impacts and takes over your life. Exercise is important for mental and physical health so at the start you think you are doing something positive and constantly being surrounded by messages such as ‘go hard or go home’ creates a pressure to keep pushing yourself further and further.
Research has found that with the 7.5% growth rate in the gym and fitness sector, around 5% of our population are addicted to exercise.
This can be seen as exercising despite illness or injury, anxiety or guilt if exercise routine is disrupted, giving up or avoiding social events to exercise, rigidity and sticking to the same routine or feeling like you cannot take rest days.
I used to be a cardio addict, six days in the gym, pushing myself 100% in EVERY session, training when injured or exhausted because the guilt and shame I would experience if I didn’t workout would be too much to bear. As a result, I was constantly injured, in pain, exhausted and isolated as I would always chose the gym over socialising. My periods stopped, my hair was falling out and I began getting regular chest pains and dizziness. But even with these worsening symptoms I just COULD NOT stop! I just did not know how to deal with my exercise obsession!
People would tell me I should change my exercise routine, try yoga, Pilates, find something that makes me feel good. All very good advice but I just could not commit to it and found changing my behaviour impossible! It even turned into another thing that I ‘should be doing’ which in itself bought guilt and shame, all those emotions I was trying so hard to avoid!
Instead of trying to force yourself to change your behaviour around exercise what I want you to ask yourself first is 3 simple questions to deal with exercise obsession or addiction. This may shed some light on why you are holding onto exercise and placing so much importance on it and even why you are finding it so hard to change.
1. What’s this really about? If I look underneath it all?
For me the answer was; "I have to feel like I’m achieving something and always improving and doing better”.
“Because, If I don’t I will feel like I haven’t tried my hardest and like I should have done more”.
3. And that means?
"That means I’m not good enough and people will judge me”.
Your relationship with exercise all comes back to a relationship with yourself! Who do you believe you are? What do you fear might happen if you were to change and do things different? This is where the work needs to start.
All your behaviours around exercise are the very last chink in the chain. So, if you are focusing all of your energy trying to change this chink without addressing what is at the start, what set that chain in motion you are likely to struggle finding a healthy relationship with exercise and ultimately yourself. Work on what is at the core and you may be surprised at what unravels as a result. You may have the confidence to try a new exercise routine, be open to exploring what actually makes you feel good and also start to see exercise as secondary to spending more time with your friends, family, partner or kids.
If you are struggling to let go of that exercise routine which feels safe, fed up with obsessing about how many calories you have or haven’t burned and want to finally start enjoying exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, then reach out and book in a private 1:1 chat with me and lets get started! You can overcome exercise obsession with the right tools and strategies!
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Cognitive Hypnotherapist Sydney
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