Some people have a difficult time believing in addiction, but most people could never fathom being addicted to exercise. Is it even possible to be addicted to exercise and exercise too much? When exactly do you cross the line from being healthy to being addicted? I may have been accused of being slightly addicted to exercise myself. If that accusation happened to be true, would it be a bad addiction to have? I had to step back, look at the facts, and learn a little more.
Addiction can come in many different shapes and sizes so to speak. Where exercising is a good thing, over exercising can lead to injuries, burn-out and problems in your personal and social life. Some of the questions I found to ask yourself were: Do you need to do more and more to get that same “high”? Are you feeling depressed or anxious when you do not get to work out? Are your relationships suffering? I find these questions interesting and believe it is easy to be in denial about them. One concern I have with any athlete greatly exceeding what is in their coaching program, is how it can escalate into something worse, such as a chronic pain, serious injury, or even an eating disorder. The key is to discover what is driving the addiction. That’s where personal introspection is required.
A very common occurrence, which might lead to addiction, is for an athlete to train for a big event such as an Ironman triathlon. They put in hundreds of hours of training and once the event is over, they are lost. The addiction can begin there, they will want to get faster or try a different race course, even try a different type race (mud run for instance). As a coach, I encourage people to set new goals and sign up for races year after year. However, there is a time to take a break as well. Good alternatives may be to do shorter races or become a volunteer. This allows you to continue to participate in the sport and comradery that you love without requiring to train (or at least not intensely) for the event.
I love to exercise and tend to be very competitive (or so I have been told). Luckily I also love to sleep in and hang out with my family. Because I have an addictive personality and sometimes do a little too much, I also monitor my Training Peaks software charts to make sure that I get in healthy recovery weeks. Having a good coach can help keep you on track to reach your goals, and help you maintain a balance that keeps you from going too far and potentially becoming addicted. As a final note though, exercising has to be better than a carrot cake addiction, right?