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Exercise Addiction (It’s a thing)


Exercise Addiction (It’s a thing).

Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking: “exercise addiction is just a thing that lazy people say about people who appreciate lifting.” Well, here is a competitive Strongman who is saying it as well.

In my personal experience, exercise addiction is something I see most in people who have made a radical change in their lifestyle or body composition. For example, ex-drug addicts, those who struggled with body image issues (both anorexic and “bigorexic”), or those who used to be overweight. In this case, the exercise can be a symptom of a different problem: self-control, and the fear of losing it.

For folks who have made a radical change to their life, exercise is seen as the key that changed it, and all that stands in the way of the old lifestyle coming back and gaining control. What I see in athletes that suffer from this, as I used to suffer from it, the feeling usually is that if you stop lifting, even for a day, you will lose all the progress you have made, and you feel like you will lose that control over your life.

This is where exercise is no longer a good or beneficial thing in your life, because it is the new thing that has taken control of your life. There is absolutely such a thing as too much exercise, especially in regards to lifting. Recently, someone I know was hit with a case of Rhabdo, and it is no joke. He was literally pissing his muscle tissue out with his urine, and he still would not take time off from lifting. “If it kills ya, it kills ya”, he stated.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like dying over a set of 315lb back squats, just because I can’t take a break.

I want to mention Crossfit here a little bit, but don’t get pissed. What I love about Crossfit is the fact that, monkey business aside, if I meet a Crossfitter, I am meeting someone that already knows to squat below parallel, what a clean is, and the difference between a push press and jerk. Crossfit introduces a lot of my future clients to lifting, and it introduces them to a different style of lifting than just what is in bodybuilding magazines.

That being said, I think some of the mental approaches to Crossfit are partly responsible for the exercise addiction I see so much in the Crossfit community. Now, it could be due to the fact that there are so many Crossfitters, it just SEEMS like they do it more than others, but I think they do, even when adjusted for lifting population ratios.

The mentality I speak of, is the mentality that you always need to be moving/working weaknesses/active recovery/training for life/etc.

All of these things are great, but as you can probably guess, telling someone with a history of control or substance issues, that they should be in the gym every day, even if it is just for “mobility/active recovery”, is probably not a great idea. Every single day, I see athletes who go into the gym for “active recovery”, turn their active recovery workout into a full blown workout, with maybe a metcon or two, FOLLOWED by more active recovery. Where exactly is this magical recovery taking place? Not in the gym, I say. If you want to truly recover, you need to not walk into the gym. You need to stay home, shove food in your face hole, and realize that not only will taking prescribed weekly rest days NOT bring your lifts down, it will make you stronger, and improve your mental state.

Someone who needs to be in the gym every day just to keep depression off, is probably not in the best of mental states. I would know, after all.

Do you know someone that is suffering from exercise addiction? If you do, don’t be the person to guilt them into doing your daily WOD. If they have a rest day, leave them the hell alone, because you are personally bringing them down at that point.


8 thoughts on “Exercise Addiction (It’s a thing)

  1. Great words here! I was heading down that path in my first year of lifting. I was going 6 days per week with 2 double days, and sometimes I would make my way in to the gym on my one rest day… Did I see gains? Yeah… But at what cost? A lower back injury that had me sidelined for 6 months. Now I go 4 days per week (sometimes only 3!), and take rest days seriously. No “active recovery”. No metcons. No. Just work, eat, and sleep. Thanks for another great article!

  2. This is certainly a great article, and great to connect the transfer of addiction. However, what about people that are in the gym 5-7 days a week for a few hours of lifting a day (not just being in the gym waiting for a machine, rack, etc.)? I understand that every person and their body is different, but is there a general rule of thumb that someone is in thy gym and/or lifting too much/long/often (however you want to term it)? I guess I ask this to help curb a gym addition before an incidence of over training occurs.

  3. I would definitely put that under an exercise addiction. If you are in the gym 5-7 days a week, a few hours at a time, you probably aren’t doing anything too worthwhile, your body doesn’t have time to recover. Unless you are on a very structured program, you are probably just there because you feel you need to.

  4. Whoa you nailed it. I’m a former addict with a full blown exercise addiction. I definitely do feel like I’m going to lose progress every day I can’t make it into the gym. Fortunately with my schedule at work, I usually have two days a week where I can’t work out, although I do have a physical job. The older I get, the more I feel like it’s catching up with me. My body is just screaming at me some days to chill out. Guess I have to learn to listen to it better.

    One other thing to add, lifting definitely fills a hole left by addiction. Its a productive way to blow off some steam, and I guess it gets the right chemicals flowing in the brain. Everything in moderation I suppose. Not something I thought about before this article, so thank you.

  5. This is most likely why I’m now facing two torn shoulders, hip tear and patella syndrome. I used to think rest days were for the week, two a days ruled. Until now. Age 40 and 3 possible surgeries.

    And what am a fearful of most? It’s not the surgery or money. Rest. Being laid up for months.

    Definitely LAME!

  6. This is most likely why I’m facing 3 surgeries right now. Two torn shoulders, 1 hip labrum tear and patella syndrome of the knees.

    Years of pushing my body once a day, twice a day 7 days a week. Refusing to get my body the rest it needed.

    It’s not the surgery nor the cost of surgery that makes me fearful now. It’s the thought of all that down time months of rest and downtime.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. As someone who just had her sister come home from rehab because of exercise addiction that became wrapped up within anorexia this is definitely something that needs to be talked about. It’s a very real thing and almost caused my sister heart failure because of all the preworkout, cardio, and weight training she was doing with no adequate rest time and heavy calorie and food restriction.

  8. Nothing I look forward to more than Sunday, when I wake up, smoke some pot, and eat all day whilst simultaneously playing video games.

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