A couple of posts on this topic which I would highly suggest reading:
Scallywag Sprints - Exercise: Am I an Addict?
These Girls D0 - Exercise Addiction vs Dedication
About a week or so ago now Cathy tweeted bringing up the topic that apparently 5 hours or more of exercise a week could be seen as an addiction. My initial thought was that's slightly crazy and also that if it were true well then I should maybe be a bit worried. My current level of exercise is double that. I'm averaging about 10 hours a week and that's only going to get slowly higher over the next couple of months. Fiona wrote an post on the topic and when it was first published I knew I had an opinion, I just had trouble phrasing my response. I still do but here is my attempt at a reply.
Just to say before I start - this is about my own relationship to exercise and my personal opinion as to whether I am addicted to it or not. I don't think there can ever be a truly definitive answer because there are so many factors and opinions surrounding it. So to give a brief intro - this will summarise my relationship with exercise and how it's impacted and shaped me. Also how I deal with it and whether I think it's having a positive or negative effect on me - both mentally and physically. There won't be a clear cut answer but hopefully my thoughts will make at least a little bit of sense!
In short - I don't think I'm addicted to exercise in a negative way - it it could be said that I'm "addicted" to it at all.
Sports to me is a second nature. It's part of my daily routine. Whether I'm thinking about it or actively participating in it, exercising plays a big part of my everyday life. At the moment that second nature is just bigger. I'm training for the biggest event I've ever entered. Daily I'm thinking about moving my body towards that goal. I've always been this way and exercise has always played a big part in my life and growing up. In Primary school I did sports every weekday - tag rugby, netball, football, cricket and cross country. Secondary school and I remained the same. I was first to change every P.E. lesson, waiting eagerly for the session to begin. Any and every chance I could do sport I would take it. I studied P.E. at both GCSE and A-Level, it was my favourite subject (alongside Media), and for my year at uni I joined the Netball team, trained for my first half marathon and started a runstreak (which today marked day 345). Sports and exercise is well and truly part of who I am.
So there's the positive side. I'm active. It's great for my physical health. I feel strong I'm moving and I would say my body is fit and healthy. Although, because I've been exercising most of my life I've probably caused some damage internally, it might be just a little, but there is the potential for long term damange which I may not notice until I'm older.
And as for the mental effects?
I feel fantastic when I exercise. But that may be just the endorphin's speaking right? Or is it the fact I'm pushing myself to succeed and when I do, that victory feels amazing? Lately I've not been my usual self. At all. I don't know what's exactly wrong and that's frustrating in itself. But the one thing I know I'm happy about is that fact that I'm training. Exercise makes me feel good. Yes, it may be those endorphin's kicking in, but at the moment doing some form of activity gives me the chance to clear my head and focus on one thing. Is it bad that I'm relying on those feelings from exercise to combat those down feelings?
I can sometimes be so encompassed by this high that I may not be recognising negative impacts. Pushing myself if I'm ill, beating myself up over the fact I'm having to skip a session and feeling guilty that I do - these are three emotions I've had towards exercising over the past week. Taking rest days is just as important as the training itself and that's something I'm struggling to come to terms with at the moment. You can sometimes be so focused on the fact that you "have to" exercise and start ignoring the signs your body is giving you to not do it. This is when I think the "will to exercise" can sometimes become unhealthy. You need to listen to what your body is saying, sometimes ignoring the training guides and adding in extra rest days is what you need to do. Both your body and mind will thank you for that rest that it clearly needs and wants.
In terms of where exercise ranks among my priorities - it's fairly high up. At the moment I'm training for an endurance triathlon and it's becoming my main focus. Training sessions take up most of my evenings but I'm also making sure that I make time to see friends. This way I maintain the balance and I don't get completely absorbed by the exercise. My friends sometimes probably think it's a bit weird that I've gotten up at 4am before work to squeeze in a run or that on Sunday I like getting up before sunrise to begin my cycle. But that's what I enjoy doing and I would never think of that as a negative thing. It's my chance to unwind and have escapism. Some people get that from the television, I get mine from moving.
I think that there is SO much more that I could probably say on this topic but I think I want to try and keep this as brief as possible (which I haven't really managed!).
I think it's an incredibly interesting topic to look at and discuss. I'd love to know what you think as there is never going to be clearly defined answer to this. Everyone will have an opinion on this and I'd love to know yours. Tweet me @afloralcrown or if you write a post about it send it over! It's a big topic that everyone will have a say on.