Exercise addiction is probably the most contradictory of all addictions. Many compulsive exercisers have behaviors similar to drug addicts, including altered moods and withdrawal.
While some people are too sedentary, on the other end of the spectrum there are others who are obsessive and extreme in their mission for a leaner physique going overboard with exercise.
Exercise addicts define themselves by their strenuous exercise routines often causing physical exhaustion, despite ongoing injuries, fatigue, and exhausted adrenals. Little do they know, they’re putting their health at risk especially if they’re radically cutting back on food intake, undernourished and counting every single calorie they consume. Females who over-exercise and deprive themselves of proper nutrition can experience loss of menstruation cycles and ovulation, thereby increasing risk of osteoporosis, hormone dysfunction, stress fractures, a damaged metabolism, hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue.
More Exercise is Not Better. Although regular, consistent exercise is highly beneficial for overall health, mood, healthy aging, and fat loss, a compulsive exerciser will stop at nothing to get their fix. Not only is too much exercise counterproductive to most people’s fitness and health goals, but it is also a sign of a deeper underlying emotional problem. Those who have had an experience that they find painful, difficult or unable to cope with, or just afraid of it may dismiss the emotion, and exercise more as a way to repress, suppress or bury their emotions. Exercise addiction also plays a role in poor self-esteem, and use exercise as a drug to run away from looking deeper within at self.
Points to consider. How long are your workouts? After a 10 minute warm up, the actual workout should last no longer than 30-40 minutes, possibly even less than that. Spending more than an hour per workout is futile and detrimental to increasing strength, muscle size, optimizing hormones and decreasing body fat.
Testosterone levels peak after approximately 15 minutes of training and begin to level off after 30-45 minutes. Cortisol levels start rising after 30-40 minutes and anabolic levels (growth hormones) decrease.
Less is more! Muscle growth and adaptations to muscle occur during recovery and rest, not during the actual workout. Cutting back to 3-4 training sessions/week will induce greater gains in strength and recovery (some individuals may even need less).
Are you getting stronger with each workout? Are you losing or gaining body fat? Do you experience chronic aches and pains? Do you schedule in rest, recovery and relaxation days? If you exercise intensely day after day after day for hours, most likely you’re over-training and under-recovering.
Even though you may be training different muscles groups or performing different activities, you must take into consideration all systems of your body:
Example: a 42 year old, type-A business person, with a family, travels for work, consumes a bagel and coffee for breakfast (major insulin spike), enjoys a martini or two before getting 4-5 hours of sleep. Individual lifestyle factors are extremely important considerations when designing an exercise program for this individual. Most trainers are over-training their clients. The wrong exercise program, excessive cardio or too much of any exercise will only create additional stress and hormone deficiencies, eventually leading to adrenal exhaustion, weakness, irritability, painful joints, fatigue, moodiness, depression, increased body fat and thyroid dysfunction.
There is a fine line between training hard and over-training. Engaging in physically demanding activities too regularly or too intensely can contribute to many different symptoms of overtraining. Exercise addiction and excessive amounts of exercise can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those dealing with other concurrent stressors such as autoimmune disease, gut dysbiosis, thyroid dysfunction or adrenal fatigue.
Rest, relaxation and recovery are an overlooked and neglected component when it comes to building muscle, breaking through plateaus, losing stubborn body fat, improving performance and overall health.
It’s important to balance intense sympathetic dominant activities with calming parasympathetic activities. Failure to respect and value this crucial aspect can lead to strained adrenal glands and a fried nervous system. R&R is necessary for hormone balance, tissue repair, muscle growth, improved performance, and physiological and psychological recuperation. So, what can you do?