“Thanks for a great class. I almost threw up! I going to do some cardio now.” Is that really necessary? The first half I take as a compliment — not because I pushed them to their limits, but because I encouraged them to explore their depths. For the latter, I’m discouraged. If I’m teaching people to connect with their bodies, then they’ll have the patience to honor change with time. When you paint a room a new color, you let each coat set. You can’t cram it all on at once or you end up smearing around an abstract finger painting. Congratulations if that’s the look you want. Otherwise, take a step back and examine what you’re doing. Your body responds the same way. It may or may not show on the outside, but it’s definitely not a masterpiece on the inside. But how do you know if you’re an obligatory athlete? How do you know if you have an exercise addiction?
Do you schedule exercise around life or life around exercise? If you never miss a workout, never skip a session, then you’re not living. Do you “work through the pain”? Stop listening to your ego, and listen to your body.
What are you trying to accomplish? I know, sometimes you set periodic goals such as completing a marathon, preparing for beach season, or getting ready for a social gathering. But what about the rest of the time? If you push too hard, the body will resist. Try to restrict too many calories, and your body will hold on to its last bit of fat in “survival mode.” Try to exercise too much, and your body will immobilize you with fatigue or injury. Being sore all the time is not a good thing.
Where is this compulsion rooted? To some degree, we all have addictive personalities. We periodically enjoy a level of competitiveness. I’ll argue it’s ingrained in our humanity as is any emotion. And with every emotion, the intensity varies with individuality. Obsession can turn a good thing bad, and there’s no one competing against you. Are you punishing yourself for no reason? Are you trying to satisfy an emotional void? You might as well iron your clothes while wearing them. It’s never a good idea, and you know better.
Is exercise your “happy hour” to socialize? For those who love to be seen, fitness groups, such as cycling clubs, and community events, such as public yoga, are great. They foster unity, encourage active lifestyles and motivate people to try something new. But again, don’t schedule your life around them. Ask yourself, are you spending more time talking about these events than attending them? Do you feel anxiety or irritability? Or, do you feel depressed if you cannot attend? Are you in touch with the real value of being there or creating your own? Contemplate the genuine purpose of your presence at these occasions.
Do you know what exercise is to children? Play. So, ask yourself — are you having fun? It’s supposed to be a leisure activity, not a task. Our bodies are designed to move. Mentally, physically and emotionally, we all need activity and stimulation. There’s nothing wrong with being habitual, but don’t let it become a fixation. If you’ve crossed the line of commitment and compulsion, then stop. Reduce your fitness schedule. Talk to someone you trust to help you reevaluate. You can’t control life. Love it, one day at a time.