Saturday, April 12, 2014

Exercise: How much is too much?

Those close to me know I love to work out.  I love to sweat and push my body to the limit.  But when does it all become too much?  Can too much exercise be detrimental to your health?  The answer is yes.  There are a lot of health risks associated with overt-training ranging from decreased metabolism, bone loss, muscle tissue damage, and heart and respiratory problems.  Our society tells us that exercise is always a good thing - between all of the "fitspo" images and diet-talk.  But sometimes "pushing to your limit" is not always a good thing.

Then there are also the internal thoughts that can also be detrimental to your health.  I knew I had to re-evaluate my relationship with exercise when I really thought about my intentions and why I was doing so much cardio.  It was becoming less of a fun escape, and mainly a way to burn more calories than I consumed, to "make up" for any "excess" snacks I had the day before, and to "punish myself" for drinking or eating something I wasn't supposed to.

I am working hard to change my relationship with exercise.  When I exercised for the reasons above it made me feel constantly unfulfilled, like I could always "do more", and left me deep in a mental math equation to which I could never be sure I had the right answer.   I cringe when I hear people say "I can eat this pizza, I will just run an extra couple miles this week."  That kind of thinking is what lead me to that dark place of being stuck in a math problem I wasn't sure I had right.

Now I exercise to be healthy, because it feels good, to be strong.  This doesn't mean my addiction is gone.  I still have trouble taking rest days and I still over-think my exercise regiment rather than rolling with whatever feels good that day.  But I no longer force myself to do spin "x" number of times per week, and I no longer insist on bring my running shoes on vacation (unless it's a long one ;)).  Here are some other strategies that are working for me...

1) Listening to my body.  If I go out for a run and my legs don't feel like running, I walk.
2) Try changing it up.  I have been exploring less cardio-heavy classes like yoga and bodyweight training.
3) Get lost in the music or the scenery.  Appreciate the moment and take it all in.
4) Stretch more.  I used to avoid stretching because it was a waste of time. But treating your body to a good stretch makes it feel loved :)
5) Set a time limit.  On the weekends, I used to think it was good to spend as much time at the gym as possible.  But now, I limit myself by planning something right afterward.
6) Think about how amazing our bodies are.  They do so much for us, they get us where we need to go, they process energy like machines, they hug, they explore....they deserve to be treated with care.
7) Avoid races, calorie counters, and pedometers.  I don't need these things to tell me I am reaching my goals.  I let my body decide what is good enough for me. 

Does anyone else use exercise to deal with guilt or measure self-worth?

Or if are someone who hates and refuses to workout... does this post seem ridiculous to you? I envy you...the grass is always greener, right? ;)

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