Believe it or not, when it comes to exercise and your health, more is NOT better. Our culture tends to make us think that by working out more…longer, harder, more regular…we will be healthy and strong. But in reality, the opposite can happen. Today I want to share with you my experience with how my exercise routine made me unhealthy, and give you something to think about to determine how healthy your exercise routine really is.
Exercise is something we all know is good for us. That’s why every year around the end of December so many people make a commitment to exercise more, go to the gym weekly, or opt in to a paid fitness program. But, though I’m a huge believer in the benefits of exercise for decreasing stress, improving posture, maintaining a healthy metabolism, and strengthening your bones, there is a fine line between a healthy amount of exercise and dangerous amount of exercise for your body and your mind.
I mentioned in a recent post how I struggled for quite a few years with amenorrhea which is the absence of a period for a woman. During this time in my life I was an almost daily runner, running at least 4 miles each time I ran outside or on the treadmill. In addition to running, I also did spin classes weekly and eventually was teaching numerous spin classes a week. I mentioned in the past post I wrote how increasing fat into my diet was a huge part of me getting my period back, but the second biggest thing I did was decrease everything about the exercise I was doing.
Less is More
I quit exercising every day. I decreased the intensity of my exercise. And I decreased the amount of time I was exercising when I did. I still loved running…still do to this day…but I allow myself to walk when I’m tired, whereas before I would push my body to unhealthy levels. I still love biking and spin classes, but I don’t do them as frequently and oftentimes choose outdoor biking as opposed to a sweaty, smelly gym environment because I feel more alive and well when I’m outside.
Some things I’ve added into my workout routine are walking and weight lifting. I live pretty close to my job and when the weather is good, I love starting my day with a peaceful walk to work, listening to an uplifting podcast, and taking good, deep breaths before the day gets crazy. I’ve begun doing more weight lifting, and by weight lifting I mean light weights and focusing on the movement and form rather than on the amount I lift. All in all, my exercise routine is very varied on the day to day, and is guided by how my body feels and what I WANT to do rather than what I feel I HAVE to do.
So, where is that happy place with exercise? Well, it’s a place where you love the movement you do, you love every single time you do it, and you feel empowered when you’ve finished it. For everyone, this looks completely and totally different. I love running on the nearby trail with my dog, but a lot of people can’t stand running. They prefer yoga or pilates, and that’s ok! The important thing is that you find some sort of movement you love…something that ignites you, and doesn’t dampen you.
Why is over-exercising so bad?
Ok, so yeah, exercising hard and long may not be the most enjoyable thing for some people, but I know plenty of people…including myself at one time…thrive from that adrenaline rush that comes with exercise! But if I enjoy it, how could that cause issues? Well, there’s a few things that can come from over-exercising that are less than ideal. First off, if you’re not properly fueling your body after a workout you may loose too much weight too quick and find yourself with the plethora of problems that come from that, one being irregular hormones. Second, over-exercising can be really hard on your body. It’s so much easier to get injured when you’ve been over-exercising than if you exercise a healthy amount. Another issue I’ve found with those who over-exercise is the obsessive mindset that oftentimes associates with people who over-exercise. I’m speaking about myself here, too. I tend to have more of an obsessive personality and when I stick to something it’s always all or nothing! Exercise for people who can relate with this personality, can oftentimes come in between quality time with friends and family and can interfere with other more meaningful activities in life. Just like an addiction, the over-exerciser can oftentimes obsess over needing to exercise, having it control every thought and action until that need is met. And lastly, many over-exercisers are pushing themselves so hard, so long, and so often because of the endorphins that are released. Maybe there’s something in your life that is difficult and your only way you cope is by working out to the extreme. I know that was me…exercise was my main coping mechanism during difficult times in my teenage years, and though exercise can be beneficial during stressful times, it shouldn’t be the only thing that helps you cope.
The issue with control.
Ok, so maybe your world is rocking right now. All this time you thought that in order to be healthy you had to push yourself physically in whatever activity you were doing. You were in the “More is Better” mindset with exercise. But now you’re hearing that maybe the reason why your periods haven’t been regular is because of your routine, or why you’ve had decreased energy and can barely make it past lunch without a nap, or why you’ve been so moody and irritable with everyone around you, all has to do with over-exercising. Maybe, though, you’re scared to give up that control.
Giving it up doesn’t mean giving up.
I know for me, one of the main fears that kept coming back to me when I was always exercising was the fear of giving up. I was under the impression that if I missed a day working out, didn’t go running one day, or just was lazy one day because I was tired, I would eventually lose control of my body and never exercise again. Yes, I know, it’s a little extreme. But this is a valid fear that a lot of women face, women whom I’ve talked to and have dealt with similar situations to this. The fear of losing control drives them mad just trying to keep up with what they feel is healthy. But, listen to this…Giving up control does not mean that you’re giving up. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up exercising, it doesn’t mean that you’re never going to go to a gym again…though it might if gyms do not bring you joy. Giving up controlling actions towards exercise, giving up obsessive thoughts about exercise, and giving up over-exercising means that you’ll have a much more fulfilled, enjoyable, and life-bringing relationship with exercise and your body. That is what healthy movement should be.
I hope you’ll evaluate your relationship with exercise and your regular routine. Maybe you fall in this category of “over-exerciser”. I hope you’ll see that there’s so much more than hours of cross fit and body boot camps, and that more is not better when it comes to exercise.
Let me know what you think! How healthy do you feel your exercise routine is? Do you love your movement? Comment below and let’s chat!
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