Exercise -- A fine line

Sunday, October 14, 2012

MISSUSRIVERRAT's blog on October 11th www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
touched on many thought provoking topics, but the one that really caught my attention was her reference to "positive addictions," most notably exercise.

I think we have all heard the research of how exercise releases endorphins in our brains, making us feel happy and less sensitive to pain. And most of us have experienced a sense of well-being during and/or after exercising. There is the long known "runner's high" (which always eluded me during my few and brief efforts at jogging). Then also we notice other benefits such as lost pounds and inches, increased energy, and better endurance. Those also make exercise highly reinforcing.

MISSUSRIVERRAT suggested maybe we should call positive addictions "ingrained good habits," and certainly that is how I think of what has become a need to exercise daily, as well as my need to stay in a certain calorie range. Those ingrained habits allowed me to lose a whole bunch of weight, go off blood pressure medication and just be in better shape for most things in life.

But here is the thing. I'm a little compulsive. Ok, a little more than a little compulsive. I don't need medication, but I can get really driven about things. Like exercise. I don't do really strenuous exercise. My main exercise is walking briskly. I do that about an hour a day with some supplemental activities and aim for a minimum of 500 minutes of exercise a week and the hope I am burning at least 2000 calories in that period. I don't think it is excessive, but others might. I sometimes wonder at the amount of exercise others do but they don't think it is excessive either.

Where does the positive part of the addiction take a negative turn? In the summer of 2011, I managed to get tendonitis along the top of both my feet. I still walked each and every day. At that point in my weight loss, I was probably only walking 30 minutes. Some days I was in such pain, my regular route (because you KNOW I have a regular route, being as compulsive as I am, LOL) took 40 or 45 minutes due to how hard it was for me to walk. But I kept moving. Is that will power? Addiction? Nuts? Not sure, but that is how I am.

Last April, I had minor, outpatient surgery on my parathyroid and had to go under anesthesia. I walked the morning of my surgery and the next day went for 30 minutes instead of my usual 60. The day after that, I was very tired and skipped the walk, taking a nap instead. I haven't missed exercising in some form, to burn at least 200 calories, since that late day in April. Is that too much? Too compulsive?

What about when we're just exhausted? How do we know if it is our bodies telling us it is important to rest or if exercising will make us feel better? I think a lot of us aren't the best at listening to our bodies. I know my skills in that area can be pretty shaky. Or what if we are actually sick? If it is just a cold, I'd say exercise if you feel like it and wouldn't think twice about exercising myself. What about a bad cold? What about the flu? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't keep going if I had a fever and other flu symptoms. What about a minor injury? I kept walking last summer with my injured feet, though I did stop going to the beach until they healed because the sand is so unstable. Which broke my heart because I love walking on the beach with friends and dogs, beach combing and soaking in the serenity.

Anyway, no deep thoughts here. Just pondering and wanting to be aware of how helpful my positive addictions are but also aware that at some point I might need to take a break for a day or two or more. And the world WILL go on and I WILL exercise again. It just might not feel that way at first. emoticon

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Key to me is 'listening to your body' / intuition.
    2007 days ago
    Yes, I do think that if a person exercises to the point of injury, they are overdoing it. And if they repeatedly exercise in such a manner, then it is an addiction.
    Definitely, one can take it too far. Everybody has to determine for themselves that point. I think it helps to listen to your body and it will tell you when you are starting to do too much. For me, this is especially important as I get older.

    I thought I had some kind of addictive personality traits with some OCD tendencies, but exercise is one area that I have been able to NOT become overly addicted to.
    I do listen to my body. I don't do the same exercise program two days in a row but instead cross-train. I actually rotate between Leslie DVD's, line dance, and yard work. I usually have one rest day per week during which I try to keep moving but keep my activity light, something like housekeeping, shopping, or home projects.
    I only do strength training 2 X week to allow for recovery.

    I thank you for bringing this up and talking about. I am sure there are others out there that take it too far. In fact, I know there are from reading other blogs.

    I did call making regular exercise habits a "positive addiction." With your explanation of your behavior, I would have to reconsider this terminology.
    I am not really sure that it is a fine line that we cross. I think that it may be a different path entirely, like almost being a disorder.

    I agree with SQUIRRELL, cross-training is an excellent idea. Rest days are also necessary. Muscles grow and repair during rest time. If you don't give muscle groups that time, they will break down. This seems especially important we as age.
    Wait too long to challenge a muscle though, and it will deteriorate.

    What we seem to get "addicted to" with regard to exercise, is the endorphins. This is actually something our body does need to feel good on nearly a daily basis....no more than 48 hours. But one can get the boost from a variety of physical activities so we are resting certain muscle groups even as we exercise others. I DO have a tendency towards mild depression and this plan is working for me.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional and all this stuff should be regarded as opinion only! :-)
    2008 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/19/2012 8:08:03 AM
    Moderation is the key. An addiction is only bad if you do it to the extent of injury (to yourself or someone else). It sounds like you need to cross train (maybe swim?) and schedule your exercise around rest days: rest is necessary too, after all. And by scheduling it, you will have it fully under your control :)

    2012 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I also am addicted to exercise..but consider it a healthy habit..Plus the people who maintain weight loss, exercise 60 minutes a day.

    Thoughtful interesting blog.
    2012 days ago
    I see my white water kayaking habit as an illness I choose not to cure. I mean, it's less dangerous and expensive than heroin, so that makes it OK, right? LOL

    2013 days ago
    True confessions here..... Oh my. I read your blog and thought it sounds a whole lot like me. I walk 8.5 - 9 mi/day. Most days 120 min. of continuous cardio walking/hiking. Way over 60 min/day. Then 6 days/wk I do strength training on top of it. I had a bad case of plantar fasciitis and messed up tendons on the top of my left foot and cut back the walking to about 60-70 min/day. To make up for less walking I used the the x-bike @ 30 mph for 20-30 min/day while my left foot was so painful. Actually walked with a limp! It slowed me way down, but I went anyway. I have not had so much as a sniffle since I began working out 292 days ago. My immune system must be enhanced by the workouts. In the beginning I forced myself to walk, but now I love it and look forward to it every day. I'd feel like something was missing if I didn't do it. Never thought of it as an addiction, but maybe it is! I guess I love feeling good, being stronger and having so much more endurance. I do this because I know the workouts are the reason I feel so good. The magic bullet!! I think the drive to walk & exercise is a blessing to be thankful for. But....that's just me!
    2013 days ago
    I think I am addicted to exercise too. My husband is between jobs and we are moving to Tennessee and he is messing with my schedule, including making it a bit harder for me to exercise when I want to. Believe me, I feel a bit of a pain/yearning/something because of it. I have been exercising. I exercise every day and probably haven't missed a day since Thanksgiving last year. We traveled to Michigan from Wisconsin and I think one or two days I did not get my exercise that week.
    2013 days ago
  • SRBSRB26
    Thoughtful discussion of exercise! Thanks!
    2013 days ago
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