Working out: A healthy addiction or an escape from life?

When you find something that you really enjoy, it becomes an addiction, sometimes an obsession. It can be shopping, drinking, online activities, porn, the list is endless. For me, it’s been working out, Crossfit specifically.

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Some people have an addictive personality, so it doesn’t really matter what you present them with, they’ll become attached to it. Some people feel lost and lonely and are looking for something to make them feel again. Some people are looking for a hobby and stumble onto something they love. Some people have something tragic happen in their life and throw themselves into whatever they’re doing. For me, it was kind of all of the above. But, where’s the line between a healthy activity and an obsession to avoid real life?

CrossFit became an addiction to me for many reasons. I was looking for a exercise regimen that I loved, one that I could really see results from. I’ve never seen results from any other workout that I’ve done like I do with this. It instantly became something I felt I could control, when in so many ways, it felt like I was losing control in my real life. I could go in and do this insanely hard workout, one that made you feel like you might pass out or puke and when it was done, leave feeling empty but in a good way. All the emotions that I had bottled up got released, probably because I was physically exhausted and didn’t have the mental capacity to feel them anymore. That’s not saying they don’t come back though, which is why 2-3 days at the box was no longer enough. When things happen they don’t ever magically go away, no matter how hard we try.

When you exercise, particularly at high intensity, it requires intense focus while giving you a sense of control. If you’re feeling lost or like you hit rock-bottom, exercise can bring a sense of purpose that requires nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other. Part of the reason exercise makes you feel better is because it increases blood flow to your brain, allowing it to almost immediately function better. This can help you to feel more focused, virtually immediately. A number of neurotransmitters are also triggered, such as endorphins. These are well-known for their role in mood control. Exercise, in fact, is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression. Grief can lead to many physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, etc. While helping your mind, exercise can help to relieve many of these physical symptoms too. If you’re having trouble sleeping, for example, exercise can help.

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While the benefits of exercise are many, anything taken to the extreme can be unhealthy and harmful. A “positive addiction” is a healthy adaptation to find time to exercise, since commitments to work and family should come first. Sometimes, however, the line between commitment and compulsion is crossed. Warning lights for addiction include withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability, and depression that appear when circumstances prevent you from working out. So, while exercising can seem like a healthy outlet, sometimes it’s just creating a temporary fix and a longer lasting issue.

For me, I’m still at the point where i’m addicted to changing my body. I want to live a healthier lifestyle, I want to eat healthier. I do go 5 days a week now, 6 if I happen to not have my kids on the weekend. I enjoy the escape from my life if even just for an hour. I don’t want to think about the things that make me sad, the things I can’t control, the decisions I don’t want to make, the love I fear losing, just everything that comes in our life. I can go and just be. HOWEVER, if you miss important social obligations or family events to work out, have given up other interests including spending time with friends, feel irritable or depressed if you miss a day, only feel good while exercising or right after, work out even if you’re sick or injured, have a history of anxiety, depression or addiction, you may want to speak with a mental health professional or your doctor.

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