Am I Addicted to Exercise?

For some, it’s hard to get into the gym. For others, it’s hard to stay out.

I once fell at the former end of the spectrum. I now fall at the latter.

I tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to the gym and it isn’t necessarily healthy. Going to the gym is a great way to release endorphins, increase energy and brain focus, and just feel awesome overall.

I mean really…. this is what I feel like leaving the gym.


But where does exercising for enjoyment cross the line into an unhealthy exercise addiction?

Those that have been reading the blog for a while know that I’ve pretty much settled my issues with food (FINALLY) and I’m becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin with each day that passes. However, what was once an obsession with food (or lack thereof) has now become an obsession with the gym.

Here’s where the lightbulb went off.

Last week was a constant cycle of not sleeping enough –> eating more because my body was looking for calories for energy –> feeling the need to exercise more because I “ate more than I should.” Sounds kind of disordered, doesn’t it?

I’ve gone through cycles with exercise addiction. I used to refrain from going out with friends because I didn’t want to “drink” my calories. Obviously this shouldn’t be a regular thing, but a little fun never hurt anyone. I would also stay in while my friends were going out if I had an early morning workout planned. Again, this is great! But in ten years will I remember that 7 a.m. spin class or the night I spent laughing with my girlfriends over wine at dinner?
I would bet on the latter. 

How did I know my exercise habits turned into an addiction?

Last week in particular:

  • I was exhausted.
  • I continued to exercise despite having knee pain.
  • I lost interest in working out.
  • I was merely going through the motions of my workouts without actually enjoying them.
  • Hello, mood swings. One minute I was laughing and the next I was crying, literally. Remember that “funk” I was in last week? Yep.

In the past:

  • I felt guilty when I missed a workout.
  • I missed a night out with the girls because I didn’t want to be too tired for tomorrow’s workout.
  • I thought I would magically wake up 15 pounds heavier if I missed a day.
  • I would constantly be thinking about exercise: reading about it, doing it, planning my next workout. It took over my life.
  • I developed anxiety problems stemming from my food and exercise addiction.
  • It would throw me off if I had to eat or exercise outside of my regular routine.

I’m proud of myself, in all honesty. One year ago, I wasn’t able to look at my life from an outsider’s perspective like I am today. I’m learning to take notice of my addictions and weaknesses before they officially take over my life.

So, whats on the agenda? Am I going to completely give up exercise?

Of course not! But I am going to listen to my body and my heart. I’m not going to push my body through pain just because I had a workout planned for the day. I’m not going to pass up a night out with my friends because it will throw me off my gym schedule.

As always, life is about BALANCE. I need to take care of myself, first and foremost. In the grander scheme of things, there is NO reason I need to be spending six days a week in the gym if I’m not enjoying it. I’m not training for anything specific, I’m not trying to be the next up and coming bikini model… I’m just a regular Jane Doe trying to live a healthy, balanced life while helping others do the same.

Everything in moderation, including exercise! 

[Of Possible Interest:]

A Doctor’s Advice on Identifying Exercise Addiction Symptoms via FitSugar
When Training Backfires: Hard Work That’s Too Hard via NYTimes
12 Signs You’re Overtraining via Men’s Fitness <– More than just physical symptoms. Insomnia & depression are included! 


42 thoughts on “Am I Addicted to Exercise?

  1. Such a great post!! About a year ago I was definitely a lot more obsessed with exercise than what I am now. Normal for me now is going to the gym pretty much 6 days a week, but I’m ok with it being 5 days a week too. Whereas last year it was going 7-8 times a week which meant twice a day on some days and a CRAZY amount of cardio that really got me nowhere closer to where I wanted to be. Now I’m lifting weights too but I am training for my first half marathon too as I didn’t want to give up running just yet, once I do the run I plan on switching just to mainly strength workouts for a whilst since I’m enjoying them more.

    It is so true about remembering that time with your friends more than the workout. Since ditching eating 1200 calories a day and moving to intuitive eating as well I am just so much more relaxed!

  2. As someone whose eating disorder stemmed from an addiction to exercise, I can relate to this post a whole lot. I STILL struggle with the addiction and at times it can be hard to separate what is enjoyment versus that need. For me, the only way to figure it out was to be forced to stop exercising. Now, I struggle with taking a rest day but I don’t run two days a week and it is better for my body. If we aren’t enjoying it, we aren’t going to get everything out of it! Also, at work this weekend we were discussing rest days and one of my coworkers told me that they are the times that your body does the most building. So it may seem counterintuitive, but the days you AREN’T working out are actually more important than the days that you are for an athlete!

    • I’ve heard the same thing about rest days! I know the importance of them, but it’s still SUPER hard to take them mentally. I’m glad you were able to realize it… Maybe being forced to stop exercising for a while was a blessing in disguise! We have lots of time to learn and reflect in life’s setbacks.

  3. Respecting your body is the most important thing you can do. I’m so glad you took the time to think through those emotions and realize what was going on. You WILL be okay if you don’t get to the gym every single day. I promise you that. I think I tweeted that to you last week.. and I still am advocating taking some time off. xo

    • Thanks love! I’m so happy I recognized the addiction NOW before it spirals off into something worse. How is possible to respect our bodies when we’re constantly beating them up and not giving them time to repair?! I’m definitely taking a few rest days! Thank for the advice 🙂

  4. I’m so so so glad you recognized it and are able to do something about it! It’s really so hard to step outside of ourselves and see our actions as someone on the outside would. I’m so proud of you! 🙂

    • Dawwwww thanks!!! It’s taken a while to be able to see my life from a different perspective. Ever since I’ve had the “bigger picture” mentality, it’s definitely been easier to navigate through difficult situations.

  5. I’m honestly so freakin’ proud of how far you’ve come. I feel like, for a lot of in the HLB community, we get obsessed with doing everything 100% when it comes to our “health”. In reality, though, it’s the moments in life that you spend laughing with friends over wine that we’ll really remember! The key is striking that balance and you’ve found it <3. You're changing your perspective of things for the better and I LOVE hearing your insight on it!

    • I completely agree, love! As long as we’re living a mostly healthy life, there’s no reason to beat ourselves up if we skip a workout, go out with friends, enjoy a glass of wine, etc. Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m so happy I’m finding balance, too 🙂

  6. I love this and I am so glad you wrote this post. I definitely have had/sometimes still have similar thoughts to everything you mentioned. Living a healthy life is a continual journey and everyday we learn something and have something to work on. I certainly understand about ‘drinking your calories’ but ultimately I have decided that drinking just doesn’t make me feel good. I did go out on Saturday but I was the DD. And I had fun! I still worked out in the morning but was tired so I didn’t go as hard. A year ago, I would have been upset with myself. I also proceeded to eat my weight in trail mix while watching the Emmys. A year ago, I would have been frustrated and felt like there goes all the weight I lost. But no. It’s not the end of the world. We are all a work in progress but it’s always important to recognize what it is we can work on 🙂 Sorry for the lengthy comment but I really admire this and can certainly relate. Happy Monday pretty girl! xo

    • Ahhh, such true words! IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD if we can’t exercise for a few days, don’t eat 100% healthy, accidentally eat more than we “should.” I agree that we’re a work in progress and all that matters is that we’re making healthy choices a MAJORITY of the time. No one is perfect… We just need to learn from our mistakes (like me with overtraining.) I’m just glad I realized before I hurt myself. Happy Tuesday! I’m super behind on reading posts because of my tests this week but I can’t wait to catch up… Yours has easily become one of my favs 🙂

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  8. Sounds like you are on the right track about a lot of things. It takes time to master, but learning to listen and understand what your body is telling you is important. I agree, you will remember the time with your friends and have stoires to tell forever, compared to going to the gym 6 plus times a week. If you are ever training for something, then you can start going more often. I worked and went to college full time and I don’t have a lot of regrets, but I do regret more of the things I didn’t do compared to what I did.

    HA, the picture is priceless!! Is that you or someone else?

    Thanks for deciding to follow me, and I hope you have a great Monday!!

    • You’re welcome. Yes, that picture (embarrassingly enough) is me — Halloween costume last year, no shame! That’s great advice. I’ve realized the importance of putting myself out there and making mistakes. I’ll be more upset with myself if I DON’T do something, rather than doing it and not getting the outcome I wanted. I guess the same applies to fitness — I made a mistake by overtraining and now it’s time to learn from that mistake before I injure myself!

      • It is a great picture. There is no way I could pull off that look. 😀

        I agree, I am learning more and more to put myself out there, because you never know what you’ll get back in return. Yes, you don’t want to over train or do too much too soon. I made the mistake of doing too much too soon, and messed up my ITBS Bands in both legs. I haven’t been able to do much running since then, and that was back in 2009. I am hoping after I do the 5 week program I am doing now that maybe I can VERY slowly get back into running!!

  9. This is such an interesting post! I also find myself turning down invitations because going out will interfere with my workouts – glad to know someone else experiences the same issue. I love your overall mentality on resolving this!

  10. I’m glad you’re being so conscious of what’s going on and that you are going to listen to your body and what it wants. I agree with the statement “everything in moderation” it doesn’t just apply to food. Too much exercise can really hurt you too. I’m glad you’re aware of this. Hope you have a lovely evening! xo

  11. Great post! I know how you feel; sometimes I have to tell myself it’s OK to not get up at 5am and workout just because you planned on it. It’s OK to skip a day (or two, or sometimes three!) because you are burnt out or, more importantly, your body is physically telling you to give it a break! I agree, balance is key and it’s so important to remember to actually enjoy life- outside of the gym! 😉

    • I completely agree 🙂 It’s all about balance and enjoying life!! My life used to revolve around my workouts, but then I thought to myself “Wait, why am I trying so hard to have this ‘dream body’ when I don’t even go out and show it off?” Now I’m way less superficial and do it for my health, which definitely helps keep me motivated instead of chasing this “ideal” look!

  12. Love this!! And i know exactly where you’re coming from- ever since high school ive cycled in and out of over exercising phases. i ignore the pains and injuries im causing, i feel bad if i miss a day, etc etc- basically everything you just said in this post. Just like with everything else, i usually notice these phases happening when something else in my life is out of balance (like its a really stressful time or something like that, and these phases are normally accompanied by some weird eating habits too) its all about balance though, just like you said, so now i try to get better at recognizing the root behind the behavior and dealing with it sooner rather than later. once again- awesome post!!

    • That’s awesome that you’re aiming to recognize the root of the problem. Many times it actually has NOTHING to do with eating/exercising/etc… It has to do with our mental state. We’re either stressed out (which causes us to lose sleep and eat more) or lonely, bored, etc. (all with the same consequences) Thanks for your kind words! Glad we’re both getting better 🙂

  13. So glad to have come across your blog through twitter- love this post and it resonates strongly with me. You brought up some great points and have put some good practice into place to get the exercise groove back! I’m looking forward to following you and this blog now! Cheers!

  14. Great post love!

    Listening to my body is something I am learning to do, and the body is OH SO RIGHT! Some days I am so dang hungry.. and some days I snack more then ever. but hey its what the body wants. It takes time to stray away from past regimes and learning to break the chain. All in all, to become better, we need rest too.

    • Ugh yes! There are days when I’m seriously a bottomless pit and can (and do) eat everything. I used to look at it as a punishment… Meaning I’d HAVE to work it off or else I’d surely turn into a big pile of flubber from those 30 extra carrots lol. Such a joke. Note to self: If your body is asking for food, feed it. If your body is asking for rest, SLEEP.

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  16. Thank you for this post… my friend Angela at Nutty for Life posted a link to your blog.

    I think I’m addicted to exercise. I routinely spend 3-4 hours on Saturday & Sunday exercising between long runs, yoga, etc. and anywhere from 1-2.5 hours during the week (I try for a 6 mile run before work then a hot vinyasa yoga class at night). I’ve been hungry, cranky, tired, and sore. I’ve been giving up on plans with friends to exercise. I decided tonight to give up yoga (on a Friday night, of course) to go spend time with friends and I feel so guilty. I wake up in fear of getting on the scale after a day where I didn’t work out. I’m going to take it down a few notches, thank you.

    • I’ve totally been there… You are not alone! The first (and hardest) part for me was actually realizing and admitting that it was becoming a problem. I used to justify my addiction and say things like, “You can never exercise too much!” or “Hey, at least I’m addicted to working out and not drugs hehehe” … Ya… No. Never, ever feel guilty for choosing time with friends over a workout. It’s horrible to say but we never know what may happen in this life so cherish every moment or opportunity you’re given with them! Plus, you’ll remember those nights hanging out with your friends, not a yoga class (in most cases)! I’m still working on getting over my “addiction” but right now, for example, I haven’t worked out in two days and low and behold I have not spontaneously combusted yet! LOL and I’ve been able to fill that time with things that I love — hanging out with friends, shopping, crafting. I’m a lot happier because I knew my body needed the rest 🙂 So glad you found my blog! If you ever need anything at all or just someone to talk to don’t hesitate to email me!

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