What happens when you take exercising to the extreme? The results may shock you.
Several years ago, while training for a half-marathon, I was required to record a qualifying 5K time in order to determine what my group training assignment would be. Unfortunately, I didn’t think the situation through, so I ran like a madwoman and clocked a time well above my normal running speed.
When I showed up the next week to meet my group, I found myself the only woman on the team other than the group’s leader, an elite athlete. I ran with an ex-Marine, a 20-something Rambo type, an Iron Man and a frequent marathoner. All my gal pals were in other groups. Seriously, I almost killed myself running that summer.
On one of the 13-mile hill-training excursions, the ex-Marine and I got off course from the group and ended up running 2 additional miles. The following day, as I dashed through the airport in my high heels, I felt my Achilles tendon snap; the pain was riveting. So much for the marathon. But the whole time I had trained, I had thought it odd that I had dropped nary a pound. In the weeks that followed, I limped around, unable to participate in any aerobic exercise, and I lost 7 pounds — while resting.
We are a nation of obsessive exercise “junkies” who experience the same withdrawal symptoms as heroin addicts when they try to stop, with medical findings to prove it. Cooling it when it comes to exercise gives new meaning to the term “cold turkey.” Experts are telling us that withdrawal symptoms are similar in exercise fanatics and drug addicts.
An exercise program usually starts innocently enough with a desire for health and fitness, but can easily become an obsession as strong as taking narcotics — running distances that are too long, lifting weights that are too heavy, spending too many days in the gym each week — especially when the exercise is motivated by a desire to lose weight and keep it off.
What happened to the fun?
When exercise feels like play, the odds of starting and continuing a regular workout routine and sustaining your ideal weight are stacked in your favor! Dr. Kenneth Cooper of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, found that low to moderate exercise for only 30 minutes three to four times a week is just as effective, maybe even more effective, than a killer workout regimen for maintaining health, weight and fitness. An overly intense exercise program quite possibly wears the body down, locking metabolism into a survival mode in which fat is stored instead of muscle.
Slim without too much gym
Here’s some advice for transitioning from maniac to moderate:
- Feeling joyful and experiencing the pleasure of being in one’s body is the best place to begin. Stay away from a punitive mind-set in which exercise is viewed as a task or a punishment instead of a pleasurable experience. View movement as an affirmation of living and a way to maintain wellness — and not just physical wellness, but mental wellness.
- When you exercise, be honest — do you derive pleasure from this activity, or are you whipping yourself into submission? If you are not fully engaged in something you like, switch it up until you find just the right activity.
- Remember, slow and steady wins the race. The health benefits of walking are underappreciated. Even modest amounts of walking, if performed on a daily basis, can help maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid exercise that is driven by negative emotions. If you hate the idea of running but think it is the most efficient way to burn calories, you may be running straight into fear and resentment. You’ll run, but not for long. Set yourself up for success by choosing an activity that inspires you.
- Visit the local playground. Swing on the swing, work the Hula-Hoop, jump rope — whatever brings you the joy you remember as a child.
- Look to activities that get you out of the gym and outdoors, like baseball, skiing and rowing.
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