If you usually struggle to stay consistent with your workouts, read on to discover how Sean, who was once an addict, learned to love working out.
I used to cringe when people said they were “addicted to fitness.” Now I get it.
Part of my cringe reaction was that I was coming from a place where addiction was dark and scary. I honestly thought I’d never recover, and I didn’t think addiction was any kind of joke.
Fortunately, I came back with a vengeance. And my road to recovery was paved with fitness goals.
On my journey, I realized that fitness addiction might actually be a real thing. And now I’m one of those people who calls fitness my addiction.
How exercise motivated me
There are so many misconceptions about addiction that I won’t even be able to scratch the surface here. But I will tell you about one that may explain a few things about my journey.
You see, people tend to think that addicts have lost all sense of reality. You see someone begging on the street corner just to get another fix, and you think he or she has no shame.
That’s not true. Shame we have in spades, it’s control that we lack.
While I was doing drugs, I knew my body was deteriorating. I felt my muscles sag off my body as I lost more weight each day. I knew what was happening to me and I didn’t like it one bit.
My problem was that I had very little control. Addiction is a disease of the brain, and it rewires you to seek more drugs. It’s extremely hard to overcome this rewiring.
I can’t say that my decision to get sober was motivated by fitness, but I knew that fitness would be a large part of it. I knew I’d have to work harder to overcome the damage I’d done, and I’d need to commit to this more than I’ve ever committed to anything. Therefore, I did.
My commitment to fitness is what kept me going in those rough moments. When I felt like I was fighting an invisible beast, my workouts helped me feel like I was getting somewhere.
How exercise can help you overcome anything
Whether you’re battling addiction, chronic disease, depression or something else, exercise really can help. And there’s more to it than having a positive outlook.
You probably already know that working out helps build muscle and increase stamina. But what happens with the brain when we work out is really interesting.
First, the body recognizes your workout as stress. Your mind probably does too, especially if you’re not used to working out. So to protect yourself, your brain releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF protects and repairs neurons related to memory, which is why things seem so much clearer after a workout.
While your brain is releasing BDNF, it’s also springing into action to neutralize stress. It does this with endorphins. Endorphins are a type of brain chemical that is associated with happiness. This is why you also feel great after a workout.
Interestingly, exercise impacts your brain just like addictive substances do. So, when someone says they are addicted to fitness, it may actually be true.
Certainly, fitness isn’t quite as addictive as heroin, but it provides a reward to the brain and body nonetheless.
How to maximize the addictive effects of exercise
Whether you’re talking about cocaine or krav maga, your brain gets addicted to the pleasure you get from the experience.
So you’re probably not surprised to hear that you should exercise regularly to get the best effects. But if you need more proof, I’ll point you to a study I encountered on the matter.
Researchers at the University of Bristol found that people’s moods significantly improved on days they exercised. On days they didn’t exercise, they experienced a deteriorated sense of calm.
A Penn State University study tells us that most of the brain benefits we get from exercising happen in the first 20 minutes.
So to sum this up, you should be exercising daily for 20 minutes or more in order to maximize the addictive effects of fitness.
Nutrition’s role in fitness
When I started working out, I knew the basics of nutrition and fitness. I knew I needed protein to help build and repair my muscle tissue. And I knew I needed carbohydrates for energy. Of course, most of us also need more hydration than we’re getting.
What I didn’t realize was that we also need certain vitamins and minerals to help the body’s metabolism work efficiently.
For example, if you’re not getting enough iron, you may not have the energy for your workouts. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so that’s really important too. Magnesium is also crucial as it helps with oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance.
Therefore, if fitness is important to you, nutrition should be as well.
Nutrition’s role in mood
Interestingly enough, some of the vitamins and minerals that are important to your workout are also important for your mood.
Scientists believe that emotional behaviors are strongly impacted by iron levels. As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is believed to have mood-elevating effects. And there’s a strong link between magnesium and mood. In fact, one of the best-known symptoms of magnesium deficiency is depression.
I found it fascinating that everything we know to be good for us is the very things that fuel healthy addictions. Maybe that’s not groundbreaking, but that’s how it clicked for me.
We think of exercising, eating right and drinking enough water as chores, but they’re really essential to keeping our minds and bodies in good shape.
This is probably the reason why we can get addicted to fitness. We’re designed to work towards the things that are good for us. Artificial highs attempt to trick the body into thinking things are good when they’re really harmful.
How I’m enjoying my new addiction
I would never have believed that fitness addiction was a real thing until I experienced it myself.
When I wake up in the morning, I crave a good workout. If I skip exercise for any reason, I’m just not myself. I see obvious changes in my mood and concentration, and now I know why.
Similarly, whenever I go through periods where I’m eating junk, I’m not as motivated. I still know I need to work out, but I don’t have the same kind of drive that I usually do.
The mind-body connection is real, and it’s about more than our thoughts. When you give your body what it needs, you’ll start feeling amazing. It’s that sense of euphoria that becomes addicting. And that’s one type of addiction I can really get behind.
Has exercise helped you overcome any challenges?[related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]