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Training Addiction

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By Jeff Bayer
While being motivated and sticking to an exercise program is excellent in terms of health and aesthetic benefits, there is a fine line between being persistent and being addicted. Training addiction is a very real thing for many men, and if it isnt addressed quickly enough, it can lead to overtraining syndrome, eating disorders, bigorexia, and a generally unbalanced lifestyle.

causes of training addiction

There are two main causes of training addiction. The first is similar to the factors that lead to eating disorders and can be rooted in childhood or earlier life experiences. If the individual was overweight as a child, he may have developed a very negative body image. Regardless of how he looks today, he still sees the same fat kid whenever he looks in the mirror. This is what pushes him to exercise to the extreme.

He may use his weight control and exercise habits as a way to make himself feel more in control of his entire life. You can often see this in men who do not feel successful in their careers or personal lives. These factors can cause a really serious addiction to working out, as exercise is no longer used simply for health purposes.

The second cause of training addiction is vanity. It's no secret that working out improves your physique, so some men believe that the harder they work out, the better they will look. They feel that by looking better than the average guy, they will become superior. In this instance, it usually starts out as training abuse before developing into a full-fledged addiction.

beware of these symptoms

One of the biggest problems that exercise addiction can lead to is an unbalanced lifestyle. For instance, the individual might start putting his workouts ahead of work, family, friends, and other obligations. Only after his workout has been completed can he relax and enjoy time with others. In extreme cases of exercise addiction, he may even become so wrapped up in it that he is unable to function optimally in other aspects of his life.

Some further warning signs include:

Turning down dates in order to work out

Avoiding social situations for fear of eating foods that may interfere with training progress

Social isolation

A feeling of general worthlessness if you have not completed your workout for the day

Only allowing yourself to eat after you have exercised

Feelings of depression

Reduced drive to engage in activities formerly enjoyed

Exercising for extended periods on a daily basis or several times a day

Feeling anxious if a workout is missed

Scheduling your days events around your workout session

A fear of becoming injured and having to miss a workout

If you begin to notice one or more of these symptoms, you should take a good look at your training habits and evaluate whether a problem may be developing.

The negative effects training addiction can have on your health and your psyche, and what to do about it. Training addiction can lead to many undesirable health effects. First, nagging injuries can develop, as the body is not provided with enough time to rest and recover between workouts. Without this recovery, muscle tissues will keep breaking down more and more, causing both a loss of muscle mass and a slowed metabolism. For any guy who is looking to maintain his physique, this is not an ideal situation.

In addition, constantly lifting to failure in an effort to unlock pounds of muscle will really tear down the body, affecting not only how your muscles feel and function, but also the effectiveness of your immune system. Furthermore, without proper training breaks, your central nervous system can also become affected, causing a host of problems down the road.

Training addiction can also impact your frame of mind. Many men with training addictions develop a syndrome commonly known as bigorexia, which essentially means that they never feel muscular enough. They become obsessed with anything that has to do with getting bigger, whether it is reading books on training and nutrition or spending vast amounts of time in the gym. Some will even resort to steroid use in order to achieve their goals.

Psychologically, training addiction can also lead to severe depression, as sufferers feel like they are never good enough. Even though they are working out more than the average population, they still dont think it is sufficient and they develop a negative self-image to go along with their distorted body image.

While exercise generally enhances your health, when taken to the extreme, it can have very disastrous effects on both your physical and psychological well-being.


If you manage to catch this disorder in the early stages, you will have a much easier time correcting it. The first thing you should do is stop and really think about your reasons for exercising so much. Is it to be healthier? Maybe you are looking to improve your sports performance? Chances are that those were the reasons you started working out, but your goals may have changed along the way. If you realize that your reasons for exercising so much dont make sense, you might be able to put this problem in perspective.

The second solution is to make a list of all the other aspects of your life that you value, as well as all the things that make you feel good about yourself. This will help to increase your self-esteem by making you realize that you will still be respected and valued by others even if you aren't working out and don't have the perfect body.

Sometimes, the best solution to combat a disorder like this is to just go cold turkey. As hard as it is, force yourself to stop working out for a week. Your body probably needs the rest, and it will allow you to see that your body wont significantly change if you miss a workout or two. It will help bring you back to reality.

Finally, if you are well into the disorder and it has become such an ingrained habit that all of the previous solutions dont work, you should speak to a professional. There may be underlying causes that you just aren't seeing. Often, issues like this go deeper than surface level; it could be a simple thing like a childhood experience you can't identify that is at the root of the disorder. A counselor can help you figure it out so you can break free from this dangerous cycle.

kick the obsession

Training addiction is not something to be taken lightly. While it may not sound as serious as other mental illnesses like depression or schizophrenia, it can be just as destructive to a man's life. When left to go on long enough, it can in fact lead to other psychological and physiological illnesses that require medical treatment. Your best bet is to stop this issue before it gets out of hand and keep a careful eye on your exercise behaviors in the future so it does not arise again.
By Jeff Bayer

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