The Problem With Exercise

I generally avoid parties with a bunch of people I don’t know. Instead of finding it energizing, as a lot of people do, it’s sucks the energy out of me like a vampire – an energy vampire.

But there are occasions when I go and almost everytime, someone wants to talk to me about some part of their body that hurts. And that puts me in an odd position. I don’t want to say something like “call the office” but to enter into the discussion can sometimes lead to a long, long conversation with no clear end in sight.

A guy came up to me once at one of these social events and said, “So, you’re a physical therapist right?”

Oh boy, here we go.

Can you tell me what’s wrong with my hip? It’s the right one, been hurting a while now,” he asked.

Pause. Now, I either dive in and ask about his hip or I find a way out.

I dove in.

“How’d it start?” I asked.

“Well, it might have something to do with running,” he replied.

‘How so?” I ask.

“Well, I’m not sure but it kind of aches after a while and then it sort of goes away then maybe like 2 or 3 days later it’s aching again. What do you  think? Is it like a tendonitis? I heard runners get things like that. I need to run though ’cause it’s how I control my weight,” he replied.

“Uh-huh. And does your hip ache when you’re not running?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, it pretty much aches all the time unless it’s hurting,” he replied.

“So, it aches and hurts? When does it hurt?” I asked.

“Uh, that’s when I’m in the gym doing my weight stuff. You know, squats, and lunges and stuff. Maybe it’s like a tight muscle. Do you have any stretches I can do for that?” he replied.

“And how long has this whole thing – the aching and hurting – been going on?” I asked.

“Oh, heck I guess…uh…well…ummm….I guess maybe five years or so,” he replied.

“So before then all was fine? No aching or hip hurting?” I asked.

“No I was a lot fatter then though but yeah, my hip was okay,” he replied.

“So let me see if I have this right. About five years ago you start running and lifting weights to reduce your body fat. And at some point your right hip starts aching then also begins to hurt. And you continue running and lifting weights and now wonder what’s wrong with your right hip? Is that about right?” I replied.

“Yeah, that’s it. So what do you think?” he asked.

I’m going to guess that most of you reading this can see the issue, the main issue. There could be a lot of sub-issues like muscles that are tight or weak, a weak joint surface, movement faults,  etc but that main issue is none of those things.

If you spend a bunch of time fixing the sub-issues but ignore the main issue, nothing works for the long term.

The main issue is his lack of judgement, to continue running on a hip that is barking like a caged and hungry dog.

Runners run for lots of reasons.

Some run to improve or maintain their health, some for the social aspect of running with friends, others run to lower their stress while others love to compete.

Regardless of the reason, running is a way the balance the scales of life. They run but not too much. If they hurt, they heed their bodies’ request, slow down and may seek advice.

But, some runners refuse to quit running despite the persistent pleading of their sore and aching bodies.

Running is running them.

Running may be running you if:

  • You feel you must run to keep your weight under control.
  • You feel as if you will go completely mad if you cannot run.
  • You organize all of your activities around running and will cancel other social events to get in a workout.
  • Pain is just in your way. What you really want is someone to wave a magic wand over your knee while chanting “evaporata knee pain” like the young Wizards in Harry Potter.
  • You’ve alienated family, neglected other personal responsibilities in the home, or your career.

When you feel this level of compulsion to run (or exercise / workout), you have a problem with exercise and might be addicted to it.

An addiction is a compulsive physical or psychological need that controls you. You no longer exercise because you enjoy it.

You exercise because if you don’t, you’re miserable.

You confuse consistency with dependency. You mistake a stubborn “I’ll run no matter what”  attitude for determination to overcome a problem like knee pain (been there, done that – doesn’t work).

When your exercise creates injuries and you work out anyway, you may have the exercise needle in your arm.

Exercise addiction is sometimes called a “positive” addiction since the behavior often replaces a prior “negative” addiction such as overeating or alcoholism. But, don’t be mislead by what society may deem more acceptable behavior. Exercise addiction carries a bite every bit as nasty and devastating as any other form of addiction.

How do you know if you’re at risk for exercise addiction (and you can substitute “running” for “exercise”)? Answer these questions using the scale below:
1 – strongly disagree
2 – disagree
3 – uncertain
4 – agree
5 – strongly agree

  • Exercise is the most important thing in my life.
  • Conflicts have arisen between me and my partner about the amount of exercise I do.
  • I use exercise as a way of changing my mood (e.g. to get a buzz/to escape).
  • Over time I have increased the amount of exercise I do in a day.
  • If I have to miss an exercise session I feel moody and irritable.
  • If I cut down the amount of exercise I do and then start again, I always end up exercising as often as I did before.

If your total score is 24 or greater, you have the highest risk for exercise addiction. You should see your family physician first to discuss your concerns and find a professional who can help you.

If your score is between 13 to 23, you have a potential for exercise addiction and need to monitor your exercise habits. With scores of 12 or less, you are unlikely to develop an exercise addiction.

Too much of just about anything can be a bad thing, including exercise.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.



PS – If you’re interested in what I do for exercise and training, go here. For my books, go here

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