Moderation is the key
This week I catch up with Tom as he talks about obsession and over-training.
We all have little quirks in our personality, we all do things or have habits which might seem extreme to others. When I think of obsession I see it as very similar to addiction, and when we use the word addiction we generally think of people with a drug, alcohol, smoking or gambling problem. But addiction is not just confined to these four activities, these are just the ones that are deemed “socially unacceptable”. I can’t go into the psychology of addiction as I am not qualified to do so. I am just giving my observations on how I see some people exercise. It has been well recorded that both men and women can become obsessed with exercise.
All of us know someone who is always out running, walking or cycling and when they are not outside they are in the gym or in the swimming pool. We see people doing this and we might consider it a little over the top ourselves, to the point that others may say to them, “I think you are overdoing it”. Exercise is something that is considered positive and therefore many people would not put it in the same bracket as addiction, however, anything can become addictive when it becomes compulsive. I suppose what I am trying to say is sometimes when you are so close to the problem you may not be able to see it.
When I am training for an event, I will build up mileage over a four or five-week period, and then start to reduce mileage as I will work on speed and recovery for another week or two and then I will pull back more to be fresh and in top shape for the race. This is the general format that most people will follow when preparing for an event. But at the moment, with lockdown in place, there are no events to train for. As someone who enjoys running I will still run some days and the mileage will vary, I will also cycle or walk a little. With no events on the horizon, why would you be training hard right now?
I would be concerned about someone who is out training every day at the moment and doing a lot of mileage whether that is walking, running, cycling swimming etc. But when you are obsessed or addicted you get such a buzz from the exercise that the more you do the more you want to do. The strange thing about this is that you can rationalise this in your own head and tell yourself that exercise is good for you and that you need to train hard every day to maintain your fitness. Although this may be something that is perpetrated by the media, it is not entirely true. Everything in moderation is the key. As you do more physical exercise your body becomes stressed as it can’t supply enough fuel to do the exercise without breaking down your muscle tissue and fat reserves, when these are gone the body will just start to collapse. Your body needs to repair damage to the muscles and connective tissue after exercise, so your diet needs to be really good and well balanced and you need to give yourself rest and recovery time for these processes to occur fully. But sometimes even this won’t be enough if you have an underlying injury.
We all get a niggle from time to time, some you can work through and some just get worse and worse. If you continue to over-train in a situation like that, doing more exercise can keep compounding an injury and end up doing a lot of damage down the line. It may not even be an injury, you may be losing a lot of weight or you’re feeling weak and tired all the time. All your joints and muscles ache, and the only time you feel ok is when you are out exercising, you don’t want to eat, you don’t want to sleep, all you want to do is keep going.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If this is where you are, you need help, please go to your doctor, talk to a friend, get counselling and take the advice. What most people don’t realise is that when you exercise the body produces endorphins into the blood stream, they make us feel good and increase our tolerance to pain. Endorphins are most similar to morphine I am told, as you can still feel pain but you just don’t care. You see, as we do exercise, body tissue gets damaged and as our bodies get damaged, pain receptors start going off. You will often have heard the phrase “push through the pain barrier”.
With endorphins being released into the blood stream we feel the pain but can choose to ignore it and it’s not until later that you can feel the damage that has been done. But people have been known to push to extraordinary lengths. We have all heard of people doing events with broken bones, or having crazy accidents and still continuing to the finish. Muhamad Ali broke his jaw in his fight with Joe Frazer and also broke it when he fought Kenny Norton, but still fought until the final bell in both fights. Sonia O’Sullivan ran for months with multiple bones broken in her foot. How many times have you seen cyclists fall in dramatic accidents and some will climb back on that bike and keep going?
It’s not easy to avoid the addiction, as I have said earlier I am not qualified to tell anyone what to do to break this chain. I am just trying to highlight the issue. If I were to advise someone I would say join a club, go to a coach and get a training plan and follow the plan. Don’t join several clubs and do several training programs. If you feel you are injured or have a niggle - go to your physio and get it sorted. Don’t be a hero and “push through”, sometimes “your brain writes cheques that your body just can’t cash”.
Look after your body and it will look after you. Even for the sake of your training, it is better to catch an injury early on as you will most likely be able to recover quickly and get back training sooner. So really, you will be doing yourself a favour in the long run.
Addiction or obsession, is a very complicated issue. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please get professional help. Although exercise addiction is something that is more socially acceptable than alcohol or drugs it is still a problem and can have detrimental effects on someone’s mind and/or body. I’m not saying every athlete is an addict or obsessed, I’m just trying to highlight that this is an issue to be aware of in the sport. Just mind yourselves, enjoy your training and look out for each other in these difficult times.
CLUB REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN
Our door is opened to all from the amateur to the experienced. Adult and juvenile training with qualified coaches will resume as soon as regulations allow. For insurance purposes juveniles have to be registered with the club, they can register in the year of their 7th birthday. €20 per juvenile, €30 per adult with family rates available. Registration forms/online links are available by messaging us on Messenger or by email to email@example.com. We look forward to welcoming both old and new back to the field when the time is right.