Exercise Can't ALWAYS be the Answer

Exercise can't be your only coping strategy for managing your emotions...

When I first started really getting into running longer distances, I used it to cope. With stress, with anger, with sadness, everything. After years of running to deal with my stress, my passion, switched to CrossFit and weightlifting, but my inability to cope outside of exercise wasn't a problem until it was.

The issue with using exercise to cope is two-fold.

For starters, using exercise to cope is only helpful until your relationship with exercise becomes detrimental to your health. It's helpful until you're exercising 2-3 times a day OR never taking a rest day, simply to "manage" your emotions. This obsession and inability to rest is not only a huge psychological issue but will also very likely become a physiological issue if it hasn't already (think thyroid, sex hormones, inflammation, etc.).

The other issue with using exercise to cope with your stress, emotions, etc., is that you're setting yourself up for complete failure if for some reason you CAN'T exercise. An injury or an illness is all it takes to realize how poorly you cope with your emotions without your exercise routine. Yes, I have learned the hard way.

Over the course of my fitness journey, I've had to step back from training in some capacity or decrease training frequency for a temporary amount of time. And one of those times was during THE MOST stressful time that I have ever been through.

I can't even begin to tell you how lost it made me feel in those moments/chapters of my life. Not only did I tie so much of my identity to working out, but it was the ONLY way I coped for such a long time. It was the only way I knew how to manage my emotions.

Taking away my ability to exercise the way I wanted to meant taking away my ability to cope.

That's where the danger lies.

If you've always used exercise to cope with your emotions/stress, I STRONGLY urge you to start exploring other means of stress management and emotional coping. Be it journaling, coloring/drawing, meditation, playing an instrument, therapy, etc. Remember, the gym is not therapy. Therapy is therapy.

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