For many recovering from addiction, fitness has become a vital aspect of their recovery. There has been a lot written about the benefits of exercise for those trying to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Exercising can be a great motivational force that brings structure and discipline into lives that were previously trapped in the unpredictable whir of addiction. Physical health can also reward us in a manner similar to drugs and alcohol. When the body undergoes sustained exertion, a chemical is released in the brain. These endorphins spread through our neuro-receptors and create a pleasant experience known to many as a runner’s high.
However, great exercise can be for our minds, bodies and our recovery, it should be mentioned that too much exercise can start to be a bad thing. Sometimes our routines can become so intensive and time consuming that we put ourselves at risk for overexerting our energy. This can possibly lead to injury, or even more troublesome, ending up forming a responsive habit that ends up doing us more harm than good. Here are a couple things to keep in mind when balancing a fitness routine with recovery so that we never lose sight of our own self-care.
Knowing Your Limits
A lot of times, exercise is a way for us to push ourselves to achieve more. We want to jump higher, run faster, lift heavier weights, but how do we know where to draw the line? The answer is easier than you might think: do what’s safe. If you decided to start lifting weights, you wouldn’t begin with a 500-pound bench press. When pushing yourself, you need to build up to your goals incrementally.
As a recovering addict, there may be a temptation for us to go harder and faster than we usually would. We equate our progression in fitness as our escape from the past, but if we’re not careful we can end up making the same mistakes in a different way. Pushing ourselves over what we can physically handle can lead to injury, which in many cases leaves us broken and defeated for a while. When we’re broken, it’s easier to fall back into bad habits such as turning to drugs to relieve pain. If we really want to recover from our addiction through fitness, we need to do it the right way with time, patience, dedication and discipline.
Focusing on Self-Care
When we work so hard to make our minds and bodies better, we sometimes neglect to give ourselves the kind of self-care we so desperately need. Self-care means that we are mindful enough to pull the brakes from time to time and let ourselves relax, enjoy and appreciate our bodies. If exercise is about pushing our bodies to achieve more, then self-care is about loving our bodies for what we have already achieved. Activities such as meditation, spa days, acupuncture and good old-fashioned sleep are just a few ways we can say thank you to our bodies and really evaluate how far we’ve come from our past addictive behaviors.
Self-care also means eating well. Nutrition plays an important role in making your workouts more effective by aiding in improved muscle mass. The right diet can also contribute to a healthier gut, which affects how you feel throughout the day. The connection between gut health and mood is becoming more apparent, as more research is indicating that most of the hormone called serotonin—which contributes to happiness—is produced in the gut. Eating more probiotics from foods like yogurt and supplements will help to restore the balance of your body’s microbiome, which in turn can improve your mood, digestive system, and immune system.
Finding the Right Balance
While having a fitness routine is a great motivating tool, it cannot help us achieve our big-picture recovery goals alone. On the other hand, we cannot simply accept and appreciate who we are without ever working to overcome our negative actions and behaviors. We need to find a balance between the two, a way to love and care for ourselves, but also pushing to always achieve more and be better. We do this by dedicating time to both. If you’re already working within a workout regimen, then you already have the structure and organizational know-how to schedule a weekly massage, or to set aside some time to do some reflective reading.
So, as we push our bodies and minds to be better, we have to take time to treat ourselves. By keeping a balance between fitness and self-care, we nurture our own ability to grow and learn. We can’t keep moving forward unless we take time to evaluate how far we’ve come.