My own form of substance abuse

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands.” – Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

It’s been a little over two months since Becca and I decided to make an attempt to force more positivity into our lives by joining a gym. And while there may be some small physical improvements, Becca raised an odd, but somewhat pertinent, question: “Do you think it’s helping us emotionally?” And for the first time, I stopped to think about what my workout sessions (which some people have called ‘excessive’, but really, what’s a mere four days a week?) have been doing to my overall mental and emotional health.

As I mentioned very briefly before, my gym time has helped with my rage issues; my workout sessions have me walking out of the gym feeling as though I was just run over by several trains, but with a light, heady feeling I haven’t felt in a long time — possibly since my month-long stint in Boston a year ago. That very feeling is the reason — aside from the dire need to relinquish unnecessary body mass — I feel the urge to go to the gym the same way Rebecca Bloomwood feels the urge to barge into Barney’s and swipe her credit cards. If I’ve done my regular time on the machines, and I don’t feel as though I’m about to keel over, I keep going until Becca comes over and pronounces herself half-starved. When I know I won’t be able to make it to the gym on one of my designated days, I make up for it on another day — and even on days that I don’t have to go to the gym, I go anyway (as yet a rare occurrence), all simply to head off the negative emotions I carry like a cross day in and day out.

All of this begs the question: How much is too much? Whether good or bad, how do we know when to stop doing something? If we become almost dependent on exercise to take away our anger and sadness, will we stop or cut down only when something happens to make us do so, like a broken collarbone, or cardiac arrest? If we are in a situation that we know is bad for us, but we remain in it anyway because we know that there are moments, however brief, that make us happy, do we try to get ourselves out of the mess only when the damage becomes irreversible?

I don’t know if what I’m doing now, going to the gym four to six times a week, is a bad thing, but if it also means that I haven’t run out to take shooting lessons, then there’s no harm done.

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