Am I addicted to lifting? Why this might be a good thing
February 2nd 2019
After training for over 6 years, I wondered if I am addicted to lifting. I could be as I try to revolve my diet and lifestyle habits to be as strong as I can be. Maybe I am just setting my future up so that I dominate. Do the hard work now and reap the rewards in the future - the ultimate delayed gratification.
Being addicted to lifting has its pros. There are many benefits to lifting weights. Besides the obvious physical changes in size, strength and power, you also get to experience gains outside the gym. Characteristics such as discipline, consistency, positivity, etc. are all reinforced through lifting weights.
Can I have a training addiction?
First of all, what is an addiction? According to Wikipedia, an addiction is “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process – one which is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus – is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction.”
At this point, you may be thinking, “You know what I mean - I want to love lifting and training. I want to learn to love exercising whether if I want to or not.” Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
You are thinking about replacing mental discipline with a chemical reaction. You do not trust yourself to make the right choice, so you wish that you are on autopilot to go to the gym. You want to remove your freedom of choice from the equation. Life is not so black and white.
You will not make much meaningful progress if you do not have the mental discipline. If you do become want to become addicted to going to the gym, a lack of discipline will ensure that you are only wasting your time and potentially increasing your risk of injury.
Lifting weights endorphins
So, what are endorphins? Endorphins are a group of hormones that are released within the brain and nervous system that create a physiological response. When you lift weights, your body will secrete hormones to help your body adapt to the training stress. These reactions could be bad. These reactions could be beneficial.
In a 2005 study done on the hormonal responses to resistance training, it was found that testosterone and growth hormones levels were elevated after 15-30minutes post workout if the training stimulus was adequate. The study found that high volume, moderate-high intensity, short rest periods workouts produced the greatest short term hormonal elevation (for example, testosterone, growth hormone, etc) than low volume, high intensity, long rest period workouts.
The research definitely shows how important strength training is for our physical development. Especially if we are new to lifting, these results are magnified since no prior training stimulus was done before and progression has increased dramatically. Over time, results will slow down and your body will demand more to continue growing.
One of the hormones released is the growth hormone. The growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, which is located on the base of the brain. The growth hormone is responsible for many functions, particularly building muscle, burning fat enhancing immune system responses, and inhibits aging.
The growth hormone is released during the early hours of sleep and is positively affected with lifting weights.
Cortisol is produced when we are under stressful conditions. Cortisol destroys muscle and contributes to unnecessary fat storage.
Gym goers want to avoid producing this hormone and there are many strategies that allow everybody to minimize cortisol production. Proper nutrition and sleep are two of the easiest ways to counter cortisol production. Another underlooked tactic is to have a positive mindset.
If you think life is stressful and you are constantly worrying about the bills and money, guess what? You may not be making as many gains as you would like to, even if you are getting quality sleep and eating high-quality food. Having a stress-free mindset and allowing yourself to not get bogged down with unimportant ideas will drastically change your quality of life. It will definitely help change your training progression.
Testosterone is responsible for growing muscle and staying strong. It serves as a powerful tool to burn fat and to gain strength. Like all hormonal responses, testosterone is easily affected by your day-to-day actions. This is why one of the biggest advice to get big and stay big is that you should prioritize what you do outside of the gym rather than inside of the gym.
Sleep, food quality, emotional stress, training quality, and so many other factors greatly affect your testosterone production rate. While training is one factor that affects testosterone production, a great majority of other factors will impact your testosterone levels also.
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas that helps transport blood sugar or glucose to cells in your body for energy. Insulin also helps with amino acid transportation to aid in muscle building. While the body needs to produce enough insulin to maintain homeostasis, having your body produce too much insulin can lead to unwanted fat development.
Insulin production can be manipulated and controlled in a healthy way by making proper lifestyle choices. Staying active, lifting weights and eating properly are several ways people can help themselves control their own insulin levels.
If you enjoy lifting avidly, you could be potentially reaping in unknown benefits as we speak. Maintaining a schedule and continuing to grow stronger and bigger are very time-consuming activities if you allow them to be.
Since you are committed to lifting weights, you are showing discipline. You are showing the world that you are going to accomplish your goal. Going to the gym on your targetted days are just small stepping stones to take to accomplish your goal. Hitting all your sets and reps and battles won on the battlefield.
Having your plan written out and executing the plan just shows a lot about your character. You want to accomplish something and you are willing to take the steps and actions to make your dreams turn into reality.
Long term thinking
If you started to lift weights, you know it is a long term journey. Nobody goes into strength training thinking that I want to get stronger for one month and then quit right after. You are in it for the long term and you set your goals appropriately.
You become a problem solver and a thinker. You begin to analyze and critique your life on whether or not you can reach your goals. You are now taking ownership of your gains and will not allow outside forces to disrupt your great, positive momentum.
Have you ever went into your workout and thought you were going to fail everything? Neither have I.
As strength athletes, negativity is not in our vocabulary. It is not a part of our life. We are realistic, sure but we never envision failure. We believe that we are strong and will continue to get stronger.
This great mindset translates to other areas of our lives. We find that we are able to accomplish more, feel better and dominate life when we see ourselves in a positive lens rather than a negative one. Think of a goal so big that it excites you to continue moving forward? Let’s keep that fuel burning within.
Our love for lifter can let us improve our self-confidence. We are building a better physique. As a by-product of that, we feel better and are able to be more productive in our day-to-day actions. We may find that one healthy habit will create and reinforce another one. For example, going to the gym may spark a new idea for a side project that you always wanted to work on. Since you have more clarity on your time, you finally took the steps to start a side product.
Simple actions in our lives can yield huge results. And it all starts from the self-confidence we gained from being a gym rat.
How could we forget our bread and butter of lifting weights? For a lot of lifters, this was probably their initial reason for going to the gym. You want to look great. You want to be and feel impressive. You want to be the prize that everyone has their eyes on.
You are interested in all the physical improvements you can make in your body. Fantastic. As you continue to train and develop your physique, you may find that your goals and values shift to better tackle on life. But the main goal is to always have an impressive body.
You build up friendships and groups that are unbreakable at the gym. There is nothing more humbling than trying to pump iron together and continuing to better yourself. Doing so in a group is even better as you get to share your ideas and continue to learn and grow your knowledge.
This is one reason why people recommend that you train in a gym where you are not the strongest. And if you do become the strongest at that gym, it is time to find a new gym. You will continue to build your army of strong lifters and always have their backs.
Physical progress is easily measured
This is a no brainer. Can you bench 225lbs? Yes? Great. How about 315lbs? No? Well, it’s time to get to work. Where are you stuck? Off your chest? Start incorporating some paused bench work. Do more arm accessories and see if that works.
Your progress can be quantified and that is encouraging. While the journey makes up a huge part of why you first got into lifting, it’s a nice reward to see that your hard work pays off in the end when you can crush your old personal records (PRs) on meet day.