red flags exercise is unhealthy

Four Red Flags Your Exercise is Unhealthy

There is a particular 6-mile run through Central Park that in hindsight is a clear red flag of my exercise addiction.

My husband and I were celebrating my birthday with back-to-back My Morning Jacket shows (I seriously doubt another birthday can top that) when Saturday night I got food poisoning.

I was in the beginning weeks of marathon training and Monday my plan was to do an easy 6 miles in Central Park. After being in bed 11 hours Sunday night, I still got up and did my 6 miles.

As I’ve written before, we did IVF to have our son, and the culprit appears to be Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. My body fat was too low, and my workouts were too intense.

Even exercise falls under the “too much of a good thing” rule, and it can be hard to tell when you’ve crossed the line from healthy commitment to unhealthy addiction.

Here are four red flags that your exercise habits are detracting instead of enhancing your life:

No unplanned off-days

I thought I was living with balance because I took 1-2 off days each week. When I look back, I realize I was only OK with an off-day if it was planned. That time I had food poisoning, an off-day would be the right call, but it was a planned 6-miler so on the road I went.

While I always encourage women to find a Plan B so working out isn’t always on the back-burner, it should not ruin your day if you aren’t able to do the workout you intended.

Sometimes an off-day is more beneficial that plodding through. Ask yourself if any of the following are true:

  • You refuse to skip a workout no matter what
  • You obsess over how you’ll make up for a missed workout
  • You’re in a funk because you didn’t workout or cut it short
  • You alter your eating because of it

Any Yes’s? These are red flags.

Workouts are always all-out

There was a bootcamp class I loved, and if I didn’t think, “Can I do the rest of this?!”, I felt it wasn’t hard enough. If I ran a treadmill interval at 8.2 instead of 8.4 like I’d done before, I’d think I should have pushed harder. I wanted to see how hard I could go, All. The. Time.

Pushing yourself in your workouts is great. It’s how you get stronger, and boosts your confidence. But pushing yourself that hard should happen 1-2 times a week, not every workout.

If you only have one mode – beast mode – when you exercise, and feel anything less isn’t really a workout, things need to change.

Start by making every other workout moderate to low intensity. You’ll probably find you perform even better during your intense workouts by complimenting them with lower intensity ones.

Rigid workout plans negatively affect your life

Making exercise a priority by scheduling it into your day is a great habit, but when it trumps everything else, it’s becoming an addiction.

Opting for Body Pump instead of happy hour is – on the surface – the healthier choice, but if you refuse to do anything that interferes with your workout plan, your life is out of balance.

If this sounds like you, try accepting every third social invite and make your workouts fit around your life, not the other way around. Practice flexibility in your plans and welcome balance back into your life.

Burning calories is your main goal

There are so many benefits to exercise other than calorie burn, but it’s easy to get caught up in calorie math.

This only causes us to workout harder or longer, an equation that never wins. It also takes away any joy from exercising when you’re only focused on how many calories you’re burning.

Besides, for weight loss especially and healthy in general, you get a bigger bang for your buck by focusing on your nutrition habits.

Mix it up and set different, positive goals. Try to master a challenging yoga pose, get out of your comfort zone and do a dance class, make exercise social and go with a friend to their favorite class.

Exercise should enhance your life both physically and mentally. When done right, exercise helps you grow by expanding what you thought possible. When overdone, it confines you and you feel trapped.

I’ve been there. I truly enjoyed a lot of the exercise I was doing, but I didn’t enjoy the guilt that came along with missing a workout, or having to cut back.

I’ve made some big changes in the way I exercise, and have brought true balance back into my life.

If your workouts are taking over, I’d love to help you create balance. Email me at and we’ll schedule a free 20 minute Discovery Call and create an action plan!


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