One Great Way to Ruin Your Climbing Career? Get Addicted to Exercise

This article originally appeared on Climbing

Author’s note: Exercise addiction is a serious health condition. Seek help from a qualified health professional if you suspect exercise addiction. Most eating disorder treatment centers can address exercise addiction.

Climbing usually draws people to the sport because of its unique movement pattern. It’s so fun and satisfying to figure out the beta, be completely focused on a route, and see what your body can do. Exercise addiction–also sometimes called exercise compulsion, exercise dependence, anorexia athletica, and obsessive exercise–steals the pleasure from climbing and twists it into a perverse game of see-how-much-you-can-move.

Sarah Gorman, climber and physical therapist from California, describes her experience with exercise addiction as a collegiate climber: “It became an obsessive detour during a well-intentioned fitness journey. Ultimately, it felt like that dream where you are making the motions of running but not actually moving anywhere–frustrating, demoralizing, unsatisfying. Yet it was so enticing, as though the promise would hold up its end of the bargain: More training and less calories = desired outcome. I wanted to believe it. I really felt the spiral spinning when I realized I started using more exercise as a punishment for eating something that I saw as not appropriate.”

Why we fall into the trap

One of the trickiest elements of exercise addiction for climbers is that, in the early days of that addiction, your climbing may actually improve. This may be due to increased endurance, strength, flexibility, or skills due to increased training. People experiencing exercise addiction often feel a sense of sharpness, euphoria, flow, and strength. This comes from heightened hormones like adrenaline that keep your body functioning in fight or flight mode, even in the face of dysfunctional exercise. Eventually, however, the compulsive movement catches up, and your body begins rebelling against all the…


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