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Alcohol and Exercise-Battling Diminishing Returns
Does exercise cancel out the deadly effect of too much alcohol? I’ve read that it does in articles online and I certainly tried to cancel out the alcohol toxicity with daily exercise when I was drinking. My routine became a binge and purge of drinking at night and running in the morning. But since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve learned that mixing alcohol and exercise is a battle of diminishing returns.
I’ve always loved exercising. Surfing, swimming, biking, team sports, yoga….whatever. Exercise calms me down. It slows my ever-thinking mind for a while. It releases endorphins and makes me feel at peace and well-rounded. Exercise is a part of my daily routine and without it, I feel incomplete.
When drinking became a part of my daily life, my exercise routine changed, as well as the reason I exercised. My afternoons became reserved for “happy hour.” I’d have friends knock on my door to catch an incoming swell, or an evening bike ride, and I’d be too far into my drinking by then to join them. After a while, they stopped knocking. I’d still exercise in the morning, but it wasn’t to release endorphins as much as to try to sweat out the alcohol and work through my hangover from the night before.
Alcohol undermined my joy in fitness. It was hard to feel that endorphin high while battling that hangover low.
I began to feel the hypocrisy of living this healthy, athletic life, marred by the effects of daily drinking.
So, how did I change this cycle? I turned my daily routine upside-down. Instead of drinking in the afternoon, I exercise in the afternoon. Exercise now fills that 4 pm to 8 pm witching hour. It was a little tough at first to motivate myself to get out and be active in the afternoon. It was really easy for my mind to tell me I’ve had a long hard day and I should be rewarding myself in the “other” way, but after a while, exercise started to catch hold.
It doesn’t have to be overly active exercise either. A walk to the beach or around the neighborhood will do. A yoga practice inside if the weather isn’t cooperating. Just something….anything different than pacing around the house thinking about drinking!
Exercising in the afternoon calms my mind and even more importantly, it reduces my desire to drink. Please join me, ditch the drink and replace that artificial high with a natural high that will make you feel better and better, each and every day!
More on Alcohol, Exercise, Fitness and Sobriety :
This is a fitness podcast that covers questions of alcoholism quite comprehensively. The guest has integrated the alcohol issue into her wellness and fitness career, which I find really intriguing. Highly recommended listening.
Musings from a Cross Fit Trainer on Fitness and Alcohol
As a coach and trainer, most people come to my gym because they are tired, unhappy and/or overweight. About 10% of folks come to me morbidly obese, 60% come to me needing to lose 30-40lbs, 20% need to lose 10-20lbs, and the rest come in as existing athletes wanting to get better at their sport. The number one thing I have to work to convince people to give up (or severely curtail) in order to lose weight and change their lives is alcohol.
I have a morbidly obese client over 300lbs with a severe case of rosacea on her nose, which can be triggered or at the very least not helped by alcohol consumption. This woman has a beautiful spirit, but you can see the pain in her eyes. Every weekend, the majority of her Facebook posts (reflective of many young people her age in her 30’s) revolve around alcohol, partying, getting hammered, etc. She went on a Whole 30 diet for 25 days (even abstaining from alcohol as it requires), and it took everything in her being to do that. However, now she’s back on the sauce, and likely won’t get off it again for many years to come.
I had another woman recently join my boot camp. When I realized she binge drinks to excess each weekend, I told her flat out it was going to be an uphill battle to rid herself of the bloated gut and excess belly fat she was carrying around. She nearly cried. “What am I going to do? Who am I going to be, “ she said. “Everyone knows me as the party girl.” She simply was not willing to even temper her drinking to get the results she desired. However, without changing them, it would be nearly impossible to lose that fat safely.
I had a client come in, a male, needing to lose 60lbs. He had “man boobs”. I helped him understand this was a lifestyle issue—most likely brought on by excess alcohol consumption. He confided in me that he binge drank to excess every weekend. He gave up alcohol on the spot for 6 months, and his whole life has changed for the better. Unfortunately, however, he is the exception, not the rule.
What I usually see are folks who simply cannot comprehend or even consider that they could operate in life without alcohol. I can always tell when they’re hung over. They come in grouchy, introverted. Monday’s are the busiest day in most gyms for a reason. People need to rid themselves of their hungover weekend remnants and try to exorcise their bodies of the poisonous state they now find themselves in.
For most folks up through their 30s, even into their 40s, they can get away with this for a while. They party on the weekends, then purge themselves to some degree via hard exercise during the week. They don’t recognize how much better they could be nor what they are losing by their thirst for alcohol. Nearly everyone in society is hooked on it, why on Earth would they want the alternative?
However, for folks in their late 40’s and over, it becomes an uphill battle to lose weight, gain muscle, gain strength, and get faster. These folks struggle to lose weight because they over-consume calories during the weekend to make up for any “dieting” they’ve done during the week. These same folks don’t realize their negative mental state, exhaustion, malaise, and general lack of willpower are exacerbated by their years of alcohol consumption.
So so so many clients set goals for themselves, then continually don’t show up to do the work. Instead, they avoid looking at their problems by drinking over them. Instead, they maintain a state of suspended adolescence hiding behind a bottle. Instead, they limit their capacity for greatness—just so they can fit in. Only about 20-30% of most fitness clients reach their goals. Most give up far, far before they get there. They simply do not have the energy, mental strength, or understanding of what it takes to achieve long-term goals. Alcohol with its instantaneous relief robs us of the opportunity to learn what it’s like to actually deal with a problem rather than numb ourselves to it.
Americans are addicted to alcohol, which even in small amounts is a poison. I challenge all of my clients to give it up for 45 days, just so they can experience what it’s like to live without it and know they can.
More Reading :
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