In a worldwide community of gym owners who lift weights regularly and err on the side of Paleo, you’d think you wouldn’t find a problem with addiction, but you would be wrong.
Gym owners may espouse a life of fitness and proper nutrition, but they aren’t immune from the addiction to hard work.
“Addiction to hard work? Is that really a thing?”
It is. Just ask a gym owner who is (or was) burned out. There is certainly a thing as “too much” when it comes to working in your gym.
Why are gym owners susceptible to this addiction?
The fitness world doesn’t exactly breed lazy people who are focused on “working smarter, not harder.” So when you combine this work ethic with an endeavor like business ownership, it can frequently result in the gym owner who is addicted to the hustle.
When you stir in our love for helping others, this can make the addiction worse, as gym owners become running faucets of compassion for others, on top of running successful businesses.
Ultimately, this leaves gym owners feeling like if they aren’t busy or tired from being busy, they’re not doing something right.
The Addiction is Real
To make matters worse, adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones secreted by the body when gym owners are tirelessly working and exposed to endless stress, are literally addictive.
So not only does stress make gym owners, well, stressed, but it gives them a high that they constantly crave.
It’s a catch-22: Gym owners only feel a semblance of joy by running themselves into the ground.
Still, as a gym owner you may be reading this and think, “What gives? My gym does well, so obviously I’m doing something right.”
You’re lost in the sauce, my friend.
The biggest problem with this rationale is that there’s a good chance you’re settling for a sub-par life.
Stick with me, here.
Your gym does “well,” so you think you’ve got it all figured out.
But did you know this addiction can limit how enjoyable and successful your life can be? Did you know that there was more to life than what you’re experiencing now?
- Distracts us from deeper, more meaningful endeavors
- Detracts from growth and real purpose
- Is a false substitute for self-worth (read: it gives you a false sense of importance)
- Is a form of escape
So the “high” you get from the hustle is nothing compared to the quality of life you could have if you finally kicked the #hustle habit.
The Illusion of Being Strong
There’s a funny thing about being addicted to stress.
You may be proud of your ability to handle stress and work tirelessly, but your desire to keep yourself in a burned out state is actually not a voluntary choice of yours.
It’s an urge you give into.
Just like how you tell Tommy at the gym he needs to stop drinking strawberry milkshakes simply because he wants them–turns out, you’re no better than he is.
If you are addicted to stress, you have already lost control.
Letting yourself remain addicted to stress is a weakness, not a strength. In fact, you could probably do better enjoying a strawberry milkshake now.
What are the signs of addiction to stress?
Let’s start with the physical symptoms because those are easier to list (and harder to argue):
- High blood pressure
- Change in appetite
- Compromised immune system (read: do you get sick often?)
You may display some or all of these physical symptoms. Even still, people often find that physical symptoms are easy to justify.
“Of course I feel fatigue. I’m tired. Of course I’m irritable. My coaches are pissing me off. Of course I want to withdraw. I’m tired of people hitting me up late at night on Facebook with problems.”
So here are some life symptoms you can’t ignore:
- You have zero chill. You don’t know what to do with extra time on your hands. Boredom makes you anxious and makes life seem meaningless, “What’s the point of life when I’m not running on adrenaline?”
- You have zero fun. You don’t know how to have fun or enjoy your life. Some would say you’re too “serious.” There is work to do, books to read, problems to be solved. Your gym isn’t going to run itself. Not only do you have no fun…
- You believe fun is for children. When someone tells you to have more fun, you groan and roll your eyes. Why do people choose to waste their time?
- You have zero friends. You have few to no friends because you’re not fun to be around. It’s a good thing you have your family around or else it would be completely obvious how few friendships you enjoy in your life.
- You constantly think about the past or the future. You are never in the moment. You are either on your phone or in your thoughts about the past/future. You believe “being in the moment” is for monks and people with too much time on their hands.
- Your “vacation” is always in quotes. When you finally do go on vacation, you obsess about work, find things to complain about, piss off family members, and book an early flight home.
- You still aren’t fulfilled. You work hard because you want to have a family life, personal life, and gym that are enjoyable and successful, but they all are everything BUT that.
Take a deep breath.
Only through accepting where we are can we finally make the changes we need to live better lives.
I hope you’re starting to see that the very things about yourself you congratulate yourself on are actually symptoms of an addiction to stress.
What can you do to quit your addiction?
1. Have Fun
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
Having fun is one of the most sacred things we can do.
You already know that recovery days are key to gaining strength over time, but did you know having fun functions in the exact same way, for our hormones, our bodies, and our spirits?
How are you strengthening the rest of your life? Is it enough for you to be physically strong in the gym but emotionally weak?
Stop pretending like fun is optional.
Just like working out everyday has become something you can’t live without, make fun a daily ritual you incorporate. Do one fun, potentially unexpected and spontaneous thing a day. Go to an arcade, go on a hike with your dog, see a comedy show.
What if we told you regularly having fun could improve employee and customer satisfaction?
Yes, having fun can help you make and keep your hard-earned money, because people want to be around those who are enjoying their lives. Even paying people.
Although you groan now, eventually your daily fun ritual will become something you can’t live without. It will just be too fun to give up. 🙂
We all know there are a ton of health benefits to meditation, but one big one is that it will banish that lingering, underlying question you ask yourself when nothing is happening, “What’s the point of life when I’m not busy working?”
There is a good answer to that question, and meditation forces you to slow down enough to where you can hear it.
The best way to dip your toe in the meditation waters if you haven’t before is to download Calm, an app with a few free offerings to get you started. If you can find guided meditations, through an app or on Youtube, these are the best way for beginners to learn more about meditation (just follow the directions – just like CrossFit!).
- Unplug: If meditation and self-awareness sound challenging right now, simply carve out some time in your waking day where you unplug from all electronics. Even without meditation, this alone will help you be more mindful and at peace in your life.
3. Self-Awareness & Reflection
Call this step a mental “WOD” if it makes you feel better about it.
Self-awareness and reflection are all about asking yourself the hard questions about why you are the way you are.
This isn’t useless navel-gazing. You are a human being, not a chimp, and you were meant to become self-aware. Only by reflecting on the way you operate can you actually change your behavior.
What drives you to “hit the bottle,” so to speak?
Your addiction to stress may mask an underlying belief you have that you will never be a good enough gym owner. This fear drives you to constantly work harder to prove your worth. In doing so, you sacrifice your sanity and energy on the road to burn out.
Is it worth it to give up everything you have worked so hard for because you can’t understand or control the way you live your life?
Take the time to figure out where this self-destruction comes from, because self-destruction is exactly what this addiction is.
4. Control Your Urges
Just like the pizza you binged on over the weekend, the stress you crave is just an urge you continue to give into. Right now, your urge is the one running the show.
The good news it no longer has to. Just like a kid throwing a temper tantrum, you do not have to give in to your urges.
See them, acknowledge them, notice what happens in your thoughts, and observe what your urges make you physically feel. Then let it go.
Look at that urge to stay busy like the urge to have “one more beer” when you’re out with friends. You may want one, but you certainly don’t need one. Keep it moving.
5. Create a Network
In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill explains the key to wealth is finding or creating a mastermind.
Why is CrossFit so effective?
Many of us would say it is the community, and this is no different.
Breaking your addiction to stress is akin to your members who joined your gym (a mastermind of sorts) to break their addiction to the couch. You need a network of positive, supportive people who will hold you accountable in your goals.
Where do you start?
Find others in your circle who are interested in being positive, fulfilled, and fun. Be around them regularly. They will encourage you to stay the course when you start to get the hustle itch.
Why are we so mean?
I know that’s what you’re thinking. It’s so much easier to ignore the issue, isn’t it?
You already have so much on your plate, you can barely think about what it would take to conquer this addiction.
Nothing else matters in life but this. Not your gym, not your need to feel important, nothing.
We don’t want you to wait until it’s too late. Addiction to the hustle doesn’t only affect your life today, but it contributes to disease in the long run.
The scary thing is, you won’t discover the full impact of stress on your life, relationships, and health until it’s too late.
Here at Vive Group we’re committed to helping gym owners build better lives, and that means so much more than simply fixing processes at your gym.
It means ensuring you actually enjoy the life you are creating in and out of the gym.
Your turn. Do you struggle with an addiction to stress? What’s the biggest thing that keeps you stuck?
Author: Chelsea Ricketson
Chelsea runs CrossFit Lobo with her boyfriend Lee in San Antonio, Texas and is Vive Group’s latest staff writer. She also writes about her journey as a gym owner on the great Almost Elite blog. Follow more of her writing here!