At one point in time, exercise became my idol. If I missed a workout for a day or failed to eat well at every meal, I was irritated and in a bad mood about it. It would spill over into other areas of my life. I'm not sure at what point I started to realized that this was a really big problem, but thankfully I did come to the realization eventually. It really is true when people say too much of a good thing can be bad, because in my case it most definitely was.
From a Christian perspective, an idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. For me, that was exercise. Instead of deriving my joy from knowing I was loved by Jesus, I got it through running faster or longer. I spent endless hours at the gym or in the pool just trying to get better for my triathlons. Although I really enjoyed this and had a lot of fun doing it, it had started to absolutely consume me.
At that point, I took a step back from racing and really tried to evaluate the intentions behind my behaviors. I asked myself questions like why do I love this so much? and what about this brings me so much joy? I quickly realized my motivations were not always healthy and that they were surely taking the place of God in my life. Although I was really great at racing, it started to become the way that I derived my worth, which turned it into a huge pride issue. So, I took some time off. Not completely, but I haven't raced in over a year and a half and I frequently miss workouts for the things that I think are more important in my life, like spending time with my friends and being involved with our church.
So how do I prevent exercise from becoming an idol in my life again?
1. I use the time I exercise to be with God. Most of the time I spend exercising I also use to pray or listen to podcasts. It's the time where I just get to come before God with a clear mind.
2. I give myself grace when I miss a workout. I used to get mad at myself for missing workouts. Now, I try to get into my rational mind about it. Meaning, I ask myself things like will missing one workout really set you that far back, Cassie? and are you being unreasonable right now? I'm usually being unreasonable, but this is also an area where I find prayer to be effective. Even when I'm awful at giving myself grace, God has much more to offer.
3. I constantly evaluate where my mind is at and what my intentions are. I have serious conversations with myself about whether this is becoming an idol again. I also talk with others, including my husband, in order to keep some accountability going for myself.
Do you struggle with keeping your idols in check? Has too much exercise ever become an issue for you personally?