Exercise Dating

By: Hannah Henley, Andrea Messenger, Korey Floyd, Ali Nakvinda, Carli Jones, & Kaleb Gaylord

It’s A Relationship

It is weird to think of dating exercise… but with a little stretch of the imagination, it is really what it is! It is so important to establish a good relationship with your physical activity that can last you a lifetime. Any spectrum of over and under training can hurt you mentally and physically. This post is to help you identify your current exercise relationship status and how to form a lasting and happy relationship for the future.

Which sounds the most like you?

The Clingy One

There is a fine line between self-discipline and obsession. The clingy exercise relationship is characterized by obsessive tendencies that can lead to anxiety when not followed.

“I was definitely the clingy one at one point. I was obsessive, never missed a workout and had extreme anxiety if I wasn’t able to exercise or stay on my strict regimen. At the time I thought it was healthy for me. But by the time I realized I had a clingy problem, I did not know how to stop and ended up suffering physically with tendonitis and muscle breakdown and depression,” says Hannah Henley CPT.

This type of relationship often leads to overtraining physically and mentally and if not stopped can lead to absolute extremes of anxiety, control and depression.

It must be stated again. Say there is a huge difference between discipline and obsession. Discipline is doing what is healthy for your body in the present moment and is being flexible. Obsession is anxiety of not being in control and doing what you think is healthy despite physical signs you shouldn’t and change or deviation from your plan that also causes massive anxiety and fear.

How clingy one is has a lot of variance and can develop many different ways. Ones’ relationship usually does not start out so rigid. In the fitness world, the concept of more is better is constantly thrown in your face. More reps, more steps and more calories burned; you are in a constant competition with yourself and others. But, in reality, this concept does not fit with exercise and believe it or not, can make exercise bad for you and health unattainable.

This type of relationship with exercise changes health from being a good and enjoyable part of your life, to feeling more like a prison.

A clingy relationship with exercise is more of a common struggle than you realize. If you are reading this and haven’t experienced this type of relationship, it may be hard to understand how someone can think like that. But if you are relating even a little, know that there are those who empathize with your struggle and that there is hope.

I believe the key to overcome this type of relationship is the right mix of compassion and the rest component of health. Showing compassion takes the focus off yourself and puts you in a place of giving, while proper rest renews your mind and body.

The Cheater

Yes, it is hard to identify with that label, that word is a bit harsh; but rest in knowing everyone is in this relationship dynamic at some point.

How many times do we look for the next health kick, diet fad, or resolutions that will get us to our picture of health the fastest?

“I don’t know how many times I told myself I was going to “get healthy” or “not eat sugar” for it to only last maximum of 3 days. I was constantly looking for the quick fix to health. In reality however, that is cheating and often any results are temporary,” Andi Messenger a Kinesiology Student at UCO.

By the way, most of those diet fads or exercise trends are not a good way to establish a good life long relationship with exercise say Dr. Sheri Samsoss, a community and health specialist at the University of Montana.

“Growing up all the way to the age of 15, I was morbidly obese. My picture of health, at that time, was being a swimsuit model, eating like a rabbit, and being a gym rat 24/7. Looking back now I see I was so wrong.”

So many people like the idea of “healthy” but not so much the work that can come with it and often lean toward “quick fixes”.

“I hated gym class and was terrified of working out in front of people, so I thought exercise would not get me there very fast. I knew next to nothing about nutrition, but to me, eating like a rabbit sounded pretty miserable. During one of my routine afternoons of TV watching, I saw commercials for magical diet pills and just knew that they were going to get me in shape. So, I wasted my money and bought them and of course they didn’t work,” said an anonymous CPT client of Hannah Henley’s.

Health is not something that has a quick fix. Eating right and exercising is not on the Cheater’s radar because it would take too long.

There are also those who don’t do what it’s going to take because they misunderstand what health really is. It is not being a swimsuit model or eating like a rabbit all the time and exercising 24/7. Health is having the right balance of exercise, nutrition, rest and compassion for yourself and others. Believe it or not, it is enjoyable!

Yes, exercise is a part of health, but you do not have to live your life in the gym. Some days you might eat like a rabbit and some days you might eat 4 doughnuts and 2 plates of fajitas and a large pizza. (Maybe that is a little dramatic, but you get it) A healthy diet is listening to your bodies needs and not categorizing foods as good or bad or being overly restrictive. Rest is also a main part of health. Rest can come in so many forms: travel, painting, music, hiking… Lastly is compassion.  Many take the quick fix to health often because they believe they are not capable or good enough as they truly are. They think that if they are that picture they have in their minds that somehow, they are worthier of people’s time. The compassion aspect of health is making those good choices for your mind and body because you are already WORTHY and WORTH IT.

Once you understand health, you realize you can’t cheat your way to health. Health is enjoyable and all you do is make the best choice for yourself in the present moment. You can’t cheat the system, it’s about the process in between.

Single and Ready to Mingle

Not exercising is a relationship status too! There are so many reasons why people don’t: lack of time, place, injury, self-confidence. They don’t know how to, where to begin, or even the struggles they may face along the way. Regardless the reason, some people don’t exercise.

ACSM’s Exercise for Older Adults by Chodzko-Zajko states that we cannot afford to stop moving.  Yes, this textbook is about aging, but research supports that individuals at age 70 who are trained can be as fit as a 30-year-old untrained individual.  Exercise has been shown to decrease many cardiovascular, pulmonary, and renal diseases (and can maybe even reverse some), decrease depression and stress, increase energy throughout the day, weight loss, and even help you sleep better, just to name a few.

The task of beginning an exercise routine can seem very daunting. What’s important to remember is start small! Don’t overwhelm yourself. Anything is better than nothing. Maybe a 30 minute walk a few times a week or pop into a group fitness class at your local gym. And you can always ask a professional.

Small steps matter too!

You’re True Love

A healthy relationship with exercise is a balance between challenge and enjoyment! A good exercise routine is one that you will stick with for a lifetime.

A well-rounded exercise routine should include an activity that gets your heart rate pumping and also a recovery activity with a little stretching.

Once you find the routine that works for you, it’s okay to change it as your lifestyle changes. And you’ll often find that once you find the exercise routine that works for you, you love the benefits of the results and endorphins so much it starts to not feel like a chore as much as it does in the being. Then it’s fun to try new types of movement and make new challenges for yourself.

A true love relationship with exercise looks like a balance of work, recovery, flexibility and enjoyment.


Maybe you identify with the types above, maybe you don’t. But a relationship with exercise is not about fitting it into a category, it’s about fitting enjoyable and beneficial movement in your life. So, get out, get moving and Be Broncho Fit!


Chodzko-Zajko, W. J. (2014). ACSM’s Exercise for Older Adults. Baltimore: Wolters Kluwer | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.



Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies department