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When the gym outtakes our social life

It is not a surprise when I tell you how many benefits fitness has on our physical as well as mental wellbeing. It makes us feel better, we look better, we feel happier, we are more energised, we sleep better. The list goes on. 

But, have you ever thought about what negative impacts fitness could potentially have on our mental health? When the gym starts to outtake the rest of your social life? Yes, that’s right. 

It’s not all fairies and rainbows. 

Fitness can, in certain situations and circumstances, have negative consequences on our social life. This can be become so extreme, that it will impact your overall mental health and cause depression.

Now, that’s dive into some potential downsides of fitness. When it becomes all-consuming, when it leads to isolation, unnecessary or extreme comparison, and an unhealthy dynamic among us. 

1. Obsession & Isolation

Taking part in physical activity, no matter if it is a conventional gym or we have joined a group fitness class, we interact with other people. From the quick hello when entering the gym to small talk in between sets to the coffee or brunch after class. There is no doubt that fitness can boost our social relationships and can even help us build long-lasting friendships. 

Let’s look back into the aspect of fitness addiction and how it can consume our overall life. Well, if the gym becomes our priority and everything evolves around it – from the session itself to our nutrition and our daily structure – then where do I make time for my social interactions? 

First of all, gym sessions are time consuming, especially when it comes to resistance training. We check the time in between our sets and all of the sudden two hours have passed. It happens to me almost every day. So, there is the time factor. 

This might be easier when we train in the morning as we usually have the night free for other activities. But imagine we train after work and by the time you come home from the gym it hits 9pm or even later. All you do is wake up, go to work, train, eat in between and go to bed.
Of course, there are weekends and most of us make the time to hang out with friends and family. 

But what if the gym means more to us than just losing a bit of weight or getting a good sweat in? When the gym becomes our life. When our nutrition is planned out all week – how can we possibly have a meal out with friends? It would completely throw everything off

So, we get sucked into this cycle. We don’t allow ourselves to socialize anymore – besides the hello when you walk by the front desk of the gym. Social engagement and friendships could potentially mean missing out one the gym in the morning because we are out late at night, we might be a but hung over, we eat things that don’t fit into our macros. 

We lose control.


We don’t want to lose control. So, what is the easiest way to stay on track with everything and keep our routine as is? We isolate ourselves. We stay at home and physical distance ourselves from friends and family. 

The longer we do this, the harder it will be to get back out there. We create emotional barriers and sooner or later, the meaningful connections we have will break apart. Our friends don’t keep asking over and over again if we want to come down for dinner. They will stop because they are sick of us constantly denying. 

You understand now what obsession with the gym can do to us?

I have been through this, too. I neglected my social relationships. I rather stayed at home on a Saturday night making sure I consumed the right macros and I could get up early the next day to go to the gym. My daily schedule evolved around my workouts, from my work to my social life. 

This is why it is so important to practice a good balance from the get go. Especially when we start getting into the gym and we find our passion. We always need to remember that there are people out there that care for us. And if they invite us to their birthday party and we have a glass or two too many, then we shouldn’t feel too bad about it. We should take the chance to celebrate with our friends, have a good night, and maybe attempt our gym session a little later the next day or simply take the day off. 

2. Comparison & Envy

Looking at social media and how much content is out there about thousands of fitness programs, weight loss challenges, booty gain competitions or nutrition courses – it can certainly overwhelm us sometimes. 

We scroll through our feed, looking at all those well-shaped gym babes demonstrating their favourite exercises and we think to ourselves: ‘I would love to have those shoulders’ or ‘I wish my booty would look like this’

We start comparing ourselves, not only physically. We start to envy them about their appearance, their confidence, their success they have online. We start doubting ourselves, sitting on the couch in our track pants with our bag of popcorn in front of us. 

Don’t take me wrong, comparing ourselves can be a really motivating factor and can drive us towards a change. But, it can also become a more harmful culture – when nothing about ourselves is good enough anymore. 

Constantly comparing our fitness journey with others’ success, feeling inadequate. It can lower our self-esteem and can ultimately impact our social relationships. 

Why?

Because if we don’t feel good enough and always think others are better than us, then we rather hide at home and neglect the things around us. We either seal ourselves in self-pity OR we start doing something about it and get sucked into the addictive cycle as explained above. 

3. Competitive Mindset

We all love a bit of competition! It’s great to be able to battle with and against our teammates or workout partners. Measuring our physical abilities, no matter if it is about the fastest sprint, the heaviest deadlift or the longest plank hold. It can help us push ourselves a little more to get a step closer to our desired fitness goal. 

So, while competition can be healthy and supportive, it can become quite excessive when everything evolves around competing with others. When our main focus is to outperform others. 

This can not only cause physical consequences like an injury or overtraining, it can ultimately affect our relationships with our teammates in a negative way as we don’t see them as friends any longer, they have become our fitness enemy.  

4. Distorted Body Image

Now, this goes hand in hand with all the topics I have already touched based on and I will keep this one short. 

If we idealise a specific body image, for example through social media, we get to a point where we are not happy with what we see in the mirror any longer. This can be a small flaw we constantly joke about, or it can become a lot more extreme and end in body dysmorphia and a negative perceptions of ourselves. 

And what happens if we don’t like ourselves? What happens if we don’t feel confident in the way we look? We withdraw ourselves, we isolate ourselves and we neglect our social relationships because we are afraid of judgement and comparison from others. 

5. Imbalance of Priorities

This pretty much summarises all of the points above. Our social relationships will suffer if I shift my focus in life to other things, in this case the gym. When the gym outtakes everything else and becomes our number one priority which then also affects our daily schedule and our nutrition, then it will ultimately be super hard for us to make space for the ‘fun’ and social activities outside of the gym. 

So, once again: fitness undoubtedly offers numerous benefits and has changed so many people’s lives in a positive way. It can empower us, it can lead us to a new start, it can push our self-confidence and can enhance our overall wellbeing. 

But, if the gym becomes our holy grail and we forget and neglect everything around us, fitness can also show its dark side towards us. Competitive behaviour, self-doubt and a misleading body image perception, isolation, obsession and unhealthy comparisons can hinder our overall wellbeing at the same time. 

It is important that we find a balance between our passion for fitness and our social relationships, our friends and family. We want our fitness journey to complement our life, not to compromise it. So, even if we don’t feel like attending that birthday party because you had a gym session planned, at least show up and show that we are committed to nurturing a healthy balance between the two.