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Exercise as a Substitute for Sex?

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Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to say the two acts are even close to being comparable... but why is it the more I settle into lacking a romantic partner, the more exercise I find myself doing? Is it purely neurological? Are there happy little endorphines being released that help take the edge off of the thought of what I'm currently lacking in my life? Or is it psychological? Am I trying to get in shape (on more of a subconscious level) in order to attract a new partner? On a conscious level, I would say that's not the case. While I have been on some "dates" (some good, some nearly criminal) I have made it explicitly known I am not looking for that kind of relationship right now. Does that turn guys away? No. They go out with me anyway. They all seem to think THEY'LL be the one to convince me otherwise. I always laugh on the inside when I begin to sense this in their conversations...

As to this whole exercise phenomenon, what's really weird is that during the one relationshp I've ever been in,whenever I felt "that way" but wasn't with my guy I would reach for a piece of chocolate. Now, whenever I have that urge (which is more often now... perhaps a statement of new self-esteem :lol:...) I exercise: pilates, yoga, running, cross training, walking, etc. The result? I'm getting in great shape, and the exercise does seem to get rid of the craving (though it can't completely erase the thought). Does this fit with the notion that sex is a celebration of one's self and of existence? Can exercise offer the same celebration? If it doesn't, why do I feel "better" after having exercised the urge away? My recent boot from the romantic front has forced me to focus on me for the time being, and maybe that new focus is making me value that feeling of physical exertion and strength even more. These are useful feelings to exercise in the bedroom, but apparently they can make one feel better when used for personal, non-sexual purposes as well.

It's almost like I don't want sex --hence why I am not pursuing anything with the guys I've been dating-- because the men who are willing in no way embody what I now consider and can explictly identify as my highest values. They want the act, but are not willing or able to comit to the proper amount of thought involved. The physical action of exercise is not without its guiding idea; just as sex should have the guidance of one's code of values. The more I think about what sex should be, the more I realize how impossible that would be to achieve with these men I meet. Sometimes, honestly, it's hard not to laugh at how horribly these men are separating cause from effect in their intentions, no matter how hard they try to hide that fault. That's the number one moment to exercise: when I get home from one of these "dates." It lets me shake off that sense of seemingly eternal sexual despondency while letting me feel invigorated at the same time. My mind begins to outright control every movement of my body, and that sense of control helps my mind feel at ease. In other words, it somehow has the ability to make my mind feel the same way it does after sex. My body feels tired, yes, but I've discovered no amount of exercise can come close to replicating that physical feeling that follows an exhasting session of lovemaking.(if anyone knows of such an exercise, please let me know :P and by exercise I mean something other than self-service; that's boring).

So if sex is metaphysical and makes one feel exhiliarated because it is the physical celebration of one's values, how come exercise is producing the same effect? Is it simply because my esteem for myself has now, finally, taken its proper place? And because I can't celebrate it with the one man I thus far deem proper, I celebrate with myself in this way?

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My body feels tired, yes, but I've discovered no amount of exercise can come close to replicating that physical feeling that follows an exhasting session of lovemaking.

[...]

So if sex is metaphysical and makes one feel exhiliarated because it is the physical celebration of one's values, how come exercise is producing the same effect?

Same effect? Aren't you contradicting yourself?

I know that I have not been with a woman well over 2 years, so right now it's super easy for me not to think about such things (one would think it would be the opposite, but definately not in my case).

What helps in this area are two main things, I think:

There is no one in my real life that is comparable to the woman I am in love with, so it really isn't hard for me not to entertain such sexual thoughts, because those that are around me just are not attractive to me compared to her, and so such thoughts aren't thought by me, because I do not wish to pursue these women, even when one had made a pass at me. She was in tears over it, but I simply will not touch a woman that I am not romantically attracted to first. I know better now. The other main thing I think is that with all the work that I do daily, coupled with not sleeping much, does make it easier in a way because of the exhaustion. Like this week for example, I worked Sunday through Sunday and on 3 of those days I work 17-19.5 hour days. Sex isn't on my mind, usually it's either food or sleep when I work that much. It's hardly ever on my mind anyways. Even if I think about the one I love, I think more of the products of her mind, like I always have more than I do about her as a person, so thinking of her sexually is quite foreign to me at this point.

Substitute for sex? Subsitute at best for me: masturbation, not excersise.

Edited by intellectualammo

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It's important to understand when you are asking a psychological question as opposed to a philosophical one.

To me it seems as though you are asking a psychological question in asking if your propensity for exercise in times of sexual inactivity is something that seems to be replacing sex in your life.

As I both disclaim any training in psychological practice and offer advice in the area I have one thing to say: We are all rational animals. And in my view, though 'rational animal' is one concept, it's easy to lose sight of one half or the other. Namely, allowing 'rational' to totally outweigh and blind the 'animal' and vise versa. Which is what it seems you are doing in being nearly repulsed by sex unless you feel you have found your ideal.

In other words, and relating to this subject, as I have found in my own experience it's easy to allow the thought of sex as a deep emotional celebration between two people become the only definition of the act to such an extreme that it makes enjoyment of any physical activity nearly impossible. This seems to me in most cases due to trying to judge whether any possible physical encounter is representative of one's ideal situation. Try allowing your judgement be a bit more realistic.

It's not as though I'm in some way advocating a hedonistic outlook on sex, as in doing it just 'cause it feels good. I'm just saying for instance that it should not be as though you will only hug someone if you have an emotional connection to them, or that you are only going to kiss someone you love. In the same way it shouldn't be thought of as though it's immoral to have sex with someone who is not your "ideal life mate."

Yes, there should be a rational and emotional catalyst but it doesn't necessarily need to be philosophically ideal.

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I simply will not touch a woman that I am not romantically attracted to first.

I should clarify that to: I simply will not respond sexually to a woman in that context if I am not romantically attracted to them.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Well I don't know about exercise feeling like that, but I can tell you this:

Your newfound feelings about sex (i.e. being uninterested in it apart from in accordance with your standards) are something I have seen before and are not at all unusual for a person in your circumstances. Specifically, I have seen this arises when:

1) You have achieved self-esteem - you value yourself and consider yourself worthy of achieving the sex life of a rational being, and you would consider it beneath you and degrading to seek the hedonistic "wriggling of meat" which passes as the substitute in today's culture.

2) You have achieved integration of your mind and body in setting your standards. You are not evasive of your nature as a rational being and do not seek sex apart from the values which make it actually worthwhile and not self-deprecating. You refuse to blank-out what your true feelings of your prospective suitors are, in pursuit of some kind of hedonistic, range-of-the-moment clawing for sex; sex as such - sex as an end in itself, irrespective of your rational evaluation of the partner. You have recognized that it is not sex as such that a rational man seeks, but rather a parter worthy of sex (after which and only after which he is interested in "sex"). You do not see sex as a disconnected thing to be pursued independently of the values which give rise to it (thus undercutting those values and ruining the entire point), but rather have integrated your understanding of why you want what you want, thus limiting your desire to the rational. You have understood, subconsciously, that reality cannot be cheated or lived in the range of the moment - i.e. that hedonism is self-defeating and will not serve to gain you values; only to destroy them. So, rather than an animal in heat, your mind is now functioning in the mode of a human being.

At least, this is what you seem to have integrated into your subconscious.

Good for you!

Congratulations!

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Same effect? Aren't you contradicting yourself?

It produces the same mental effect, in that it gets that out of my system and makes me feel good about myself and all of that. But the total effect is not the same, because it lacks that particularly wonderful combination of a mental AND physical effect.

As to the best substitute, I've never found masturbation very fulfilling. The difference is WAY too tangible for it to be any fun. It's like being told eating a rice cracker and a warm chocolate cookie are the same thing. They both serve the same purpose of getting rid of that snack craving, but one is obviously much more enjoyable.

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Are there happy little endorphines being released that help take the edge off of the thought of what I'm currently lacking in my life?

This would be where I would place my money. The physiological benefits of exercise are fairly well documented. The endorphin effect, and exercises role in stress reduction.

Does this fit with the notion that sex is a celebration of one's self and of existence? Can exercise offer the same celebration? If it doesn't, why do I feel "better" after having exercised the urge away?

I think you've answered your question in your last post, but I would be careful to assume that because some aspects of the effect might feel similar that they have the same cause. I'm not well versed the comparative pysiology of both, but it would safe to assume that there might be come biochemistry that is the same. However, as you yourself have stated, the psychology is totally different.

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You know, the thought occurred to me today (while driving, of all places) that perhaps exercise is able to get rid of the urge because I have not yet experienced what I now understand the ideal sexual encounter to be.

I've only been in one relationship, period, and I'll be the first to tell you my former lack of self-esteem really screwed up a chance of a lifetime. I made the mistake of getting involved that way with a great man too soon; it wouldn't have been too soon had I simply had the self-esteem that I have now back then. I took the fact that I received that exquisite experience with him as an indication of my self-worth.

If I was getting that kind of attention from such a great guy, than I must be a great woman, right? Wrong. I had the potential to be great, and I suspect he knew it for all those years, but the dumb things I did trying to defend a sense of self-esteem I never even really had at the time cost me dearly. We had good times, sure - I even have a scar on my back from one such moment- but when I stop to think of what it could be like now.... no exercise could replace what I think it could (and hopefully someday, will) be. Exercise works for now because I am comparing it to past experience; but if I try and compare it to what I suspect it will be (for now I have the self-esteem to invest in the process) I don't think anything could replace that urge.

I've had great sexual experiences, yes, but with this new sense of self I have I suspect that I only have GREATER experiences to come. In the meantime, as I explore possibilities, exercise still works to take off that edge because, again, I only have past experiences to compare it to.I don't think I'm being unrealistic in my expectations for a person to share that with because I've met the ideal; I screwed up my chance with him, true, but his mere existence is enough justification for me not to make any compromises. If you have that ideal in your head, why settle? Roark never compromised on his designs, and he was just as happy to starve and work in a quarry rather than have it any other way than his own. I guess I look at my pickiness in the same light; the reward will make it worth it. And it the reward doesn't come, I'd stll take comfort in the fact I didn't give the person I now understand myself to be to anyone who did not appreciate and understand me.

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Your explanation might seem plausible but I would not bet my money on that... I suspect the truth is that you exercise too much/too frequently/too hard. I don't think you are substituting sex with exercise but rather your bodys craving for adrenaline and other stuff that gets released during exercise. The adiction to adrenaline will keep you very(sometimes extremely) motivated and anxious to train, and if you don't exercise.... well, I think you might be confusing that feeling with other urges.

I could be wrong but this is actually very common and most people are unaware of it.

My suggestion is that you take atleast a couple of weeks off from all exercise and start masturbating more frequently.

I'm serious. Do it.

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I've experienced something at least similar. Before my last relationship, I generally thought, "Why should I physically condition myself beyond the requirements of doing my work [philosophy]? Philosophy requires breathing, stable pulse, and a working metabolism. I'm not going to get into shape to impress anybody until I find somebody worth impressing." And then I met somebody, and then she left me, to make a short story of it. Now I basically have no sexual or romantic interests in pretty much anybody I've met. And now I've been exercising pretty intensely. I'm not exactly sure why I started, because 1) I take care of my own sexual impulses in a more direct way (I think it's just typically more effective for guys. I speculate that the desire is more palpable and undeniable for us. Case in point, exercise seems to have had no effect--either diminishing or augmenting--on my desire.), and 2) I am not trying to attract anyone. Now, at the present I'm conditioning for the Marine Corps, but I started exercising before I decided to join. I distinctly remember enjoying how women looked at me after I began building muscle. I think the reason may be this: Even though I know the relationship is over and I won't be seeing her any longer, I want to be the kind of person she would want to date; because she is the kind of person that I want to date. I can't say that even now I understand the reason for the breakup, but I'm relatively sure it was not superficial. All the same, greater superficial appeal would add to my ability to attract her. And yet I have no intention of actually attracting her. This is just self-speculation, though, since I did not rationally decide upon a motive which then impelled me to exercise. Rather, I found myself wanting to exercise and enjoying its product, from which fact I hypothesize my motive.

So what does this mean for you? I have no freakin' clue. I suck at psychology.

Try allowing your judgement be a bit more realistic.

I mean no offense or accusation by this, but whenever I hear this (and it always comes up with me when I talk about romance), I immediately think of the times Roark and Galt--men thoroughly acquainted with reality--are told by their antagonists to be "more realistic". What is unreal about 4reason's behavior, when the reality is that what she is looking for is not present in lesser men? Assuming that my situation is in any way analogous, I accept the reality that I may and probably will never find somebody else. Any time that I consider sleeping with a person who is beneath my most basic standards, I feel like I'm imagining my own degradation.

Do it.

Do it. Just do it. Do it now. Right now. Just go. Hurry.

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Do it. Just do it. Do it now. Right now. Just go. Hurry.

Now that's not exactly what I meant, and it was sound advice that I gave her. She will hopefully learn something about how she responds to rest and exercise, while she also takes care of other things... Nothing wrong with that, but because of the nature of my advice I thought it better to point out that i'm not joking.

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Assuming that my situation is in any way analogous, I accept the reality that I may and probably will never find somebody else. Any time that I consider sleeping with a person who is beneath my most basic standards, I feel like I'm imagining my own degradation.

I have thought along the same lines myself, and I also get that feeling of degradation - knowing what a real partner could and should be. However, a common mistake here is to get your standards mixed up. Many people tend to use, knowingly or unknowingly, their previous partner as their standard - instead of recognicing the standard this previous partner lived up to. That's a big mistake because there are many different ways one can live up to that standard, and it will be impossible for a potential partner to live up to someone else.

So when considering someone else, are you sure you are not comparing her to your previous partner; only to get dissapointed when they are not the same?

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Now that's not exactly what I meant, and it was sound advice that I gave her. She will hopefully learn something about how she responds to rest and exercise, while she also takes care of other things... Nothing wrong with that, but because of the nature of my advice I thought it better to point out that i'm not joking.

I know that's not exactly what you meant, but I found it comical because that is what "Do it," sounded like.

I have thought along the same lines myself, and I also get that feeling of degradation - knowing what a real partner could and should be. However, a common mistake here is to get your standards mixed up. Many people tend to use, knowingly or unknowingly, their previous partner as their standard - instead of recognicing the standard this previous partner lived up to. That's a big mistake because there are many different ways one can live up to that standard, and it will be impossible for a potential partner to live up to someone else.

So when considering someone else, are you sure you are not comparing her to your previous partner; only to get dissapointed when they are not the same?

Fair enough, and I'll be the first to admit that I probably hold everyone to the standard of someone I once had. But that's not to say that I think to myself, "Oh, this one isn't ---- feet tall, with ---- colored hair, eyes that are ----..." I think to myself, "This person isn't so intelligent, or motivated, or interesting, she doesn't have the same charm, she doesn't make me as happy." And even if the new person is a good person, I still don't think it's fair to either of us to start a relationship when my motivation for being with her would be--not that I want her, but rather--that I can't have someone else and she's the next, most proximate runner-up. I just can't see romance built on that foundation. Maybe when Hallmark comes up with a card for that situation, I'll consider it. ;)

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Fair enough, and I'll be the first to admit that I probably hold everyone to the standard of someone I once had. But that's not to say that I think to myself, "Oh, this one isn't ---- feet tall, with ---- colored hair, eyes that are ----..." I think to myself, "This person isn't so intelligent, or motivated, or interesting, she doesn't have the same charm, she doesn't make me as happy." And even if the new person is a good person, I still don't think it's fair to either of us to start a relationship when my motivation for being with her would be--not that I want her, but rather--that I can't have someone else and she's the next, most proximate runner-up. I just can't see romance built on that foundation. Maybe when Hallmark comes up with a card for that situation, I'll consider it. ;)

I agree that you can't build romance on that foundation. Imagine telling a girl; "well sweetheart, you are my second best choice...". I don't think that would make anyone fall head over heels for you. :D

I think however that comparing others to your ex could be a bit unfair. I guess the real qualities could be compared, if you really want to do that, but keep in mind that your judgement might be a bit affected by the emotional ties you have to your ex. This could probably mean that even if you find someone good enough your emotional response would not be the same; perhaps you will not feel as charmed and happy as you would with your ex. If you make these comparisons you will at least subconciously expect the same, and the truth is that you will never find that for the simple reason that people are different and unique.

To put it more simply; if you don't intend to go get her, then you need to let her go.

Instead you should get involved with other women. Get to know them, explore their own unique charateristics, and compare them only to your own standards. Perhaps you will even get to know yourself better by discovering new "tastes". My point here is that you judge them individually and make sure you do not expect them to be someone they are not.

Let me try and make a little analogy(this may fall a bit short, we'll see). Remember the first time you had sex? I think most people remember that. It may or may not have been great, but it probably was a very special experience. You have probably had better sex lots of times after that, but still you might not remember those times as clearly as the first time. See where i'm going? The first time was special and maybe not so easy to compare to other times, even though judged by your standard for sex you probably had a lot better sex the other times. A comparison might be a bit unfair. So, how would two different girls compare, when you had something special with one of them and the other one you might have dated a couple of times?

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Much as I may like to respond, I fear the conversation is drifting off the topic, which is 4reason and the explanation for her physical exertions.

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Many people tend to use, knowingly or unknowingly, their previous partner as their standard - instead of recognicing the standard this previous partner lived up to. That's a big mistake because there are many different ways one can live up to that standard, and it will be impossible for a potential partner to live up to someone else.

So when considering someone else, are you sure you are not comparing her to your previous partner; only to get dissapointed when they are not the same?

A valid point; there is great misery to be had if one seeks romance by constantly comparing potential new partners to those of the past. Using that comparison as one's standard of measurement is bound to distort one's perspective, and, well, it's just plain insulting to the new potential person. It ignores the fact that they should be judged by their own merits. Even if they have the same values, they may implement them in very different ways, have very different passions, careers, priorities, etc.

I agree that you can't build romance on that foundation. Imagine telling a girl; "well sweetheart, you are my second best choice...". I don't think that would make anyone fall head over heels for you. :D

I think however that comparing others to your ex could be a bit unfair. I guess the real qualities could be compared, if you really want to do that, but keep in mind that your judgement might be a bit affected by the emotional ties you have to your ex. This could probably mean that even if you find someone good enough your emotional response would not be the same; perhaps you will not feel as charmed and happy as you would with your ex. If you make these comparisons you will at least subconciously expect the same, and the truth is that you will never find that for the simple reason that people are different and unique.

While I, too, was initially thinking this topic had strayed a bit from my initial inquiry, the more I thought about it the more I thought that there really is something to this phenomenon. Haven't we all been in that postition at some point in our lives where we, or someone we know, has gone through a breakup and suddenly feel re-inspired to workout and transform our bodies? I can comprehend the neurological/endorphine argument. Exercise feels good, reduces sex, etc. That's a given. So maybe we increase exercise after a break-up as a means of coping with stress and preventing ourselves from slipping into any kind of depression over the situation. Or maybe it is psychological; maybe we do simply want to make ourselves more attractive to be more alluring to potentially attract a mate, again. Here's an interesting point to ponder, though: does the person who initiates the break-up feel the same need to exercise? Or is it just the person who was dumped? Hmm. A comparison of exercise patterns between those two groups might be revealing.

After my break-up several months ago, yes, I did increase my exercise. Did it reduce my sexual urges? Yes - but keep in mind I had the unfortunate habit of using sex as a measure for my self-esteem in my previous relationship. So I was probably exercising more to simply maintain that sense of self-esteem. But having recently begun a new relationship I have found that I still have that urge to exercise --- and no, it's not due to any lack of sex anymore :P So whatever my motivations were before, they have either changed, or I simply had a misunderstanding of what my motivations were in the first place. I have the urge to exercise, but find that I don't get it in as much as I would like anymore, mostly due to the time consumed by the commute it takes for me to visit my new boyfriend (1 hour each way). As much as I like exercising, when presented with the choice, I now choose to drive up to see him rather than staying home and doing some pilates. And exercise does seem to have its own values that even sex cannot replicate, or at least it does for me. Exercise just helps calm my body down and makes me more relaxed when dealing with everyday events. Sex helps me to relax, too but it's a different kind of relaxation. It's a "gee, I love life" kind of relaxation; it's really more of a sense of satisfaction. Exercise prevents tension from building up in one's body; it cuts of that route for stress to affect us. So if sex and exercise both work to relax us, and both help maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem, it makes sense that the absence of one makes one inclined to increase activity in the other.

Maybe that's why prostitutes aren't renowned for their exercise regimen :)

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I think you are talking to generally about the effects of exercise here. The way you view exercise here is probably more due to your personal psychology than a more general effect. Personally, for example, I use exercise in many different ways. When going through tough times exercise helps me clear my head and focus. I also use it to gain more strength - physical effort is also an exercise in mental toughness. So if I would imagine myself in a situation after a break-up(i've never been in that situation so I really do have to imagine it), I think exercise would help me get through it more easily. I would not regard it as a substitute for anything(to tell you the truth, sex and food are the first things I think about after a workout). If I would imagine the opposite situation, where i'm happy and in a good relationship, I think exercise would become something like a celebration to my own ability and strength. That's what it feels like everytime I go to the gym when i'm in a good mood; I feel like I can push through any kind of effort, and that I can go on forever on pure strength and willpower. I think that would make me want to have even more sex.

That's how I see it anyway. I think a valid question in your case is; how do you regard exercise in general, and what is your main motivation behind the exercise? And also, in what way do you think exercise can benefit you - in what way is it a value to you?

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