Running a personal training practice for 20 years, I'm no stranger to workouts for stress relief. As I've evolved, so has my approach. I came to realize by using exercise for stress relief, I turned a constructive activity into a protective behavior. My workouts became my drug, and I couldn't function well without them.
It ended up that I "needed" and felt I "had" to exercise more than I actually wanted to. I got to a point where I no longer looked forward to training because my driver was more fear than love-based. I was doing the right thing (working out) but for the wrong reason (numb painful feelings).
Over the years, I've learned how to separate stress management from working out. Now, I process the sources of my stress (my need for control, perfectionism, putting others needs ahead of my own, etc.) directly by allowing myself to feel my painful emotions/stress (frustration, anxiety, shame, etc.), observing my role in why I'm experiencing them (high expectations, stories I'm telling myself, insecurities, etc.) and letting them go through breath work.
This strategy has restored my relationship with exercise, and today, I look forward to engaging my physicality for the right reasons, to express my values for vitality, resilience, and integrity.
"A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.