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The health benefits of regular physical activity have been shown in many studies. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is becoming increasingly sedentary, and as a result unhealthy. Therefore, significant health benefits can be obtained by being physically active. However, it’s easy to take the desire to exercise too far, leading to compulsive behavior or even the addiction colloquially known as ‘Bigorexia’. As with other addictive behaviors, ‘bigorexia’ can have a negative impact on people’s well-being. A new study reveals that amateurs working out more than 10 hours per week are more likely to be affected by bigorexia. While many ‘mental disorders’ are genetically linked, in the case of ‘bigorexia, there are other social factors that often play a vital role. The ideal standards of beauty are greatly influenced by the images depicted in the media; those unrealistically muscular and chiseled body images feed many people’s obsession with developing their own physiques. In addition, emotional, physical or professional traumas can result from such an addiction. Those that suffer from this type of disease, make sport their number one priority, often to the detriment of their social lives.
We asked a professional!
In order to see through the eyes of a professional athlete, we interviewed Ibrahim Toraman, a professional footballer.
In this interview, the player shares his passion for football and his view on the practice of intensive sport. This article is for all sport lovers who would like to know if they exercise enough, or too much.
Ibrahim Toraman: “For me sport is a passion, not an addiction”
When did you start playing football, and can you tell us a bit about your early days as a player and maybe about the emotions you experienced?
I started playing football at a very young age. Since I was a little kid, football really has been important to me and my happiness. Nothing prevented me from playing, neither the bad weather nor not having friends to play with. Sometimes I would play outside in the freezing cold weather and sometimes against the wall if I had no one to play with. At the age of ten, I started playing football for a local youth team and I was discovered there. My professional career began when I signed for Gaziantepspor FC. After seven years on that team, I signed for Beşiktaş FC before the 2004-2005 season. This was a dream that I had dreamed for years, and I changed my whole life for it. At an early age, I was taken away from my family, my home and the city in which I was born. I would say that football is indeed my happiness, and my true passion.
Have you heard of bigorexia? It is training and muscular addiction, a disorder that is characterized by an obsession with the ‘perfect body’. Those with this disorder constantly worry about appearing too small and weak looking. Do you suffer from any sports addiction and what is your opinion on it?
As far as I am concerned, sport is a passion and not an addiction. I am a professional footballer, therefore regular training does not mean I’m addicted to physical activities, this is my job. Of course, I enjoy playing; it’s a kind of passionate hobby. Regarding bigorexia, I never thought of building more muscles. Sport is an integral part of my life, and consequently I’m always in good shape.
Do you believe in the effectiveness of mental imagery in sport performance?
Of course, it can even be very effective. I always employ imagery for game preparation and strategy purposes. I do a mental rehearsal of the game by visualizing the pitch, my team-mates, my adversaries, different possible situations, etc. Having pre-game strategies is a powerful tool to achieve objectives. For top athletes, psychological skills are as important as physical skills.
Are your activities mainly sports-oriented? Do you ever make a one-week break for reasons other than injury and can you tell us about your eating habits?
Bigorexia Naturally sports are a big part of my life. Therefore, even for meetings with friends I prefer doing activities that involve sports. For instance, if we plan to go to the restaurant, I would suggest playing tennis beforehand.
Of course I have already taken a break for a week, even two if the season was intense. Taking time off from sports is important. On the other hand, getting enough rest after exercise is also essential for high-level performance. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts. I believe I have healthy eating habits. I do sometimes allow myself to have a few « cheat meals » but when I start feeling their negative effects, I regret that decision. Rather than weight loss based, an athlete’s diet should be performance oriented.
Do you have an addiction, to the admiration of your fans or otherwise? When you think about your future, how do you feel about the idea of becoming ‘has-been’?
I try to be as realistic as possible, I know this environment and that I will be forgotten as soon as I disappear from the screen or from the sports news. That’s why I’m already getting ready for this. Who doesn’t like attention? I would say I appreciate it but I keep my feet on the ground. And I believe that if we become acutely aware of this fact, that all this is ephemeral, then there’s no reason to depend on it.
Celebrities are in high demand, does it make it difficult to evaluate potential friendships?
Well, I choose my friends carefully. And fortunately, I have some long-term friends who like me for who I am, not for the footballer they see in me.
Do you think it is fundamental to exercise every day? For example, I am an amateur but I like sports a lot, and feel guilty if I skip too many workouts.
I personally wouldn’t recommend to over train, especially as an amateur. Even professional athletes get rest days. As I said earlier, recovery is crucial after exercise.
You mentioned the psychological skills of athletes. We don’t necessarily think of that aspect. Do you get trained to learn those techniques?
For now, psychological support for athletes is not common practice in Turkey. With time and experience, we do learn mental and psychological preparation techniques. We experience intense emotions of joy and sadness. We have to face failures, injuries, etc. We must learn to be psychologically strong as well, in order to cope with the stress and pressure of our jobs.