ARE YOU A COMPULSIVE exerciser? How can you tell whether you exercise for the "right" reasons or the "wrong" ones? Look for these warning signs:
* You typically schedule your work and personal life around workouts or participation in sports. You tolerate no interruption of your regimen and seldom pencil in blocks of time for family and friends.
* Relationships with spouses, children and colleagues frequently grow troubled as you withdraw from social contact. Friends and family voice concern about your self-destructive attitude toward exercise.
* "Your day-to-day conversation is dominated by exercise," says Dr. Edward Colt, former medical director of the New York City Marathon. "Family and friends finally get fed up listening to all the stories about how many miles you ran and which knee of yours feels tender."
* You suffer a decline in competence at work, feel "burned out" in your career, and lose interest in sex and hobbies. You follow strict or bizarre diets and complain that exercise "hurts." Exercise turns into a joyless, solitary act, performed more out of duty than desire.
* You seldom slow down or scale back on a workout regimen until it's too late and the damage is done, and sometimes you fail to stop even then. You go to a doctor only because of an overuse injury caused by exercise.
* You may refuse to rest and recuperate in the event of an overtraining injury and, in the bargain, risk more severe, perhaps permanent damage.
* You frequently ignore warnings from others, including physicians, to ease up on your routine. More often than not, you question the diagnosis of a stress fracture, for example, if not dismiss it outright.
"You show extreme reluctance to accept professional advice and to stop doing what caused the injury in the first place," says Colt.
* When pressed to comply with medical advice, you "shop around" for another doctor, hoping to find one who will assure you that you can continue to exercise at no peril.
"You'll look around until you find a physician who says 'Go ahead, no problem, do what you want,' " says Colt.
In the most extreme cases, a physician may refer an exercise addict to a colleague who specializes in exercise- or sports-related injuries. Or send an uncooperative exercise addict to a psychologist or psychiatrist.