Addiction?

Apparently, there is research occurring as to whether people can be addicted to exercise… who knew?  Of course, I got sucked in and had to read this for myself: The Seduction of Addiction: A Runner’s Confession

And… recognized some hard truths:

“But still, there are times—usually when I’m thoroughly exhausted—that I find myself concerned about what increasingly looks like an addiction. The fact that I now need more and more miles to experience the benefits of physical exercise comes uncomfortably close to the chronic substance abuser who needs more and more hits to get high, or the alcoholic who needs more and more drinks to feel sedation. Perhaps we’re too quick to highlight addiction when an activity becomes intense, but still, the parallels are hard to ignore.”

It’s insane, I know, that I scoff at a mere 3 or 4 mile run.  And running anything less than 10 miles on a weekend?  Well, that is absolutely unheard of, after all, I’m a marathoner!

And the basis of my state of crazy is summed up pretty well in this article:

“dual capacity to reduce negative affective states while also creating positive affects, be it a rush or improved mood.” In other words: a double whammy, one that, fully experienced, is hard to resist.”

And then, there is the “slippery slope” outlined in the article… which, I have surely skated down… or well, maybe I’ve hurled myself down it at times.  I have been known to call my mom when I feel like absolute crap, sick as a dog, crying because I don’t know how I am going to muster the energy to get my run in for the day.  In those moments, I have experienced high anxiety and panic trying to sort out how to get my weekly mileage in.  Because, who knows what will happen to me if I don’t!  And, I do get pure pleasure, satisfaction, and ownership out of kicking my own ass during a workout.  I definitely wear it as a source of pride for the rest of the day.  Even if no one else knows it, I know what I accomplished, before most people had even stirred themselves out of bed.

“There may be a neurochemical element kicking in for those whose workout schedule enters this phase, with endorphin production dropping off and the body making up for that decline by working harder to extract pleasure from more sustained physical exertion. My own experience of needing increasingly more miles to feed the seductive opiate rush of a workout speaks to the insidious impact of this possible chemical rationing. The body and mind recall all too vividly what it’s like to exist (blissfully, mind you) in post-exercise equilibrium and will do what it must do to rediscover that balance. When your workouts are overly tuned in to this “high,” you may have crossed a line.”

Hmmm.  Definitely strikes a chord with me.  But, what if it’s more than that?  I’ve posted a few times on this blog over the course of the years why I run and why running is such a personal, challenging, and deeply gratifying sport for me.  It has helped me overcome some pretty major life events and well, obstacles, for lack of a better word.  It has given me the confidence that I can do what I set my mind to, that I am strong enough to overcome, and proven that with patience, practice, and hard work, it all pays out in the end.  There are many different reasons why I run and I know I am not alone in that.

So, why do you run?  For me, it may be partly addiction to the thrill and exhilaration I experience post work-out, but it is much, much more than that.

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8 thoughts on “Addiction?

  1. There’s a lot to discuss when we begin to talk about exercise in the realm of addiction. I’ve always understood addictions to be habits that prohibit one from engaging in important priorities, like family, health and one’s duties. I could run 100 miles a week and still lead a normal life, have enough time for my family and friends and pay my bills on time. Similarly, 30 miles a week could get in the way of seeing my friends, or I could spend my last $50 on race registration.

    That’s where I draw the line anyway. I could run every day and have a healthy relationship with the sport and my other commitments. But I could also decide to NOT go to a friend’s wedding because there’s a 5k that same weekend … in another city. That’s where you start to veer away from a healthy lifestyle and toward addiction.

    I’m confident that the big picture is MUCH more complex than that, especially once we get into the cellular levels and delve into neuroscience. Maybe save THAT for another post.

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    1. That’s a good point! I haven’t been that crazy, while I go to bed early to get up early, I still make time for my family, friends, work, and if a race fits in the budget= great! If not, there will be another one :).

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  2. You need to read Lauren Flishmans article in Runners World in March about her top 10 ways she will injure herself. It is a funny and is all about this concept.

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  3. Talk about it. I admit to sometimes ‘needing’ a run. Certainly I ‘need’ a run more often than I ‘need’ a glass of wine. I figure I’m addicted to both the endorphins and also the smugness which comes with knowing that I often do things that I consider normal and other people consider incredible.

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