Addicted To Running: It's All In The Mindset

When we at Rockay reached out to avid runners to ask if they were addicted to running, there was some hesitation among athletes. Why? Because the word addiction has a negative connotation.

The definition of addiction is to be physically and/or mentally dependant on a substance or to be enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing. When you think about it from the second part of the definition, it is probable that many runners are, in fact, addicted.

Can You Get Addicted To Running?

Honestly, you can get addicted to anything, can’t you? If you can’t handle a day without it, if thoughts of running overpower other thoughts, you may have an addiction. Furthermore, does it get in the way of other aspects of your life?

One runner, Chad Hause, stated that although he had never thought of it that way maybe it was an addiction – “I definitely get cranky and moody if I don’t run. It’s the time that allows me to declutter my mind and recent so in a way it is essential to me.”

Compare that to someone who has coffee every day. If they miss the morning coffee on one particular day and end up irritable with a headache, what would we say to them? You guessed it: You’re addicted to caffeine.

The Runner’s High

We are all aware that exercise has tremendous physical and mental benefits to those who do it regularly. However, runners have a bigger picture than that to consider. Running actually produces a euphoria often described as a runner’s high.

runner's high

Exercises such as running, cycling, swimming and other intense cardiovascular activities cause an endorphin rush. That rush people get creates a response in the brain similar to the one drug addicts get when using illegal substances.

Just like the high people experience from taking opioids, a runner can feel so exhilarated that he or she ignores warning responses in the body such as overheating or needing to take in fuel. This is when some people think a running addiction crosses a line and becomes something potentially unsafe.

Healthy Obsession?

Many runners report that they not only truly love to run, but they get an emotional lift from the entire process. Everything from choosing running apparel to collecting shoes can get an avid runner excited. And that does not even take signing up for races and choosing bling into consideration!

But how do you know if what you have is a healthy obsession or something that has crossed the line and become unhealthy?

Post Run High – If you love to run because of how you feel after, you might have a healthy obsession.

Running Buddies – When meeting up with a running buddy is a highlight of your week.

Delicate Balance – While you love your races and meetups, if you can skip something running related to attend an event important to a loved one, you are doing a good job at maintaining balance in your life.

Routine – For many runners hitting the pavement daily (or most days) is all about routine and it helps them stay grounded to everyday life.

Healthy Choices – Some choose to run for cardiovascular and other health benefits. In addition to that, many state that the more dedicated they stay to training the better their overall choices are. For example, when in training they tend to focus on eating better.

Disciplined, not Obsessed – Many runners took exception to the word addiction or obsession and prefer to be seen as disciplined. More on that later.

Thoughts From Average Joe and Jane:

Sarah Wiliarty: “My mother used to say I was addicted to running but as she has learned more about me and attended some of my races she has stopped saying that. My running is a discipline and lifestyle choice. I have chosen to pursue the goal of running. a fast marathon time and the choice of that goal has implications for a lot of areas of my life. The pursuit of this goal brings me enormous joy and satisfaction. To me, running is more of a guidepost or lodestar.”

Deborah Schimandle on running addiction
Deborah Schimandle

Deborah Schimandle – It is a healthy obsession for me. I’ve finally given myself permission for self-care and it is a priority with dividends because I always feel better afterward. I take the time to explore new places and push myself to keep getting stronger. It has taught me that I can do hard things and don’t need to compete with anyone except myself. Running has made my life far better!

Lauren Siegal – A streak runner who has logged 45 years of running, 105,000+ miles over 20 years without missing a single day of running, many people find her crazy. 

She asks herself, “Am I obsessed? Maybe. I prefer to think of myself as being aware of what I need both physically and mentally. I have to be smart about my running and know how to run effectively. Perhaps I would have less healthy addictions if I did not run as addiction runs in my family.” Siegal has a quote she refers to (see image above). Tough to argue with. 

Signs Of Addiction

Many times friends and family members become frustrated because they think a loved one is addicted to running. What are the signs of addiction?

running addiction

When the thing you are doing interferes with other aspects of life. We aren’t talking about refusing to stay until bar close because you have a running date in the morning. However, when your running gets in the way of your job or family relationships you might have an addiction or obsession.

If you simply must run even through injury or sickness, you might have an unhealthy obsession. If you are running off every calorie you consume, that is a type of exercise anorexia and you might need some professional health.

The Key Is Balance

When it comes down to it the key seems to be maintaining balance. Most runners are disciplined people who use running for a multitude of reasons. If you get a little cranky when you miss a run that does not mean you are addicted to running or obsessed. It may mean that running is your happy place or a physical means of relieving stress.

If you maintain balance in your life, you can’t go wrong.

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