Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Is Running Addictive?

This week one of my favorite blogs, Obesity Panacea, informed me that readers who are more technologically savvy than myself have access to a constant stream of fitness, weight, and health-related research and ramblings via the authors’ Twitter updates. Since I started up this whole blogging endeavor again last spring, I’ve made a genuine effort to join the modern era and became more adept with blogs, social media, etc. Alas, I’m still a child of the 80s with an English degree who will adamantly disagrwith anyone who thinks eReaders are the future of publishing.
Needless to say, Twitter is lost on me.
I don’t have an account. I don’t follow anybody. And honestly, I just don’t do enough interesting things in a day to merit broadcasting them to the world. (At least that’s my excuse for the infrequent nature of my blog updates.)
I have to admit though – when I read this post, I almost broke down and got an account. I think the only thing that stopped me was the shear geekiness of signing up with Twitter for the sole purpose of following a couple of Canadian exercise physiologists.
Anyway, the post title was This Week’s Top Stories–I guess Yo Yo Yo, Even Vanilla Ice Has a Twitter Account wouldn’t fly with the research journals—and it had a bunch of links with intriguing teasers:
and best of all:
The actual article devolves into an angry rant about the correct and incorrect times of day to run experiments using lab rats, but it did get me thinking. Am I actually addicted to running? As most of you already know, I’ve always had an obsessive personality. But is this particular obsession rooted in an actual deviation in my brain chemistry??
I’ll admit, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention in chemistry—can you blame me? That guy never talked about running—but as a future therapist, I’ve spent enough time studying psychology to know that obsessive exercising is a very real form of bulimia nervosa. But I don’t think I’m that crazy…right? And if I am that crazy, how would I know? Where do you draw the line between “health-conscious” and “half-deranged”?
I suppose I do have some evidence for the “deranged” column. For instance, one of my to-do’s this week is to buy two more pairs of running shoes to get me through our time in Germany (because what if you can’t get New Balance 1224s over there?!?). Then of course there’s the fact that my alarm goes off before 6 am at least 4-5 days a week. And not to be ignored – when a guy in my running group announced his intention to run a marathon a month for 12 months, my reaction wasn’t, “That’s crazy”, but rather, “Hmm, maybe I could do that.” (What? Like the idea of running 50 marathons by age 50 doesn’t appeal to everyone…sheesh.)
In other words, I’m pretty darn sure this whole running thing could be given a far more clinical-sounding title than “hobby”. I almost feel guilty about it, like I can look at alcoholics and think, “There but for the grace of the running gods go I.” I was just lucky to find a socially-acceptable outlet for my addictive nature.
So now I’m forced to wonder: If I’d never found running, would there have been something else? Something worse? And for that matter, do I truly love running, or am I just a lab rat with access to a cocaine drip?
Okay, that last question was a little melodramatic. But I do wonder sometimes about my motivations. Sometimes I play games where I’ll ask myself questions like, “If you knew you could run all your life and never lose a pound, would you keep running?” Or the flipside, “If you knew you could sit on your butt for the rest of your life and never gain a pound, would you keep running?”
For a long time, the answer was probably no. But now, now something is different. Now I feel like crap 
if I don’t run. Now I fantasize about running a 4-hour marathon, or running a marathon in all 50 states. And, like a true addict, now I think that anyone who tries to tell me I’m addicted to running is just jealous of my “active lifestyle”. In fact, thanks to this blog, now I’m not just a running addict, I’m a running pusher! If only blogging was as lucrative as some other forms of dealing…
I picked up the Oprah Magazine’s O’s Big Book of Happiness at the library the other day (this is relevant, I swear), and one of the very first articles was about how food is addictive, and how you have to train your brain to recognize healthy foods and exercising as a “reward” in order to break the addiction. Or as I read it – you can’t break addiction, so you just have to try to get addicted to something better for you. I’m not sure if this was the takeaway Oprah intended, but maybe we’re ALL addicts at heart. (Happy thought, no?)
I know it’s nerdy, but now I really really want to hook myself up to one of those brain-scanner thingies post-run to see if there’s increased activity in my dopamine receptors. (I also want to submerge myself in one of those tanks that tells you your real body fat percentage, and do one of those death-tests on a treadmill that tell you your VO2 max. Maybe the moral of this story isn’t that I’m addicted to running, but rather that I’ve been reading too much Obesity Panacea…)
I guess I’ll throw this one to my fellow runners out there. Are you addicted? And if so, does it matter? Like, should I be concerned about this? Or I suppose you can just offer your own assessment of my personal mental health.. 😉
Happy trails!

5 comments on “Is Running Addictive?

  1. arohre
    September 14, 2010

    Risking reliving my terrible years of chemistry, including going to tutoring with a chain-smoking, alcoholic teacher in 10th grade…I go with the endorphins released being somewhat addictive. Your body has to get used to that over time. And when you then deny your body that release, it becomes a necessity to find release for it otherwise. Of course me chemistry track record tells you take all of this with a grain of salt.

  2. Jeanine
    September 14, 2010

    I would say I am addicted to excersise in general – and massive amounts of it. The more I do, the more I HAVE to do. It was really hard to just run after swimming, biking and running. Even now I find myself sneaking in a brick workout here and there. But, I think you get addicted to what you love because you allow yourself to be that way. If you love food, you'll eat a lot. If you love cocaine (after trying it, I suppose), you'll get addicted. I am sure there are things you love a little that you aren't addicted to, but the things you love most in this world, you probably couldn't part ways with. Think about it – dog, bf, running – life would be bland without them, so you get addicted to those things you love best. At least that is my humble opinion. Feel free to disagree.

  3. Jason
    September 14, 2010

    I'd hardly call it addictive, but then again, I don't run (or do any exercise) nearly enough to find out.As for Twitter, I'm a pretty big fan. It's a great way of sharing links with folks, you can auto-update your Facebook status with it, and I'm 99% sure there's some sort of blogspot mechanism for auto publishing a link to your latest blog post via Twitter. I've got a "professional" account that I use to check out interesting teachery stuff on the web, and occasionally share some of my own.

  4. Canadian drug-addictions researcher and counsellor Gabor Maté wrote an amazing book called In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which deals in part with his work with addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (be glad we didn't take you there) and in part with his own addiction to…classical CD buying (I sympathize). He is definitely of the opinion that addictive tendencies can run through everyone (no pun intended?), and that it's just picking your poison, so to speak. Definitely a recommended read.

  5. Chris
    September 19, 2010

    Ooh, a book recommendation! I'll definitely check that out. I thank all of you for not just replying, "Nah, you're just crazy." =)

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2010 by in addiction, psychology.
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