Running Addiction: When Running More is Never Enough

· September 4, 2018

It usually takes time and effort to start exercising. It requires a lot of self-control and a lot of willpower to make exercise a habit. Once we make it a habit, it can become an irreplaceable hobby in our lives. Playing sports brings so many benefits, including a better physical shape and a better appearance to more positive emotions. But can exercise become harmful? Yes, of course. In fact, if exercising becomes our life’s focus it can become an obsession. Exercising will never be enough to satisfy us and we’ll constantly crave more. An example of this obsession is a running addiction.

Benefits of running

Exercising contributes to better health. On one hand, it helps prevent cardiovascular problems and other chronic illnesses. It also reduces the risk of suffering an early death. Exercise also improves our mood and encourages positive emotions. In addition, it influences our quality of sleep. But what are the benefits of running in particular?

“Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.”

-Monte Davis-

A man running.

This activity can produce a euphoria called runners high. Runners high is a phenomenon that researchers have studied at length. It’s a neurological reward that appears after running long distances. Its effects are clear. It improves mood and produces a feeling of well-being while also decreasing any sensations of pain.


How do we get rid of a running addiction?

Now, how does running, a beneficial behavior, become addictive and harmful? The reality is that running involves a series of physiological, psychological, and sociocultural factors that contribute to its danger.

“Putting kilometers into your daily training is like putting money in the bank. You start getting interest back immediately.”

-Hal Higdon-

At the physiological level, when we run the endogenous opioid system of our brain activates. Opioid substances are activated, and this contributes to an analgesic effect and an increase in emotional well-being.

At the psychological level, the factors that influence this process start with how running improves our state of mind. Running on a regular basis leads to an increase in self-esteem, self-confidence, and it strengthens social relationships.

Finally, the sociocultural factors linked to the ‘ideal’ body image have a major impact. We see running as a way to have the perfect physique. The danger is that running becomes the tool to achieve a number of personal benefits, such as a better body.

When do people get addicted to running?

At first, a running habit isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, if you have a regular and balanced routine, you can benefit from its positive aspects without hurting yourself.

“Everyone who has run before knows that its most important value is that it eliminates tension and frees up any other worrying thing that the day may bring.”

-Jimmy Carter-

The addiction occurs when we no longer practice it for pleasure. Rather, it becomes an obligation, an obsession that governs our routine. Therefore, we lose our ability to control this behavior. This increases our chances of getting injured and feeling discomfort.

A man running in the woods.

Also, when we’re facing an addiction, our behavior is generally altered because we feel like we have to exercise. Because of this, we become more anxious and irritable in other areas of our life. These other areas can be pushed aside while running takes the forefront. Our social, family, and work life can become impaired because our main goal is to run even if this means putting aside things that were important to us before.

Images courtesy of Seth Macey, Steven Lelham, and Emma Simpson.