Running twice a week became ten times a week, and when life would get in the way I was irritable and felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. It went from what was once a healthy pursuit to an unimaginable overindulgence. My body began breaking down and I was just mentally and physically exhausted all the time. But I still do it.
Jessa has a problem with running. She is an addict. “I have to run. It doesn’t matter what is going on or what people think, it is just who I am.”
The physical and mental benefits of running are undeniable, but runners can have to much of a good thing. This is especially true for those who run long-distance. Increased training loads and the competitive landscape places an obligation on the runner and that puts them at risk of making a shift from the healthy “I want to run” mantra, to the unhealthy “I have to run” pressure.
Say you start running because you want to get into shape and be a healthy weight. You try it, you like it, so you stick with it. After a month, you notice that your clothes fit better and then friends comment on how healthy you look. People in your running club compliment you on your speed and your times keep improving. You are achieving things. But it’s not enough. The distance that you run becomes longer, so you spend more time running and not socializing… but who cares? People say that you look great. You feel amazing. And the snowballing continues.
Danger! Your self-worth is now becoming attached to running. Running is now part of who you are, not what you enjoy to do. Now you have to keep running to maintain your self-worth. Research suggests that people who strongly identify with being physically fit and are concerned about their physical appearance are more likely to become exercise dependent. Psychological well-being begins to tank when our self-worth depends on achievement. Beliefs like “I have to” and “I’d be worthless if I didn’t” are considered to be illogical beliefs and people who have these illogical beliefs are at a greater risk of developing a dependence on something, even an exercise or running addiction. These illogical beliefs can sound motivational, but they come with considerable emotional and physical exhaustion. There are three main reasons beliefs become illogical.
They hinder well-being rather than help
They reflect short-term or guilt-based motivation
They are not consistent with reality.
You have to breathe, eat, and sleep. You don’t have to run. By encouraging yourself to think logically about goals, leads to healthier motivation and resiliency. You can achieve performance goals and will feel less anxious. “I want to, but I don’t have to” should become your new motto. Logical beliefs lead to more helpful emotions and actions, resulting in goal achievement.
If you feel yourself starting to slip down this slippery slope, remind yourself that you have a choice. Running is a choice. Being physically fit is a choice. Eating healthy is a choice. You have a choice and we stand with you.