Friday, January 28, 2011

Discipline vs. Addiction

This morning I listened to the Runner's Round Table podcast about eating disorders and exercise addiction among runners and athletes.  Unfortunately, these issues are very prevalent in the endurance community. As one of the many bloggers out there that has suffered from this type of addiction, I pay close attention to the signs and signals of disordered eating and exercise.  I keep a watchful eye over myself and those closest to me.  I think that for some of us, there is a fine line between discipline and addiction.  I don't want to unknowingly cross that line.

Right now, I am sick.  And when I am sick, I don't run.  I applaud myself for this.  You may think it is ridiculous to feel proud of something so miniscule, but for me, it shows how far I have come.   I have a healthy relationship with my body and with running.  I listen to and respect my body.  There was a time when I would do laps around the track with a painful stress fracture and follow up my run with a piece of turkey wrapped in a leaf of lettuce.  Those days are far behind me but I feel it is important not to forget them.

We all need to be cognizant of the warning signs of exercise addiction.


  1. Always working out alone, isolated from others.
  2. Always following the same rigid exercise pattern.
  3. Exercising for more than two hours daily, repeatedly.
  4. Fixation on weight loss or calories burned.
  5. Exercising when sick or injured.
  6. Exercising to the point of pain and beyond.
  7. Skipping work, class, or social plans for workouts.
  8. American Psychiatric Association

I wrote a post awhile back about whether or not you think you are addicted to running.  Many said yes, but that it is a positive addiction.  Diane Israel, in the Runner's Roundtable discussion, mentioned that exercise addiction usually involves little enjoyment.  The fun and joy are sucked out of running and replaced with compulsion, anxiety and fear of missing a workout.   If you feel less joy and more anxiety, you may want to talk to somebody.

It is important to check in with ourselves from time to time to make sure we are still running for the right reasons.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Why do I run?
  • Is this making me happy?
  • What would happen if tomorrow I couldn't run?  How would I feel?

Like I mentioned before, it can be a thin line between discipline and addiction for some of us.  I am not a pyschologist (but my friend AJ is), so what do I know?  This is simply my personal opinion based off of my own experience.  I just want to see everyone running happily, rather than obsessively, for the rest of their merry lives.  

I am sure AJ at Queer Vegan Runner will have some more insight into exercise addiction.  I am interested to hear all of your thoughts and experiences.