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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Addicted to Running?

Someone posed a interesting comment on my previous entry. Essentially, this person who chose to remain anonymous said that runners run due to addiction. I quote: "I am sure most people only keep running due to addiction. I hear so many that literally hate it yet keep on going. That's textbook addiction." unquote. He or she went on to say in a later comment: quote "I can't see that being anything besides addiction, especially when they acknowledge that they hate the way running makes them feel once the dndorphins(sic) wear off."

In a way I do agree with the comments. It is safe to say that once the runners' high kick in, nothing beats the joy and feeling of running - not swimming, not scoring a goal in a football game, not climbing the highest mountain in the world. Certainly, many runners seem to be addicted to running - they can't seem to talk about running, is always on the lookout for new routes and races to run, cannot pass by any sport shops without checking out and ultimately buying some running products and for many - die die must run through illness, injury and of course sometime run until drop dead. Runners are so passionate about running - they talk about it all the time unlike say swimmers or ball players.

Why do people run in the first place? I guess most people start running for 2 main reasons:

1. Health reasons - lose weight; fat; as a prevention against some illness
2. Forced to - by doctor; organisation (has to pass fitness test)

What mostly happen; if they don't drop out within the first 3 months; is that most will end up on a love/hate affair with running.

Why love? Love because you can't seem to get running out of your head. You think about where to run before you stop work for the day, you think about where to run for the weekends on Friday, you constantly think about which shoes, which attire to wear for the run and you make plans with running kakis to run all over - just like being in love and dating.

Why hate? Cos you hate dragging yourself up so damn early in the morning to go for the long run, you hate the oh so hot sun baking down on you, you hate it when your whole body tense up as if going to cramp, you hate it when the knees, the shin, the ITB gets sore and injured and you ache all over and cannot go for a run.

Some hard core runners I know cannot pass a day without running and will run through hell if required. They live and breath running and becomes irritated, bad tempered and frustrated when denied the opportunity to run. The feeling is worse especially if you have already penciled in the run and have to miss it. I am sure many of us is familiar with that sunken feeling when we are all ready to go for a run and somehow due to work, weather, whatever we are forced to cancel the run. Is these symptoms considered addition?

The Webster dictionary defines addiction as "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.

Does that sum up a running addict? Let's replace: "compulsive need for running characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal from running...."

I am no master of words so I can't summarize well but at the end of the day - are runners mostly addicted to running? Indeed do I run because I am addicted to running? What about all my running friends out there? Your take?


  1. I am the anonymous poster who kicked off this line of thought in the last post. Just wanted to say "good job" on this one. You looked at what I said and pondered on it in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. I particularly appreciate how you considered that I may be correct, just as any other view point may be correct. Thank you.

  2. i think ultimately the whole issue lies in the way 'addiction' is being defined. haha. sorry lah, my occupational hazard (not law..hee)

    today i came across another way of looking at addiction - a person is addicted to something if it makes him/her neglect and downplay other important things in life (work, friends, family, etc.).

    but i believe there're some form of obsessive-compulsive tendencies in everyone. makes us feel in get what i mean?

  3. The ultimate problem here too is that addicts have such a hard time admitting they are addicted to something. It's showing itself a little on this website with most of the comments I have read. People will openly admit the negatives of running but choose to ignore them in favour of the runners high, even if it leaves them feeling horrible the rest of the day and all messed up long term. They still insist "oh I'm not addicted, I just enjoy running." Yet moan about it all day long and about how much it hurts them.

    Translate the follow to running and you will see what I mean -

    Crack head shoots up and thinks oh this is wonderful! I love this feeling. Once the high goes, what do they feel? What do they say?

  4. Yah and at the end of the day even if I am addicted to running - I not going to go for a cure but will just carry on running. Better a running addict than a fat couch potato

  5. Definitely better a running addict then a couch potato. But it doesn't look so good when you consider all the many other exercises out there that don't do to you what running does. I'm vehemently opposed to couch potato lifestyles also, I'm also opposed to being all busted up in old age too....

  6. all addiction sucks....definitely there are good or bad.....even there are addiction to hiking and climbing....there are addiction to PSP, computer games, basketball, tennis.......

    although many other exercises out there that don't do to you what running does, they also do other things to you that running don't

    btw, even being a couch potato is also an addiction....

    for me, i am addicted to my bed....i need it everyday

  7. Ok insanet@z, I'll bite. What other exercises (not full contact sports, that's obvious) do things to you the way running does?

    I'm with you on the whole addiction thing too, it comes in many forms and you are spot on in what you say there.

  8. Dear Anonymous: Are you a runner? If not, you will never understand why we runners run. And it's called 'Passion'. Not addiction.

    - Michael

  9. hi biter,

    very simple, i will bite back:
    first, what are the things that u referred to that runner does to us that other exercises don't?

    the basic thing is, overdoing anything will always cause problems to the body....if u can name one exercise or activity that will not cause any problem even if we overdo it, then I lost.

    actually, there is always one problem...that is our brain..

  10. My bro-in-law got plantar fasciitis from playing badminton, his partner got a swollen knee. A friend of mine got back problem from golf and a colleague got carpal tunnel syndrome from bowling to name a few. All these are non-contact sports.

    So it is not that only runners get injuries. Runners' injuries get noticed more simply because there are more runners than in any other sports and a lot of runners do not know how to go about running properly like wearing the correct type of shoes, warming up, pacing themselves etc etc

  11. I thought the negatives of running were pretty clear to everyone. Obviously not.

    Here are the reasons I was thinking:

    As for the passion the entire post that we are commenting on...that's addiction and you know it. Read some definitions and think about it for yourself, you will see.

  12. Yes any sport will damage you IF you over do it. That's a given. But running will damage you even doing what is considered "normal" amounts. Walk for normal amounts, hike for normal amounts, bike for normal amounts, and you will not get the degenerative injuries of normal amounts of running. Running loses, you guys know it, you really do, you just love it too much to admit the truth. That IS addiction.

  13. What are these "degenerative" injuries you are talking about? As a weight-bearing exercise, running is good in establishing bone density. As an aerobic exercise, it significantly reduces risks of cardiovascular coronary heart diseases etc.

    No doubt the force impact ranges from 3 to as much as 6 times, this problem can be easily settled through good proper footwear and alternating of terrain. Usually, typical running injuries is a result of improper overloading of mileage which can be settled with proper education in principles of training.

    FYI, it is in mankind's original ancestry to run long distances. Study of exercise physiology showed that human can outlast animals like wolves, rabbits and even horses even during mid-day under the sun, simply for the sake of hunting. Mankind dont look for the nearest easiest prey; they simply outlast their prey in a hunt and take them down when they are fatigued. Put it simply, we are born to run long distances.

    Sports Scientist Phil

  14. anonymous: i guess we can't really compare "normal" across diff sports just like that. and i'd also like to know what you mean by 'normal' for running and other sports

    and..2ndly, if you don't mind me asking, what's the purpose behind you raising all these arguments and slamming running? to
    1) raise discussion and debate
    2) discourage us from running
    3) promote hiking
    4) or?

    we really don't mind open discussion but from your tone, you seem like you're insinuating something else...

  15. Running is boned. We were made to walk. Efficiency is out the window when we run, compared to wolves (another long distance great) who actually use LESS energy while jogging then walking. Kangaroos are the same also. You want to drag physiology into it, at least get it right.

  16. To anonymous, whether a person is more efficient in walking, jogging or running, you cant deduce until you do a running efficient test collecting his O2 while walking,jogging and running compared to his resting O2 consumption.

    You dont need physiology to know less energy is utilised when jogging than walking; you only need common sense. Energy utilization is determined by one's O2 consumption, every 1 liter of oxygen used equates to about 5 calories of energy. Would you breath in more O2 when walking or jogging?

    I rest my case.


  17. You rest your case? You just proved mine! We use MORE energy jogging then running, where on earth do you figure we use LESS energy running vs walking? Animals such as the wolf and kangaroo use LESS energy travelling at jogging (or bounding) speed compared to walking. We are physiologically less efficient running vs walking, unlike the animals I mentioned. Do you just not grasp the concept or what? It's pretty straight forward.

    To reiterate; Running for humans burns MORE calories over the same distance as walking, ergo it is LESS efficient. Whereas animals like the wolf use LESS energy to jog a distance then walk it.


    Pay extra attention to the second link. It takes some time to read but it shows quite clearly that we lose efficiency biomechanically when we run vs walk and energy expenditure is upped considerably while running, which means it is LESS efficient then walking. I rest MY case, and it happens to be correct.

  19. Hi anonymous,

    For someone who choose to remain anonymous, u sure got a lotsa thing to say.

    Anyway, comparing walking with running is like comparing apple with orange. It is not the same and never will be. Granted running uses more energy (which is the whole purpose of running in the first place!). You used a science paper to justify your case. I can quote many more medical studies to justify runnings but I'm sure you will dig out just as many other papers to support your case.

    As someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle for many years before starting running few years ago, I am living testimony of the overall benefits of running - notwithstanding the occasional injures that comes now and then.

    Now please don't get start on the injuries thing again - others and myself have pointed out already that runner's injuries are not cause by running persee but from doing it wrongly. (That I will cover in another blog when I feel like it and you can go comment again if you want (hopefully with an identity).

    Meanwhile, let's agree to disagree and move on. I sure you got better things to do like going for your hiking/mountaining than spend time debating on this issue.

  20. i guess phil and the blog owner has sum up what i would like to say.....

    u definitely need more runs to clear ur head

  21. I presented scientific support, you didn't. 'nuff said. Adios.