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Running Addiction: 7 Signs You Are Addicted To Running

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While running can be an excellent way to improve your physical and mental health with its countless benefits, it can also lead to certain risks if taken too far, for example, becoming addicted to running.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just getting started, it’s essential to be aware of the potential dangers of running addiction and take steps to maintain a healthy balance in your life.

In this article, we will explore the signs and dangers of running addiction and give you tips on how to overcome it.

More specifically, we will discuss the following:

  • Running Addiction Explanation
  • Signs and Dangers of Running Addiction
  • Causes of Running Addiction
  • Importance of Discussing Running Addiction
  • How to Overcome Running Addiction

Ready?

Let’s jump in!

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Running Addiction Explanation

Being addicted to running, also known as exercise dependence or compulsive exercise, refers to a compulsive and uncontrollable urge to engage in running or other forms of exercise, despite negative consequences.

Running addiction is a behavioral addiction characterized by an obsessive focus on physical activity that often interferes with daily life activities and relationships.

If you have a running addiction, you likely prioritize running over other important aspects of your life, such as work, family, social activities, and even your health.

You may experience a sense of guilt, anxiety, or restlessness when you are unable to run or adhere to your running routine, which can cancel out the positive impact running can have on your mental health.

Unfortunately, you may also experience physical harm due to overtraining or running through injury and emotional and mental health risks such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

There are many different reasons why someone may become addicted to running. This addiction can be caused by biological, psychological, and social factors and may have similarities to other behavioral addictions such as gambling, shopping, or substance abuse disorders.

It is also not uncommon for someone replaces a prior addiction with running, such as substance abuse or eating disorders.

It is important to recognize the signs and dangers of running addiction and seek professional help to overcome it.

Let’s talk about some of the signs and dangers of running addiction.

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Signs and Dangers of Running Addiction

#1: Obsessive Thoughts About Running

When struggling with a running addiction, you may obsessively think about running throughout the day, constantly planning your next run, or calculating how many calories you will burn.

People who really enjoy running and training hard may think about these things often, but having every waking moment revolve around these thoughts is not healthy.

#2: Physical Injury or Harm

People with running addiction may continue to run despite experiencing a physical injury, illness, or pain. If you ignore medical advice or even advice from a coach or running professional to rest or recover, this is a sign that you may have a running addiction.

Running is inherently good for you when done in moderation. However, if you find yourself addicted to running, it can lead to overuse injuries, exhaustion, dehydration, and other physical harm due to excessive training and pushing oneself beyond their physical limits.

A person holding their head.

#3: Neglecting Responsibilities

Running may become a top priority, causing individuals to neglect other responsibilities such as work, school, or social obligations.

While competitive athletes may sometimes skip out on things, making it a regular occurrence and not allowing any flexibility is a sign that your behavior may not be “normal.”

#4: Poor Emotional and Mental Health

Individuals who are addicted to running may experience anxiety or restlessness when they are unable to run or stick to their running routine.

Yes, many people like to stick to a routine, but temporarily altering a routine or skipping a run should not cause severe mental or physical discomfort.

Being addicted to running may lead to general exercise dependence, where individuals feel they must continue to exercise to avoid negative consequences such as anxiety or guilt.

Research suggests that individuals with exercise addiction may be at a higher risk for developing other types of addictions, such as substance use disorders. 

Some people are genetically predisposed to addiction, and one type of addiction can open the doorway to spiral into others.

If you start to feel like running is addictive for you, then you should try to switch up your cardio and exercise routine so you do not become too dependent on any one type of exercise.

A person with running addiction, exhausted from running.

#5: Unbalanced Running Routine

If you continually increase your running frequency, distance, or duration, even if it harms your physical and emotional health, this could be a sign that you are addicted to running.

If you have a coach or program and still feel the need to ramp up miles or efforts without a specific training purpose, you may want to consider if this is typical and healthy.

You may also find that you continually increase the intensity of your workouts, pushing yourself to your physical limits without regard for your health or well-being.

While it is normal to want to set new limits and crush goals, feeling the need to be “punished” by a workout is a sign of an unhealthy relationship with running.

#6: Social Isolation

Running may begin to take precedence over social activities, causing you to withdraw from social situations or cancel plans to prioritize running.

It is okay not to partake in all social events to meet your goals, but totally cutting off social ties with others who are not connected to your running circle can have a detrimental impact on your life down the road.

A person covered by a hoodie.

If you are addicted to running, you might make a habit of prioritizing your running over your relationships and social activities, leading to social isolation and strain on personal relationships.

While running can absolutely bring people together and be a great way to form new relationships, having an unhealthy relationship with running can do the opposite.

Being so caught up in sticking to a running routine, especially an excessive one, that you take time away from the people and things that add value to your life is a sign of a running addiction.

This is especially detrimental if you become injured and no longer have running to depend on.

You can be a dedicated runner who performs well and sets personal records without throwing all other joyous things in life out the window.

#7: Lack of Enjoyment in Running

Individuals with running addiction may not experience the same enjoyment they once did from running or may experience guilt or shame after running.

It is important to be able to find joy in exercise, and doing it only to burn calories or meet a certain mileage or time goal might mean that you are doing it because you are addicted rather than for health and enjoyment.

Running addiction can lead to burnout. This occurs when you become physically and emotionally exhausted, decreasing running performance and enjoyment.

Experiencing burnout can cause a domino effect of issues, as you may find yourself feeling lost and frustrated with no coping outlet.

A burned out runner sitting on a rock.

Causes of Running Addiction

The causes of running addiction are not fully understood, but research suggests that various factors may contribute to the development of this addiction.

Some of these factors include a history of trauma or abuse, personality traits such as perfectionism or impulsivity, and societal pressures to achieve a certain body type or fitness level.

Running addiction may also be linked to underlying mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

When you run, releasing endorphins and other feel-good chemicals during running can create a rewarding sensation. This is the same sensation people with other addictive behaviors get that tends to reinforce them.

Running addiction is a complex condition with multiple potential causes, and individualized treatment is necessary for effective recovery.

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Importance of Discussing Running Addiction

There are a multitude of reasons why discussing running addiction is important. It is not commonly discussed, and unfortunately, the running world is known for encouraging lots of miles, rigid schedules, and constantly “getting after it.”

It may be hard to determine whether you or someone else is simply dedicated to the sport of running or has an unhealthy relationship with it. Why do you ask? This is because athletes of different levels have different reasons for their commitment to their running routine.

A running routine that is reasonable and healthy for an Olympian or professional runner may not be as reasonable or healthy for a noncompetitive runner.

Increased Awareness

Raising awareness about the signs and dangers of running addiction can help individuals identify problematic behaviors and seek help before they experience negative consequences.

The more this issue or being at risk for it is discussed, the more likely someone is to realize they are struggling with it and the more likely they are to open up and talk to someone about it.

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Setting an Example

While running and exercise can have many health benefits, it is important to maintain a balance between physical activity and other aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and leisure activities.

Openly talking about the importance of balancing running routines with other aspects of life can help new and seasoned runners reflect on their routines and consider making changes if need be.

Access to Resources

Discussing running addiction can help individuals access resources and support, such as therapy, support groups, and treatment programs, to help them overcome their addiction.

The more being addicted to running is discussed, the more people will know how to connect with others who are struggling and how to get help.

In general, taking opportunities to discuss running addiction is important to promote awareness, reduce stigma, and provide support to individuals who may be struggling with problematic exercise behaviors.

A person running on a track.

How to Overcome Running Addiction

Overcoming running addiction requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Some effective strategies for overcoming running addiction include seeking professional help, developing a support network of family and friends, and setting realistic running goals.

It is also important to address any underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to the addiction, such as anxiety or depression, through therapy or medication.

If possible, you should find alternative forms of exercise and engage in non-running activities to help regain balance in your life and reduce the risk of relapse.

With time and effort, you can overcome your running addiction and regain control over your life and exercise habits.

If you feel like running is addictive for you and are looking to shake up your routine, check out our article: Alternatives To Running: 16 Fun Cardio Ideas To Replace Running.

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I am a UESCA-certified running coach, psychology PhD student, and competitive obstacle racer and trail runner. Once 100 pounds overweight I found fitness and fell in love with an active and competitive lifestyle. My passion for inspiring others and fitness come together seamlessly in the world of writing where I get to share the thing that changed my life. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, my dogs, as well as baking and cooking.

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