It’s been three days. No sympathy, no help and ridiculed by all close relations. They don’t understand the
savageness. No, the dinner hasn’t been cooked, the bin is full, Pampers 5+ micro pearls really can soak up 30 times their weight and children can survive on one bath a week. The origins of this can be traced back to Sunday, a blocked nose after a long run. But I martyred on and ran again on Monday evening, waking on Tuesday morning with all the tell tale symptoms. My wife was fortunate, being a woman she has a natural immunity, but she gave me the diagnosis. Now the pain behind my eyes has eased, my fever has broken, the contrariness has passed and the green mucous has dried up. I am a man flu survivor! But in the depths of the sickness, it was the guilt and anxiety of missing runs which was most difficult to deal with, and this now makes me wonder – am I addicted to running?? Is that even possible?
When I first started running, a three mile route out and back from the house was enough but then that crept up to a 5 mile loop. Now it’s not unusual to have a 15 mile run finished before the rest of the house is out of pyjamas. This isn’t a issue because running helps prevent depression, promotes good sleep and reduces stress (Dietrich & McDaniel, 2004). But then there are times (like last Monday evening) when I clearly shouldn’t have run, I was sick. Not man flu sick – that came later, but I was too unwell to run. My better judgement was clearly clouded by an increasingly obvious addiction. Like many runners, I need to run longer and faster to get the same fix…….the similarities to substance abuse are hard to ignore (Egorov & Szabo, 2013). It is estimated roughly 3% of the general population experience exercise dependence (Griffiths et al., 2005). Unfortunately at some stage every running career is likely to be hit by injury (Videbaek et al., 2015). You see, the toughest aspect of running is not the hill reps or the mile repetitions. It is not the pyramid track sessions that leaves you slightly dizzy and sore. No, the hardest facet of running is not training at all. It’s being injured or sick. An injured runner is intolerable to live with. Wives, husbands, friends and colleagues of injured runners suffer. Runners are forced to go cold turkey. The typical reaction to injury tends to be denial; athletes regularly continue to follow training with no adjustment. The next is a feeling of anger at a body that has betrayed its user, and the athlete may even try to train harder. The following state is often depression, a realisation that the injury is not improving. And finally, acceptance.
Running injuries are rarely an act of God. The cause is seldom external in origin; it’s not a contact sport. They usually have an intrinsic cause, be it genetic, biomechanical, environmental, equipment failure or training methods. The presence of an injury generally indicates a breakdown in one of these areas, and the starting point in addressing any injury is an assessment of the reasons it has happened. Each runner has a threshold for injury, and this can vary widely from 10 miles/week to massive 150 miles/week. The complex interaction of training volume, intensity and frequency appears to be an accurate predictor of injury in most runners(Nielsen et al., 2012). With the choice of running surfaces and running shoes also potentially having a small influence (Nigg, 2001). But the good news for runners and even better for their relations is that most injured runners will be pain free in 8 weeks (Pinshaw et al., 1984), provided they do the right work! It is important to address the cause rather than just treat the symptoms. Rest is rarely required. Runners can continue to run with most injuries, granted not at the intensity they may be accustomed to. But this is important, because runners will experience withdrawal symptoms (Lichtenstein et al., 2014). Unfortunately continuing to run is not possible with some injuries, like stress fractures. However there are still options available – swimming, cycling. Runners won’t break out in a rash if they go to the gym, it may even be enjoyable. Strengthening work will make you a better and more efficient runner (Storen et al., 2008)! So even when injured, running offers opportunities. Now That I am fully recovered, I realise that my worry of addiction to running must have been at a moment of a particularly high temperature. Yes I squeeze miles in whenever I can. I like to suffer rather than face the guilt and mood swings of not running. So, rather than being thought of as crazed addicts suffering from and “exercise addiction” runners are just acting instinctively, using their bodies for what it is designed.
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