11 Steps to Becoming Addicted to Running


Creative Commons License photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Running is one of those things that you don’t miss until you try it again after a long hiatus. I’ve recently been reminded of this as I just starting to get back into running myself.

I’ve been a runner for the past 13 years, about 9 of those competitively. I’ve run a couple of marathons, and know quite a bit about the sport. I believe it to be one of the best sports for individuals (though definitely not for spectators). I love running, but I took a long hiatus over the winter holidays because, well… it was really stinkin’ cold and snowy. As a result I slowly started gaining weight, and losing my shape. Bleah. With Summer just around the corner, it was definitely time for a change.

I’ve run all sorts of distances and races, and I can tell you that the absolute hardest runs are the ones when you’re just getting started. I’ve never been more reminded of that until recently.

While long-distance running is a test of perseverance, actually running on regular intervals can be an even bigger test of persistence. I’ve found that actually getting my lazy butt off the couch is usually harder than the runs themselves. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Luckily, there is hope. Once a runner has been running at regular intervals for a while, getting motivated for a run becomes much easier.

At this point, our bodies start craving the run.

Yes, we can actually become addicted to running (or physical activity in general). There are many benefits to running, from health to psychological (I’ve argued it boosts productivity too). But the addictive part mainly comes from the way pheromones (which improve your overall attitude), are released while running.

Running, especially outside and on trails, creates a release of endorphins that can cause euphoria (runner’s high) or just a general sense of happiness. Running has been used for years to treat clinical depression and addictions of all kinds. Less tension, less depression, less fatigue, and less confusion are just a few of the changes that patient’s have seen after beginning a regular running program. Running gives something for them to focus on, allowing them to see something besides their depressed state or addiction.

Interestingly enough, it looks like a running addiction can cure another addiction! But we’re straying from the point. Getting addicted to running is great for someone wanting to start a regular exercise schedule, but just hasn’t found the motivation. If you can force yourself to start running at regular intervals throughout the week, eventually it’ll be hard to stop. You won’t want to stop running.

Here are a few tips I’ve found stumbled upon over the past decade that can really keep you motivated and eventually at the point where running is a (good) addiction.

  1. Don’t give yourself any excuses. Everyone’s got reasons why they shouldn’t be exercising. But if you make it an important part of your day, it will be harder to make excuses not to.
  2. Run with other people. Nothing helps develop a habit like a little accountability.
  3. Reward, reward, reward. Give yourself little rewards for your diligence. There’s nothing wrong with a little superficial indulgence for diligence. It’s amazing how much these can help your overall outlook at running. Small bits of motivation add up.
  4. Run at the same time every day. Creating a running routine can help you quickly become accustomed to releasing those endorphins at the same time every day. Pretty soon you’ll be looking forward to your running times (no joke!).
  5. Run first thing in the morning. While it takes a bit to get your body accustomed to running in the AM, you’ll find that this is probably the best time for running, no matter where you live. While the rest of the world sleeps, you can navigate the streets or countryside without the heavy traffic of the rest of the day. It’s quieter, and there’s nothing like waking up to a beautiful
  6. Slow down, Tiger. One of the biggest problems people encounter while starting running is that they try do to too much too quickly. This will only burn you out, give you some injuries and quickly instill a hatred for running. Start slooooow. Build up your endurance. The only way to keep running every day is to take it slow at first.
  7. Be mindful of the benefits. Notice how much weight you’re losing, how much better you feel and all the other benefits that running gives. You’ll start seeing/feeling some of them instantly.
  8. Set goals. There’s nothing more empowering than accomplishing running goals. It boosts confidence and adds a little swagger in your step because you know you’re a champ. If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
  9. Find a running routine that fits you. Plenty of people smarter than me have published running routines and goals to help you gauge how much to run each day. I’d recommend the Runner’s World Smart Coach to tailor a running plan that’s going to work for you.
  10. Track your progress. Like any activity, tracking your progress will keep you motivated to improve. If you’re into digital tools, try the Runner’s World Training Log. If you’re into paper, a paper calendar works fine. Just record your progress each day.
  11. See running as a release, not a chore. You’ve got to develop the mindset that this isn’t something you have to do, but rather something you get to do.

If you wanting to read more on the benefits of running, check out the entire article about the benefits of running at About.com. Very convincing if you’re thinking about starting it up.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

Leave a Comment

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • sir jorge March 10, 2008, 8:02 pm

    there should be a disclaimer for those of us with torn acl’s or other ligament damage.

    Reply
  • glen March 10, 2008, 8:27 pm

    heh… sorry sir jorge :(

    Reply
  • Keith March 10, 2008, 10:55 pm

    Sorry to double-post in Digg as well, but just a few observations from personal experience.

    Very good article, with a couple of exceptions. With the technologies available to us, specifically Google Earth, you can really enhance your running experience. Using the path tool can help you plan your exact route and gauge your distance.

    I have a bit of an issue with #4 and #5, as they seem a little contradictory. I like to vary my runs depending on the season. Evening runs in the colder months, morning runs in the warmer months.

    #6 should be seriously taken into consideration. Hell hath no fury like shin splints.

    I’m going to try #10. I started keeping a log in Numbers/Excel but didn’t want to open my laptop after every run and fire up a spreadsheet (boring). I’m curious to see what the training log has to offer.

    #11 – Right on. A few personal tips – start slow, walk/run/walk/run to build up your muscles. While running, let your mind wander. Don’t think about the run, unless it starts to hurt. If it starts to hurt, SLOW DOWN.

    Two very important things this article does not mention that I think are core to a good, healthy running experience:

    1) Buy good, ugly shoes. Don’t worry about how they look, worry more about how they feel. Any decent running store will allow you to try on several pairs, run in the parking lot or have a treadmill and grab video of you running to see where your feet hit the surface. The right pair may not be pretty but you’re not going out for a fashion show. When you DON’T have blisters or shin splints you will be much happier.

    2) Buy good socks.

    A few other pointers from personal experience:

    * Stretch well before starting out AND after finishing your run. At least stretch your calves, thighs and quads for 10-15 seconds each.
    * Say you plan to run your course in 30 minutes. You will soon find it takes less than 30 minutes to run your course. Have an “extended” plan and/or an alternate course.
    * Carry your ID with you. Sad to say, often times motorists do not respect pedestrians’/joggers right-of-way (especially in Charlotte).
    * Find timed runs in your area. 5k’s (3.1 miles) are good opportunities to give you inspiration to improve your ability. If you have a decent running company sponsoring the event they will have good chips that give a good read on your pace and how well you are progressing. You will soon see the seconds falling away from your time and you will also probably be helping a charity in your area.
    * Try this breathing exercise while running: one in, two out. When at “running pace”, for every breath you take in, exhale twice. This will prevent you from getting “side stitches.” Try this pace: inhale, exhale left, exhale right, repeat.

    Fortunately for me I have some great places to run here in Charlotte – especially the BIG “block” from Johnson and Wales to around the Panthers practice facility and around the stadium. There are very few street crossings. (UNfortunately the Panthers are installing new scoreboards so I can’t run up and down the South entry stairs. But they at least put up scaffolding so I can still run around the “public access” areas of the stadium. My opinion about that will change at the first game of the season.)

    I am – by far – no expert on running. But I have found that personal experience reveals secrets you can only learn. I just want to pass on what I have learned.

    Reply
  • glen March 10, 2008, 11:31 pm

    Thanks for posting Keith. That’s some good stuff.

    Reply
  • Hayden Tompkins March 11, 2008, 10:03 am

    I had an ex-boyfriend who would constantly try to get me to run.

    I absolute hate it when runners bug me to run. I don’t want to run. Running is not for everyone. I am THRILLED that runners get a kick out of running. But running is not ‘awesome’ for a girl with a 38F rack.

    I am not trying to crack on this article, I just want to get it out there that it is OK not to be a runner.

    Reply
    • Cordelia April 29, 2017, 6:16 pm

      Prospere grange Les mecs, est ce qu;&squorune fille peut-elle être amoureuse, comme vous dites en montrant tous les signes que vous avez cités, et arrêter de vous aimer pendant que vous lui faites la cour, à cause de votre maladresse dans votre approche ? Merci de votre réponse. 0  0

      Reply
  • glen March 11, 2008, 10:33 am

    Yean, not everyone is going to be physically able to run, and that’s OK. There are plenty of other activities too. Just make sure you’re doing something active! :)

    Reply
  • Mike March 11, 2008, 1:09 pm

    As someone who has recently re-kindled his love for competitive running, I will wholeheartedly agree that the first few runs after a break will be the toughest.

    I mean, really tough.

    One good technique to get through this period is to not make a decision about whether you feel like running or not until after you’re kitted up and out the door.

    I find that once I’m going, it’s not that bad; getting the inertia to get it going is 80% of the battle, so why not use some tricks to help yourself along?

    Reply
  • glen March 11, 2008, 1:22 pm

    Exactly Mike! Getting out the door is the hardest. Once you hit the road, it’s usually not that bad.

    Reply
    • King April 29, 2017, 6:40 pm

      What is causing lower left abdominal crhpaing?Tmis is the second day I’ve had it. This is gross, but there is a lot of gas associated with the pain as well. My lower left back hurts as well. I recently went off the pill 2 weeks ago. Could this be premenstrual symptoms? I forgot what they were like. It’s been 7 years since I’ve had a real period.Thanks in advance for your help!

      Reply
  • Bridget March 11, 2008, 1:44 pm

    I REALLY want to start a running routine. This article provides just enough information and motivation to do that. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Heather March 12, 2008, 6:32 am

    Great post! This has been exactly my experience with running. I started running again after a long break in January of 2007 and have been pounding out the miles ever since. Two small additions to the tips:
    1. Sign up for a race. I find that knowing that their is a race on my calendar and I would most likely make an idiot of myself if I did not train is excellent motivation for me. :)

    2. (related to tip 10) Post your running schedule somewhere you see it frequently (mine is on my refrigerator) and highlight/checkoff your workouts. Somehow seeing my progress is a mini-reward in and of itself.

    Reply
  • Qleyo March 16, 2008, 4:46 am

    I really would love to run again. I actually used to sprint 100m and 200m professionally years and years ago … I got up to speeds of 12.1s ripped my hamstring terribly at age 15 and it seemed to just shatter my dreams and never ran a single day after that (with the exemption of rapid sprints to catch evil london bus drivers) I really would love to take it up again but its such a painful part of me I can’t seem to awaken.

    Any tips? Or is the get dressed up and out of the door the best around? As well as that, I was wondering how early do you run? I’m a bit of a nocturnal feline (I’ve come to find most designers/web people are?) I’ve just read Zen’s getting up early and want to target the AMs now…but clearly would have to get up earlier if I were to run…finally do you run everyday? Isn’t that a bit of over work for the muscles?

    Reply
  • Leap Year Photography of ft Myers March 23, 2008, 12:16 pm

    Great post and a great photograph! I love how it looks like she is running to the light.

    #6 is a good point. When I was in high school could run an easy 5 minute mile… Now 33 I keep trying to get back to that each time I run and I am not sure why. I do know that it does take away from getting a good controlled run.

    Reply
  • FFMarathon April 2, 2008, 10:16 am

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to “Run first thing in the morning.” At first, it is hard. You have a set routine and you’re comfortable with it. However, I find running in the morning sets the rest of my day. It’s better than coffee. Heck, have a cup of joe and then go for a run. Double cool!

    Reply
  • Michael Henreckson April 4, 2008, 3:50 pm

    Running is addictive. Non-runners don’t understand but it is like one of the world’s best stress relievers. Last fall I was having shin-splints and so I decided to back off for a while. It was torture telling myself not to run.

    Reply
  • Carina May 19, 2008, 9:16 am

    Yes, you’re right!

    Reply
  • Ingrid May 21, 2008, 2:54 pm

    I get back into running after a break by a) allowing myself to run as slow as I want and b) giving myself the option of quitting after the first mile (but not before). Usually, after a mile, the kinks or aches have worked themselves out and I am really enjoying the run.
    (I just ran my first marathon a few weeks ago and just missed qualifying for Boston by 6 minutes. So I guess I’ll have to run another marathon soon.)
    I run at 8:00am, after my morning coffee has kicked in and my breakfast is digested.

    Reply
  • Jen November 30, 2009, 11:39 pm

    Running has changed my life for good.
    Last year I was diagnosed with cancer, went through surgeries, radiation and chemo…before this I was a smoker, drinker, and just generally unhealthy.
    When I was finally able to get about on my own again I had gained a ton of weight and started cross country skiing to lose the weight.
    I fell in love with skiing and wanted to continue to to improve so i took up running this past spring thinking it was solely for the skiing…now im hooked on running!
    So I guess my point is if a fat, ex-smoker, cancer patient can get addicted to running anyone can.
    I am not the fastest girl out there but I've managed to get upto doing 8km daily and ran a half marathon a few weeks back.
    Ive never felt so good!

    Reply
  • Jen December 1, 2009, 12:39 am

    Running has changed my life for good.
    Last year I was diagnosed with cancer, went through surgeries, radiation and chemo…before this I was a smoker, drinker, and just generally unhealthy.
    When I was finally able to get about on my own again I had gained a ton of weight and started cross country skiing to lose the weight.
    I fell in love with skiing and wanted to continue to to improve so i took up running this past spring thinking it was solely for the skiing…now im hooked on running!
    So I guess my point is if a fat, ex-smoker, cancer patient can get addicted to running anyone can.
    I am not the fastest girl out there but I've managed to get upto doing 8km daily and ran a half marathon a few weeks back.
    Ive never felt so good!

    Reply
  • Jen December 1, 2009, 5:39 am

    Running has changed my life for good.
    Last year I was diagnosed with cancer, went through surgeries, radiation and chemo…before this I was a smoker, drinker, and just generally unhealthy.
    When I was finally able to get about on my own again I had gained a ton of weight and started cross country skiing to lose the weight.
    I fell in love with skiing and wanted to continue to to improve so i took up running this past spring thinking it was solely for the skiing…now im hooked on running!
    So I guess my point is if a fat, ex-smoker, cancer patient can get addicted to running anyone can.
    I am not the fastest girl out there but I've managed to get upto doing 8km daily and ran a half marathon a few weeks back.
    Ive never felt so good!

    Reply
  • Easter April 29, 2017, 5:56 pm

    It’s good to see you back at it, Gregory. Your presence has been missed! Quite recently I have been pondering the nature of faith. Some say it is the most mystical non-experience we can &#&2n0;experie2ce8#8221;. In faith, God is present to us as the Absolute and therefore, incomprehensible.Steve

    Reply