[Dominique Stasulli is an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab]
There is a fine line between a healthy habit and an addictive obsession. The phrase ‘healthy obsession’ is really an oxymoron, since obsession is arguably a pathological disease state of the mind, therefore not healthy. Definitions for obsession range from compelling motivation to compulsive preoccupation. However you want to label it, obsession relates to an altered state of consciousness in which the need or compulsion to do a certain act overpowers all else, becoming a priority over all other needs and obligations in a person’s life. When exercise becomes the obsession, the risk of dependence is lurking nearby. You may have heard of the so called, ‘runner’s high,’ which presents as a euphoria from the natural opioid-like chemicals, endorphins, released in the brain during exercise (1). Another theory proposed to explain the euphoric mechanism has to do with catecholamine release, which directly controls mood, attention, movement, and the body’s endocrine/cardiovascular responses to stress (1).
For a habitual runner, the “high” comes further and further into the run as tolerance is built. The desire to reach euphoria creates an internal drive and self-motivating factor that increases pain tolerance in order achieve this elevated state with every workout. The reward is greater with every level breeched, and a dependency on the feeling of euphoria is created, much like a drug addiction. Addiction is most likely to occur when the behavior is the primary or sole means of coping with internal distress (1), or at least the only successful outlet. Dependency requires that the person commit to the exercise no matter the cost, through injury and illness alike (2).
According to Modolo et al., compulsive athletes report four components of addiction: […]
Athletic Lab is the premier Sport Performance and Fitness Training center in North Carolina. Located in Cary, in the heart of the Triangle, we offer a variety of services including Sport Performance training for developmental to elite athletes, and Performance Fitness training including Cary CrossFit.