Monday, November 21, 2005

The Problem is Bigger than Pete Rose…

You’re out for a light jog before work. The weather is nice and the changing leaves remind you of the coming snow. You’ve committed to running at least four times a week for 30 minutes. It feels good to run.

After three weeks, you begin to notice the other “regulars” where you run. Beginning as strangers, their faces soon have names attached to them as you begin to strike up conversations. One person in particular runs with you one morning. She tells you that she is a competitive athlete. You learn that her life revolves around training, eating well and racing. In fact, you begin to admire this person’s commitment. As you get to know her more personally, you find out that she trains at least six days a week for over 70-hours. Her training mileage is staggering. During one of the runs, you notice that your athlete friend is nowhere to be found. You think to yourself that she must be racing, or at home drinking hot chocolate. On the next morning, you come across your friend and ask her if she was sleeping in during the morning in question. She turns to you and annoying says, “I don’t sleep in.” You are surprised by her remark, but edge her on a little. You ask her if she ever takes a day off. She tells you that she rarely excuses herself from training. As you converse even more, you begin to uncover the obvious signs of addictive behavior. You go home and look up athletic addiction online and find out how problematic over-training is.

Believe it, or not, exercise can be addictive, and, at times, counter-productive to overall performance. As a certifiable over-trainer, I can tell you first hand the mentally challenging day-to-day fight I experience. There have been times when the soreness in my legs has winded me after walking up the stairs. Following some grueling races, where I’ve placed very well, or won, I’ve gotten back on my bike and headed out for another two-hour ride. During my planned “off” days, I usually go for an hour run and then go to the gym. It is this type of addictive behavior that many athletes, including myself, must learn to control. According to the Sport’s Journal, which is published by the United States Sports Academy, exercise addiction far exceeded substance abuse and gambling in student athletes in a recent study. With all the pressure to succeed, many times, the toughest demands come from within.

As they say in AA, the road to recover begins by first identifying the problem. To date, I have focused on taking complete off days. My coach, Matt Shriver, informed me that off days refresh the central nervous system and make you faster. Obviously, I will try to do what my coach says is best for me. I’ve also begun meditating. I believe that my over-active mental/physical state can become more focused through the use of Zen meditation on a daily basis. These tools, as well as others have helped me recover from at least 10-years of exercise addiction. I’m not there yet, but will be.

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