You probably already know that for success in recovery, you need to find new habits to take the place of drinking or using. So much time and energy has been poured into an addiction that once you have sobriety, you might feel a void—a void that needs to be filled. Those who achieve long-lasting recovery find joy and satisfaction in constructive, meaningful activity. And for some, that replacement is running.
But why running? Here are 5 reasons you—and all recovering addicts—should consider running during recovery:
1. It works!
Running has helped to change the lives of many recovery addicts. In her blog, How Running Promotes Long-Term Recovery, a recovering addict gives her insights on how running has affected her life. Here what she says:
Another recovery addict has started his own organization, Back on My Feet, that helps drug-addicted members run. The program now boasts a 50% success rate for their members moving from dependency to a sober lifestyle.
2. Character benefits: Endurance and self-discipline
Running is hard work. It’s hard to get up early in the morning, hard to force yourself outside in the heat (or cold), and hard to keep going when you’re tired and want to quit. There is no "easy button" in running. Overcoming these challenges takes motivation, endurance, and self-discipline—the same tools necessary for a successful recovery.
3. Chemical Benefits: Endorphins and Dopamine
We’ve all heard of runner’s high. Running releases endorphins, the body’s natural occurring opiates. Plus, the feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment are also associated with an increase in dopamine in the brain’s reward system. This is the same reward system that contributes to addiction and withdrawal effects. Between endorphins and dopamine, running can help to prevent relapse by improving the mood and fighting depression and anxiety.
4. Physical Benefits: Health Improvement
Running is a top calorie-burning exercise. It requires use of all body systems, and is one of the best aerobic exercises for the heart and lungs. Running also
- Reduces risk of infection, cancer, and heart attack
- Reduces stress
- Improves stamina
- Builds muscle mass
- Increases metabolism
5. Social benefits: Developing New Friendships
Running can also be a shared hobby that forms new friendships as well as an activity that allows you to meet new people and get involved in the community. There is something special about meeting a person who wakes up as early to run as long and sweat as hard as you. You connect based on shared interest and mutual understanding, and a new friendship is formed.
Many of us alcoholics and addicts were involved in relationships and activities in the past that used to provide enjoyment and a sense of belonging–but if we try to continue those same activities while in recovery, they will do us more harm than good. Running can replace those relationships and allows for a wholesome recovery while still maintaining the sense of enjoyment and support.
Of course, running may not be for everyone. In people with joint problems or other illnesses, running may do more harm than good. However, for the majority of people, running is the perfect sport. Everybody knows how to run, and you won't have to buy any expensive equipment. All you need is a good pair of running shoes, determination, and motivation–lots of it.
So grab a water bottle, lace up your shoes, and hit the road.