Running is good for your physical and mental health. And it’s an easy sport to get involved in: all you need is a decent pair of trainers, and you can run at a time and place that suits you.
But it’s important to keep your running in balance with the rest of your life: new research shows that when the sport becomes an obsession, runners are more prone to injury.
University of South Australia Adjunct Professor Jan de Jonge and his team surveyed 246 recreational runners aged 19 to 77 years to find out how a person’s mental outlook (mental recovery and passion for running) affects their risk of running-related injuries.
The study showed that the more “obsessively passionate” runners — where the sport fully controlled their life to the detriment of partners, friends and relatives — suffered far more running-related injuries than those who were more “harmoniously passionate” and laid-back in their approach to running.
The latter group, who integrate the sport into their life and other activities, reported faster mental recovery after a run and sustained fewer running-related injuries. They were more likely to heed the early warning signs of injuries and take both physical and mental breaks from running whenever necessary.
In contrast, obsessively passionate runners tend to disregard the need to recover after training and fail to mentally detach from the sport, even when running becomes harmful.
“Most running-related injuries are sustained as a result of overtraining and overuse or failing to adequately recover, merely due to an obsessive passion for running,” Prof de Jonge said.
“The majority of research focuses on the physical aspects of overtraining and lack of recovery time, but the mental aspects of running-related injuries have been ignored to date.
“When running becomes obsessive, it leads to problems. It controls the person’s life at the expense of other people and activities and leads to more running-related injuries. This behaviour has also been reported in other sports, including professional dancing and cycling.”
The findings have been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.