Obsession





Now that I have divorced myself from Facebook, (Yes, Deactivated!), the withdrawal was surprisingly easier to bear than I first thought.

But what made me do it? 

Of late, increasingly, it dawned on me that I was getting rather obsessed with Facebook. And when it finally reached that point when you find it too distracting, you know it's got to go. Like an ‘anti-social’ Tic, it was just taking up too much of my time and attention. But more importantly, it's narcissistic undercurrent is just a tat nauseating and overwhelming for me. (Not that I am holier than thou!) Just found myself rather surfeited by the whole thing. 

The bottom line is, it's not as though my life depends on it. Why the aggravation?

  


On the same page, I have often been asked by friends and even family about my running. I wish they were along the line of “How inspiring you are…or how motivated I am to learn of what you do….” But it is often concerns expressed about whether or not my running had turned into an obsession. What would they know, right?

That has prompted me to write this blog. In doing so, perhaps to answer this question:

When does running become an obsession? Does it matter? If so, what do I do?

By definition, an Obsession is a 'Persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.'

Some of you may object: Hey, I am passionate about what I do. Is that all wrong?

I agree with you. Being passionate about something in life is a good thing. Yet, you can be passionate about something without being obsessive.

I know, it’s a fine line. But letting one’s obsession or preoccupation run the show doesn’t sound like such a good idea. Look what happened to Anakin Skywalker.

An obsession is a negative preoccupation, which is usually associated with fear. Perhaps fear of losing control or a manifestation of unresolved issues. Whereas being passionate or motivated have a more positive outlook. The person is still in control. In contrast, an obsessive person isn’t.

So, when does running become an obsession?

First of all, even if you wake up daily at 4am to train does not necessarily qualify you as obsessive. You may be crazy. But obsessive here deals more with an overwhelming preoccupation with running despite: i.e. injuries. Some may even neglect his duty or responsibility in order to indulge in running.

Training at 4 am is still reasonable especially when there is no other more suitable time during the rest of the day to train. But running with an injury is unreasonable. That is the distinction.

Some runners are into gadgets such as GPS, heart rate monitor etc. They are useful tools for training. This, again, does not necessarily qualify you as obsessive. Because it is reasonable to use GPS to gauge your performance. But being obsessive about having a GPS on your wrist or otherwise you would have to call off the run, is quite something else.

Sure we tend to be drawn to sports shoes or apparel like flies to UV light. But that’s still within reasonable bounds. But if you are buying every single pair of shoes that hits the shelf every weekly, then you need to practice some restraint. It may be a ‘harmless’ obsession but at the end of the day, if you are troubled by a sense of guilt or remorse, (or in some cases, total apathy with lack of grasp on the subject), again, you need help.

So, next time, if you are unsure whether the passion that drives you has turned into an obsession, the litmus is to ask yourself if what you are doing is within reasonable or justifiable bounds.

It’s true that running can be addictive. That’s old news. But despite that, it isn’t known to be linked to obsessive running behavior. Just in case you were thinking of putting the blame on the endorphins. The natural ‘morphine’ just isn’t powerful enough to exert that kind of effect and make you bonkers.    

So, in order to keep yourself in check lest you turn to the dark side, we should perhaps lay down some basic rules.

Rule #1
Have a well defined long term goal. Redefine your objective in running. If your long term goal is to be able to run until a ripe old age, then I think you would naturally be a lot more careful to handle injuries along the way. Having that in mind, you would be prudent to practice restraint when your body needs to recover from injuries. You will last longer that way.

Rule #2
Stick to the program. Resist that urge to push beyond what you are supposed to do. Practice discipline. Follow your supposed distance, pace and intensity. But if you are physically worn out and you know you need to slow down, then don’t beat yourself up over it. The danger here is to over reach or over train. A common trait in an obsessive runner.

Rule#3
Give yourself time. Be patient! Running is a lifelong thing. No amount of rush work will make up for it. And if it is a target time that you want to achieve, get a program, keep at it and let time do its work. Being impatient and wanting an instant result is not only counterproductive, it is potentially dangerous.  

Rule #4
Rest. Rest. And Rest. If you find it is becoming too much for you. And when running is no longer a joy for you. It may be the body trying to tell you to ease off. Relax. Take a break. Burning out wouldn’t do you any good. Look at the bigger picture. Try something else like cycling or swimming or even hiking. Take your mind off it for a while until you are good and ready to come back.

Rule#5
Run with a group of friends. Practice accountability. Running is often a solitary sport where you see a lone runner out on his trails. This is the kind of image that we usually associate ourselves with. But running in a group can be a good thing. It gives you companionship. Encourages a little competitiveness. Kills the boredom. Not to mention safety in numbers. But mainly it is about having that accountability. When you are conscious of people around you, you tend not to readily do silly things that may harm yourself.


I know that obsession is not the kind of thing that runners like to talk about. That may be due to the fact that many view it only as a passion. What’s wrong with passion + maybe a bit of quirkiness? But recognizing the ‘dark side’ of obsession may be the difference between running long term or cutting short your running days. So, runners be warned! If in doubt, it is better to learn to take it a little easy….


Comments

  1. Sad to see you leave Facebook though.

    I've change my entire running perspective to encompass rules #1 & 5 and have really started enjoying my runs again.

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    1. Well Nick, the feeling's mutual. Sad to leave FB on account of a few friends that matter. And though we haven't met face to face, (I am sure we will one day), there is that kindred spirit that I truly enjoyed sharing with you.

      Keep writing your fantastic blog too. I'll tune in once in a while. :)

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  2. Whenever an obsession became too much to handle with, it`s all about moderation... I used to be FB Freak, but once in a while, we should stay away from FB n focus on something else... =D

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    1. Yup, absolutely. FB I can give up. As for running, I'll work on the moderation bit.It's much too important to ever give up. :)

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  3. What an absolutely fantastic article!

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    1. Thanks Sarah for your kind comment. :)

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  4. I'm also this close to not only shutting off FB but also the organizational (yes even relinquishing my co-partnership of RunnersMalaysia), influential aspects of the sport. And this isn't because the passion is lost. It's because I've realized that I will not be able to achieve the things that I seek to achieve personally until my other aspects of life is taken care off. The cruel nature of life today and to a certain aspect this country is such that one can't have it all, no matter like little one pares off. My priority is at home, the kids and settling into new roles at work. As long as I'm unease at the back of my mind, I run with a heavy conscience, without a free spirit required to truly enjoy the process of pursuing the goals. It has come to the stage where it's a chore to force training. It's a unique situation only a family person will understand and I'm not beyond shelving marathon plans for the year and settling just for the 10K and Half in GC. I'll return next year in a better shape. Regardless of the extreme path I'll take, the blog will go on. Writing keeps the mind active, whether there are readers or not. I'm sure we will still be in touch.

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    1. Jamie. I know exactly how it feels. I have cancelled a number of races this year because I know that I have other priorities to attend to. Endless training from race to race does not seem right all of the sudden with so many things on my plate right now. But I am glad I am clearing the desk and declustering some unnecessary load. Keeping it simpler for now. Let's strive for that. :)

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  5. You will be sorely missed on Facebook, Francis, but I am glad to still be able to find you on the blogosphere! I doubt I will give up Facebook anytime soon - it keeps me connected to friends and family halfway across the world, and helps ease my sense of isolation, living out here in rural Pennsylvania. :)

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    1. Hi Grace, yeah, it was a necessary move for me. Not that I take lightly the friendship that I have been blessed with during my time with FB. Keep in touch! And keep writing your blogs too!

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  6. great writing, as usual! Yes, FB has narcissistic undercurrent....

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    1. Thanks SpeedyFox. Or CL. I have been OK without FB for more than a month. And the best part is, I don't even miss it :)

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