As a fellow runner, I can appreciate the statement “I use running as my therapy.” I
truly know what it means to have the troubles of the world fade away as the miles
tick upward. I know the escape that running provides and the outlet for frustration
and stress that it can become. Many times throughout my life I have used running as
a tool for helping me to de-stress, solve problems, cope with loss, and become more
centered. However, I can also fully appreciate the void that running can leave when
we are unable to perform this therapeutic activity.
As a physical therapist, I often hear similar statements from patients regarding
running as therapy. “It helps me to get through life and to be who I am”, they say.
“I’m not myself when I can’t run. I’m much less happy and agreeable to be around
when I’m not running or training.” This goes for triathletes, too, in case you were
wondering. These statements are common and almost every patient I see says this
at one point or another.
But, there’s a problem.
What happens when you can’t run? Or when you can’t ride or swim? What then?
How do you manage stress? Is your problem-solving or coping strategy now lost?
How can you still be the agreeable person your friends and family rely on? My point
in asking these questions is not to guilt you about your use of running or coping
strategies. Remember, I am also a runner and confess that I have also used these
The sad reality of relying upon running or training as therapy is that it can be taken
away in an instant. Injury can happen and remove this previously rock-solid
foundation you thought you had. Instead, I often encourage my patients that running
should not be treated as therapy, but instead as a tool. If running is your only
means of coping with life or getting by, this is a shaky foundation. But, if you have
other means of managing your stress or struggles, running can be fully released into
what it is meant to be: a tool. Running should be an adjunct to your solid foundation.
How do you know if running is your sole foundation? Ask yourself this: what would
happen to me if I couldn’t run anymore? How would my relationships be impacted?
How would my stress or job be affected? Would I be able to cope with things if I
couldn’t lace up and crank out some miles? Certainly things would be more difficult
if you could not run! We know the fantastic benefits running provides. But the real
question comes down to if you would be fundamentally and foundationally unable
to cope with life if running or training was on hold.
At Precision we are very encouraging to our patients to seek therapy and
counseling. To be honest, I believe therapy or counseling should be a part of
everyone’s life on a regular basis. If you need a referral to a therapist or counselor to
investigate your relationship with training or running, we would be happy to help!
In summary, let’s all be better humans and be able to love one another fully –
regardless of if we are able to run or train. Running and training can be much more
joyful if we are able to appreciate it for the tool that it is, rather than a desperately
needed dependency. It can be the amazing spice to life that we can savor rather than
the entire meal.
Thanks for reading,