Being an elite athlete -- or a world-class artist or musician -- or a ground-breaking scientist, for that matter -- requires passion and dedication. And there's often a fine line between a healthy, productive enthusiasm or even "obsession" for an activity that we love; and, on the other hand, a compulsion or addiction that ends up being mentally, emotionally or physically damaging. When is "too much of a good thing" a good thing -- and when is it simply too much?
Coaches and competitors alike are constantly grappling with the question of making concessions to age. There have always been inspirational runners who defy conventional beliefs regarding aging and human performance. Even if I were to advance some novel argument touting the merits of running to attain long term health and longevity, the truth of the matter is that the biopsychology of aging remains largely a mystery.
"The dream was to get around the world in 80 days. To get back here in 78 days and change is an absolute dream come true. When I left here, I felt like a lot of people were excited by the idea but thought it was impossible. The success of cycling around the world in 80 days shows that what seemed impossible is possible and has redefined the limits of endurance sport... I've had the most incredible team. Ten years ago I finished here doing an unsupported race around the world and this time to go with a full support team is a completely different mindset."
Running and sport involvement is one of many innovative treatments for healing trauma. Activities like music, meditation, drama, and yoga offer new pathways to recovery by stimulating the brain’s natural neuro-plasticity. Creative therapists are employing exercises that help people focus on bodily sensations— and it’s largely through heightened body awareness that past traumas can be renegotiated and revisited rather than relived repeatedly.
Current medical research shows how the mental habits of exercise addiction can lead to a phenomena known as "athlete's heart," the official medical term referring to both the natural and pathological enlargement of the heart of someone who engages in strenuous exercise over a long period of time. The good news is that “athlete’s heart” is not the inevitable consequence of training hard. Intensity and rest modifications, effective medicines, and safe supplements are all proven treatments that protect the heart. The information-rich fields of Emotional Physiology and Neurocardiology are also beginning to offer valuable contributions to the conversation.