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.
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.
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.
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?
Neuroscience has shown that the repetitive motions and complex cognitive functions of running can trigger neurotransmitters, chemicals that boost the brain’s connectivity, thought patterns and decision-making—human qualities that are often compromised by the stress of life, especially in these troubled political times. Meanwhile, spiritual traditions remind us that turning our attention outward, from self-concern to the welfare of others, is the key to peace, love, and sanity.