Exercise Can Be a Key Strategy in Addiction Recovery

Exercise Can Be a Key Strategy in Addiction Recovery


So I just ran my first marathon a few days ago and I am really excited about it.

Recovery related?  You bet.

Running is my meditation, and in fact it is much more than that. Physical fitness is one of the great keys to recovery that so many people overlook, simply through lack of enthusiasm. If something could force everyone in recovery to get whipped into shape, I believe that the success rates would change drastically, and many addicts and alcoholics would enjoy more lasting recovery. That is just my belief, I have no proof of that. Only my own experience.

I did not know the benefits of running until I had done it for a year and it became easy. I have no idea how or why I stuck with it long enough to get these benefits. For a long time, running was hard and not much fun. Now it is a gift, a pillar of my recovery.

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But enough ranting about my personal philosophy, let me tell you about the race. I got paired up with a young doctor named Bob (amazing, huh? Doctor Bob, just like AA!  He is in the red shirt in the picture) and he started and finished the race with me. We did not do it super fast but we ran the entire 26.2 without any walk breaks at all. He was actually a pace setter for the race so I stuck right by him and ran very consistently the whole way. We actually started with 5 people in the pace team but all of them bowed out early except for Bob. He told me: “A lot can happen in 26 miles.”

Now many celebrities have run marathons and so the pace teams each carried a picture of a celebrity, with the time that each celebrity finished their marathon in. So it turned out that I finished ahead of Al Gore but I got beat by Oprah, among others. My new goal is to finish ahead of Oprah in my next marathon. How cool is that?

Recovery works in different ways for different people. I use running as a tool, a way to deepen my own discipline, and as a means to achieve something. Fitness is healthy, so even though finishing a race may be a small victory, it means a great deal in terms of holistic health.

And it is an opportunity for growth. You don’t have to run, but you may as well do something. The doctor that I was running with, at one point, said sort of philosophically “You know, you have to do something, whether it is running, or some other sport, or whatever. You have to do something physical, or you stand a good chance of not living as long.” He went on to talk about how running is cheap, and so on, but I think the real message here is that you have to get active somehow if you want to be truly healthy.

Move your body. Vigorous exercise. I know one guy in recovery who plays disc golf a lot, seems to be working great for him. That’s awesome. Holistic health is a means to recovery. It is also a means to achieving balance in your life.

While I do not want to force my beliefs on people, I am simply relaying what works for me. Vigorous exercise is critical for my recovery. That’s just me. This was not always the case….I went through several years of recovery without really exercising at all. But once I started, everything just got so much easier. Doors started opening. I learned the discipline that is necessary to build a business through my running. I learned how to push myself, to learn real discipline. It takes guts to get into shape. This can help your recovery….or at least, it helps mine.

In my early recovery, exercise was not important to me. Now it is. So we can change. We can grown and learn and evolve in recovery. Maybe fitness is for you, maybe it isn’t.

But I can at least suggest this with confidence: if you are struggling in recovery, and you have not tried pushing yourself to get into shape, then you don’t have much to lose by trying.

Can you run marathons and still relapse? I am sure you probably can. But for me, pushing yourself to get into shape is creative recovery at its finest. What better way to create the life you really want in recovery, than to start with a foundation of good health?  (There is actually a program out there that is based on this idea specifically!)

The benefits of exercise are too deep, too far reaching to really try to convince others (but here I am, trying!). I wish there was a way to show people how awesome being fit really is.

At any rate this marathon was a huge deal for me and I just had to share and brag about it a bit.  26 miles is nothing to sneeze at!  Never thought such a distance was possible for me.


By the way, you might want to check out a new article I wrote on another addiction site: “The 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Recovery 10 Years Ago.”


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