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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Diaz-Gilbert

Review of Scott Douglas's Running is My Therapy

Updated: Jan 18

As soon as I started reading Scott Douglas's new book, I was reminded of a peer reviewer's reaction to a paper about ultrarunning and spirituality I had submitted for publication consideration to an academic journal. He wondered if ultrarunners, in fact, have "deep psychological issues" that might be better served in therapy than in a grueling challenge of physical endurance." My response to him - running IS my therapy - just like the title of Douglas's book.

I hope the peer reviewer and others, who judge and question why runners run, get their hands on Running is My Therapy. They'll learn that runners living with so called "deep psychological issues," and debilitating depression and anxiety can be made whole again through the physical act of running.

Running is My Therapy is part memoir, part research studies, and part anecdotal accounts of runners. Douglas, former editor of Runner's World, recounts his life long bout with dysthymia - chronic low-grade depression - and how running helped him to manage it over the years.

Douglas writes, "Running became a dependable source of pleasure and relief that, partly by providing structure to my days, always provided something to look forward to. I knew I'd finally found a way to make life more livable, run by run, day by day." Research shows the enormous benefits of running. Exercise physiologist Panteleimon Ekkekakis can only hope that some day exercise will be "prescribed at least as often as antidepressants."

Running is My Therapy is chock full of fascinating research studies in the area of running and running's positive effect on the brain and in helping individuals cope with and overcome depression, anxiety, and stress. Clinical psychologist Brian Vasey states that, "When you're depressed, your brain is more turned off. Going for a run activates your brain cells. Having that wake up experience can make you feel better." Clinical psychologist Laura Fredendall views "running as helping depression through activation, through improved energy that comes from running."

Through personal anecdotes runners share their struggles. The personal stories of ordinary and well-known elite runners include, but are not limited to, two time Western States winner Rob Krar, top college cross-country runner Ian Kellogg, and marathoner Amelia Gapin. How running has helped them and many more runners is powerful and inspiring, The anecdotes in Running is My Therapy give hope to folks struggling with the challenges and debilitating effects of depression and anxiety.

Running is My Therapy consists of twelve organized and interesting chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific topic including how running helps the brain, the benefits of running for people with depression and anxiety, and running's effect on mood. Other chapters are devoted to the role of anti-depressants, talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and much more. The book also contains thorough reference notes and an index.

What makes Running is My Therapy appealing is Douglas's conversational and engaging writing style. He does a wonderful job of bringing down to earth research studies, that to some readers might be a bit overwhelming, and making them understandable, meaningful, and relevant.

Running is My Therapy begins with a forward by Alison Mariella Désir. She shares her struggles with depression and writes that "running restored some sense of control" for her. She adds that, research studies and personal anecdotes in the book confirm her own experience about the positive benefits of running on the brain and in managing depression and anxiety. She suggests that for some running may be the only treatment needed and concludes, "may this book help you uncover your own road to better mental health through running."

If you are experiencing depression and anxiety, read Running is My Therapy. It's a good start. Doing so will help you understand the benefits of running, and will get you to the finish, slow and steady.

Copyright 2018

I am the author of Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times. You can order the book here from from the publisher, Amazon, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble.

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