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depression and the endurance athlete
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I am curious to hear how prevalent clinical depression is in endurance sports? Many of the top notch athletes I have read about seem to have struggled with clinical depression.

Some part of me thinks that to go that far to the edge, one has to be a bit depressed or at least not "normal" psyhologically speaking. By no means am I passing judgement as I struggle with depression. I am just curious as to the mentaql framework of fellow triathletes and some professional endurance athletes.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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I think depression is something to be mindful of in most sports these days at the elite levels. My opinion is that the elite athlete is at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (manifesting itself as depression) and/or being disappointed in outcomes after putting in a TON of work.

Just my opinion on the reasons:
The human mind & body needs a varied & balanced diet of activities in the social, creative, logical, sensory, ...etc. in addition to the athletic component.

The problem with elite levels in sports is that it pushes the athlete to abnormal almost obsessive levels in the athletic component at the expense of "normal" social & other activity. there is just not enough time in the day. It's like going to "sports war".

My experience from doing intense industrial projects (work 29 days/mo, 12 hours) is that PTSD can happen in as little as a month of doing a compressed activity pallette. The greater the "compression" the more the depression.

Tri is tough, IM WTC is insane. You have elites that rise up and legends fall away. I think it's only possible to make a run for the championship over a certain window of time, then you have to pull back. Didn't Chrisse say just that this year on the webcast?

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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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I have no idea as to the answer to your question. I do know that I experience the exact opposite. When I don't exercise for a while, I seem to slip into a state of unease/ unhappiness. When I'm steadily hitting the pavement, life seems to be much better. It's as if sport is my cure for depression and not the cause.






Take a short break from ST and read my blog:
http://tri-banter.blogspot.com/
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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I'm with you. Depression, OCD, lexapro prescription. The med has helped substantially. Triathlon is a much healthier drug than alcohol or umm.. others.
Do you know anyone that is "normal". What is normal? I think slightly "crazy" is the new normal (seriously). Depression sucks. I've been battling it since I was a child. Giving up heavy smoking and daily drinking (not heavy) was a big step for me (like Tri/exersize they are just another way of dealing with stress). Tri kept me from that hole that I so easily fell in in the past. The three disaplines keep my OCD in check (sort of). And now a few years into this sport I'm in the best shape of my life, and by all but ST standards, I'm a beast to race against! (at least in my dream world :-)

---

"Sometimes it's just easier to do it the hard way."
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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Lots of people use endurance exercise to self medicate.

I do not think it is a case of exreme exercise causing depression but one of people with depression issues finding that exercise alleviates the symptoms.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Tri-Banter] [ In reply to ]
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Tri-Banter wrote:
I have no idea as to the answer to your question. I do know that I experience the exact opposite. When I don't exercise for a while, I seem to slip into a state of unease/ unhappiness. When I'm steadily hitting the pavement, life seems to be much better. It's as if sport is my cure for depression and not the cause.
X2
i think I can deal with things more efficiantly when training. When I do not get my workout in I am edgey

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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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Speaking from experience, I find exercise training to be very helpful in dealing with depression.

However, it is not a cure all. Training does not take the place of a balanced life with strong social support and coping skills. In fact, overtraining can make a depressed person much, much worse.


---------------------

"Whether you believe you can or you can't, you are right."
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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I used to have long bouts of depression, but after getting serious into endurance sports my depression weeks have become almost non-existant. I had a recent knee injury that kept me out for three months, and I become incredibly depressed again, but I think that was mostly to not being able to ride. I feel like it a natural SRI, if I ever had to quit I would probably go on SRI's, because I have come to realize how much sertonin has an effect on my body.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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Anybody who runs more than 10 miles without stopping probably has some level of self loathing.

”look, duffy is a great lover. the best!” -

slowman (owner of slowtwitch.com) 10/01/17
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Sohan] [ In reply to ]
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Yes, I've also found that endurance sports have greatly helped me to overcome any periods of depression that I used to have. Endorphins are a powerful chemical when released.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [bmas] [ In reply to ]
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I too use training as a tool to keep my moods in check. Even my wife will tell me to go ride or run or whatever when she notices my mood going down.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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General question to this thread. Do you guys feel better after endurance training or anaerobic training (weights, hockey, sprints etc). I find I feel good after endurance training that goes as follows:

Run 60 min or less
Bike 90 min or less
Swim 45 min or less

Once I get a lot longer than these durations in any sport, I find that I CAN lack energy and I actually feel more "down than up" later in the day.

On the other hand if I do anaerobic training I feel "up" all day. Of course, the duration of the anaerobic training is low, and it is rare that I exhaust my energy resources to nothing. If I run around 80+ minutes, bike > 2 hours, or swim around 70-80 min, I can feel dragged out (and sometimes down) later in the day.

Maybe it has more to do with everything going on in life. We need energy to do other things and if I use up too much in training, it is easier to feel more down later in the day. Not depression for sure, but not "up and sharp" either. Sometimes I will do a 30 min ride to work...10 min warmup, then 10x30-60 seconds hard with 30-60 seconds easy in between. The sprints are in the anaerobic zone and when I get to work, everything is firing and ready to roll.

When I do really really long training one day or some long racing like a half Ironman, I expect to feel down the next day (not depressed, but can be on the verge).

My thought is that when we do the really long training and get depleted it hammers a variety of hormones. Do it all the time multiple days per week and also hammer the immune systems in the process, and maybe it is easier for high volume athletes to teeter on the verge of depression. Nothing worse than a group of endurance athletes after the third day in a row of high volume training during a training camp. Between the fatigue, lack of sleep, type A personalities and a variety of hormones out of whack, it's bad news all around (I'm just as bad, but I recognize this as a byproduct of guys doing high volume training).

I really do thing the high volume, especially chronic high volume can push people to the brink of depression. Then you just need a few other events at work or family and everything is nicely lined up.

Dev
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [NOTIMETOTRAIN] [ In reply to ]
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I have battled anxiety and PTSD. When your in the gutter it makes IM look like kids play to climb out. I found triathlon as a healthy coping mechanism that has been better than any medication. There are many stigmas associated with mental illness and many people don't relieze that even Elites have personal demons. By the grace of god, my family, and my sport I'm a success story. When you remove any of the 3 I can feel the uneasy demons try to creep back in.

Please forgive typo's and poor grammer. Most posting performed on my not so smart phone.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Tri-Banter] [ In reply to ]
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Tri-Banter wrote:
I have no idea as to the answer to your question. I do know that I experience the exact opposite. When I don't exercise for a while, I seem to slip into a state of unease/ unhappiness. When I'm steadily hitting the pavement, life seems to be much better. It's as if sport is my cure for depression and not the cause.

Couldn't have said better myself

res, non verba
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Tri-Banter] [ In reply to ]
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Tri-Banter wrote:
I have no idea as to the answer to your question. I do know that I experience the exact opposite. When I don't exercise for a while, I seem to slip into a state of unease/ unhappiness. When I'm steadily hitting the pavement, life seems to be much better. It's as if sport is my cure for depression and not the cause.

Likewise.
If I go 2+ days w/o exercise I get very moody and edgy.



"Though she be but little, she is fierce" ~Shakespeare | Powered by HD Coaching | 2014 Wattie Ink Triathlon Team | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Bmanners] [ In reply to ]
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Bmanners wrote:
Tri-Banter wrote:
I have no idea as to the answer to your question. I do know that I experience the exact opposite. When I don't exercise for a while, I seem to slip into a state of unease/ unhappiness. When I'm steadily hitting the pavement, life seems to be much better. It's as if sport is my cure for depression and not the cause.

X2
i think I can deal with things more efficiantly when training. When I do not get my workout in I am edgey

I'm the same way. If i don't get a good workout in i get very aggravated and probably unpleasant to be around. Also before I got into tris i had anxiety relatively bad. now i only get anxious about tri stuff. much better than before :)
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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According to a research paper written a few years ago by Scott Tinley, many retired pro athletes find themselves struggling with depression. It's probably more prevalant than one would think. Some are able to adjust to the change and move on to a new chapter in their life, while others struggle. A lot seemed to depend on the maturity of the athlete when they were at their peak, and how sheltered they were during their formative years, and whether or not they had a plan for their life after they retired.

He expanded on his paper by writing a book on it:
http://www.amazon.ca/...-After/dp/1592280951

Mental illness is more common than one may realise. What manifests it, or what helps ward it off is probably as varied as the people who suffer from it.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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I agree, when I don't train, I get cranky and depressed, but it's important to recognize that there is a different mechanism in play as well: Depression from strenuous exercise (either repeated in training or specific events/races) occurs and is caused by a depletion of neurotansmitters like choline that are regulating blood glucose levels (study on marathon runners in early 1990s by Hassmen & blomstrand called "Mood change and marathon running: A pilot study using a Swedish version of the POMS test")

More recent studies, like Armstrong (not THAT one) & VanHeest's 2002 "The Unknown Mechanism of the Overtraining Syndrome: Clues from Depression and Psychoneuroimmunology" show that overtraining and clinical depression "involve remarkably similar signs and symptoms, brain structures, neurotransmitters, endocrine pathways and immune responses."

So, yes, please don't lynch me, but depression can be a byproduct of strenuous endurance training.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [canter] [ In reply to ]
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To clarify the subject of the post was "top notch" or elite athletes. I presumed that to be top in the world rankings pro/elite.

I deal with top world athletes on a weekly basis (in season) and I've followed careers from inception to retirement. Pro sports is a tough gig, it really is.

Most of the replies here are amatuer level and you know that's the best way to enjoy the sport for spirit, mind and body!

Another great way to be involved in a sport without the pressure cooker of performance is to be a supplier, builder etc. You are a professional in that sport but not with the intensity of a pro-competitor.

Training Tweets: https://twitter.com/Jagersport_com
FM Sports: http://www.jagersport.com/
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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I haven't this in the public, but I dealt with severe depression about 2.5 years ago. I was in the military and when I found out about a medical condition that changed my entire future I was crushed. I did turn for help to friends and family, and was put on meds at one point. It was a huge transition for me, but endurance sports really helped change who I was before to who I am now.

Alan Kipping-Ruane, USAT Level 1, USAT Youth and Junior
Triathlon & Endurance Coach
TriGuy Multisport Coaching, LLC
http://www.TriGuyCoaching.com
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TriGuyCoaching
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [canter] [ In reply to ]
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canter wrote:

I agree, when I don't train, I get cranky and depressed, but it's important to recognize that there is a different mechanism in play as well: Depression from strenuous exercise (either repeated in training or specific events/races) occurs and is caused by a depletion of neurotansmitters like choline that are regulating blood glucose levels (study on marathon runners in early 1990s by Hassmen & blomstrand called "Mood change and marathon running: A pilot study using a Swedish version of the POMS test")

More recent studies, like Armstrong (not THAT one) & VanHeest's 2002 "The Unknown Mechanism of the Overtraining Syndrome: Clues from Depression and Psychoneuroimmunology" show that overtraining and clinical depression "involve remarkably similar signs and symptoms, brain structures, neurotransmitters, endocrine pathways and immune responses."

So, yes, please don't lynch me, but depression can be a byproduct of strenuous endurance training.


As a trainer and fitness coach at a large health club in Atl, one of my specialties is working with clients with depression, a specialty that i didn't choose, but chose me in 1998.

I have found that exercise and nutrition are amazingly helpful in controlling my own and my clients' symptoms, but there is a line between enough and too much.

Persons with depression need to effectively manage their training schedule and avoid overtrainining. The stress/recovery cycle is even more crucial to the depressed person, to maintain proper serotonin and cortisol levels in the body. Depressed persons are more sensitive to diet than non-depressed as well.

As the body tolerates higher volumes/intensities of training, the depression symptoms abate, which seems to be because of an increased stress hardiness and sense of self-mastery.

And interestingly, benefits have been found with my clients regardless of the mode of exercise. Strength training has helped my clients equally as endurance training, though likely for different reasons. It seems that regular movement of the body is the most important thing, the mode isn't ultimately the most important factor.

My top ten tips for managing depression:

1. Get moving today. Do not allow your body to remain motionless for very long, even if it means simply getting up and walking to the mailbox and back. The more the better.

2. Do not isolate yourself. Depression is much higher among those with limited social interaction. Talk therapy is an essential start, but you need to be around people and not stuck in a dark corner of your house.

3. Sleep, but don't sleep too much. Go to bed at the same time and rise at the same time each day.

4. Get some sunshine, as much as you can reasonably, especially in the winter.

5. Watch your carbohydrate intake, and pay even more attention to getting your carbs through non-grain sources such as fruit, beans and veggies.

6. Take a quality mulitvitamin every day, and fish oil for brain health.

7. Do not spend all your time with other depressed people. Sharing and learning is fine, but some people cling to their depression and never get healthy, and you need to be around healthy people too.

8. Memorize the serenity prayer. Say it to yourself as many times as you need to, every day, until it is part of your mental tapestry.

9. Laugh. A lot. Even if you have nothing to laugh at, practice a giggle or two anyway periodically to stimulate positive hormones (careful of where/when so they don't haul you off to the looney bin!) Find as many opportunities to make yourself laugh as you can!

10. Perhaps my favorite and most effective tip: Create GOALS for yourself that are challenging, but doable. They can be completing a triathlon/marathon, building a garden, or volunteering for a Special Olympics event in your community. Have some goals that are selfish and all about YOU, but also set goals that are about OTHERS, that put you outside of yourself. Even better, goals that that put you as part of something bigger than yourself and makes you part of something positive and world-changing can be very powerful and perspective-changing.

I do so enjoy arising early on Sunday morning....Cheers::


---------------------

"Whether you believe you can or you can't, you are right."
Last edited by: Sohan: Oct 21, 12 3:07
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [jsharp9242] [ In reply to ]
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I'm no clinician but my take is that so many endurance athletes, especially those at the professional/elite/even top AG level truly must make this "sport" a "lifestyle" in order to be competitive. Just look at weekly training hours for those aforementioned groups, and then think about all the other variables excellence demands; early bed-times, lots of couch time, etc, etc. Given that the sport becomes a lifestyle, it also becomes a big part of one's identity; ask lots of serious endurance athletes what they are, and my guess is that you hear often hear husband/wife, father/mother, triathlete/runner, accountant/engineer.


So, it follows that when you disrupt a part of someone's identity, they are likely to become depressed (not sure all the reasons, but it's certainly true) which is why I think that so many athletes start showing signs of depression when they are injured, during the off-season when they are not training, or when they retire, because that big part of their identity goes away, which I would guess creates a lot of cognitive dissonance.


I think that is why it is important to be mindful of the balance that must be struck between completely giving your all for/into something (good thing IMO) but also, not allowing any one thing to become your identity (also good thing, IMO), which can be at odds with each other (no magic recipe here).


Lots of good ideas have already been thrown out here re; getting involved in coaching, supplying, etc when time comes not to compete, or for some, it may mean completely stepping away and finding something else.

*********************************************
Brad Stulberg
Author, Peak Performance
http://www.BradStulberg.com
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Sohan] [ In reply to ]
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My 10 cents...and personal experience is that we as triathletes must have balance in our lives for the long haul. Endurance training and racing can really get in the way of living a full and balanced life. I started racing in tris in the late 80's through the 90's and quit (non-balanced part of my life: drinking heavily, divorce, and being a self-centered asshole in general.) As a recovering alcoholic and returning triathlete I have learned many things about myself. I have to work on my negative traits daily just like training for my next race. I have to put ME last. For me what is working is my daily spiritual life, my family life (wife, children, pets, parents, siblings & friends), my work, and my triathlon life.

All that being said my life today is a thousand times better.

SM Gose
Red Lodge, MT
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [canter] [ In reply to ]
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canter wrote:

I agree, when I don't train, I get cranky and depressed, but it's important to recognize that there is a different mechanism in play as well: Depression from strenuous exercise (either repeated in training or specific events/races) occurs and is caused by a depletion of neurotansmitters like choline that are regulating blood glucose levels (study on marathon runners in early 1990s by Hassmen & blomstrand called "Mood change and marathon running: A pilot study using a Swedish version of the POMS test")

More recent studies, like Armstrong (not THAT one) & VanHeest's 2002 "The Unknown Mechanism of the Overtraining Syndrome: Clues from Depression and Psychoneuroimmunology" show that overtraining and clinical depression "involve remarkably similar signs and symptoms, brain structures, neurotransmitters, endocrine pathways and immune responses."

So, yes, please don't lynch me, but depression can be a byproduct of strenuous endurance training.

Yes, this is what I was getting at....falls into the category of "too much of a good thing".

This thread (to some degree) is like a bunch of alcoholics saying that they need a few beers to loosen up. Yeah, I think we all accept that we all feel better and are enjoyable to be around with "some training" however, I think we often use "a ton of it" as an excuse and don't want to accept that there is a downside to the "extreme amounts of training we do". Hey, I'm just like the next guy. I love a solid hammerfest, and if I am somewhere new, I am more than happy to spend 6-8 hours on the bike exploring new mountains etc, but I think it is important to accept that there is a 'healthy amount' and an "unhealthy amount" of this stuff. The unhealthy amounts when I do them, I try to recognize the impact on my mood, those around me, my performance at work and home etc etc.

I also recognize that most of us who train for tris have better overall health than our peers at work, but there is a tipping point where it impacts mental performance on all fronts. This threshold is different for each person, but when we chronically go to the other side of that threshold, that's not a good thing either.

If I look at this thread, there were lots of responses saying that they need a good workout to feel better. As humans we are designed to be physically active, so that seems natural that we should want a some exercise. Dogs need walks as they are not meant to be domesticated and neither are we meant to be domesticated. But at some point the exercise beyond a point is unneccessary for physical and mental health. I've had this discussion with some peers when we go through big training blocks. I try to organize my work and training so that high performance work and high performance training are decoupled from one another. It is really hard to be super sharp at work when doing massive training loads, so better to keep them apart as much as possible.

I think this is a good discussion and something that is probably way more important than discussing FTPs and the nth degree of saving milligrams of drag by better cable routing etc etc.
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Re: depression and the endurance athlete [Sohan] [ In reply to ]
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Sohan wrote:
Speaking from experience, I find exercise training to be very helpful in dealing with depression.

However, it is not a cure all. Training does not take the place of a balanced life with strong social support and coping skills. In fact, overtraining can make a depressed person much, much worse.

Agree with all of this. I will also say that training is not sufficient to make my depression go away, but it is part of a combination of treatments that help combat the depression (along with diet, coping skills, and SSRIs).
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