Cycling Gets You High, Too


Writing in the medical journal Behavioural Neuroscience, the researchers found that a desire to get off the sofa and shed a few pounds can quickly become as compulsive as Class A narcotics. So mild exercise like jogging can develop into a serious triathlon or marathon habit. “Although exercise is good for your health, extreme exercise may be physically addictive,” they warned. . . .

The cocktail of drugs the body produces include the pain-relievers endorphins and dopamine (also produced during orgasm), the anti-depressant serotonin and the “fight or flight” hormone adrenalin, which increases strength and concentration. It’s quite a cocktail.

I’m nowhere near the extreme level of some of the folks mentioned in the article. You won’t see me running 150 miles across the Sahara or anywhere else. When asked by other cyclists with kids, though, how I manage to get in so many miles I give the same answer my wife does when she’s asked how she can let me be gone on my bike for four hours every weekend morning: I turn into a real ass if I don’t get my rides in.

Seriously. After a few days without hard core exercise – either a tough ride or run – I’m depressed, lethargic, and short tempered. On the other hand, I am happiest for the few hours immediately after each ride. So, the choice is either all day Saturday with grumpy Dad, or three quarters of the day with happy Dad. We’ve all made our choices.

Is that an addiction? Probably. But if I’m going to be an addict, it beats the alternatives. Sometimes literally. I stayed up drinking until midnight Friday. Then I got out of bed at 5:30 and road 70 miles, putting the hurt on everyone I rode with. Only half joking, I said the reason I got up and road is that I’d be an alcoholic if I’d skipped the ride and slept in. In other words, if I’d stayed home, I would have suffered all day with a hangover, feeling guilty and moaning about how I would never drink again, by riding, though, I cleared my head and my conscience. Why not drink if I can still go hammer the next morning?

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