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I’m convinced my morning 6K run is going to cure my YouTube addiction

Can running curb a tech addiction? One writer explains how his morning 6K is helping him to get off YouTube.

laptop screen

Kelly Bouchard is a Canadian Running contributor penning his thoughts from the run. 

Just about everyone under the age of 30 has heard an older relative grumble about screen dependent youngsters, or a friend casually admit to being addicted to Netflix or YouTube. The prevalence of technology in our culture has made these kinds of statements quite common. Recently though, I’ve been thinking about them more seriously because, well, I’m addicted to YouTube.

I realized this about a week ago. Ever since, I’ve been trying to kick my habit. So far, going for a morning run is proving to be the single most important thing I can do to help my cause.

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When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Running is all about active engagement, whereas my YouTube habit is all about passive escape. I’ve been under a lot of stress recently and watching sports highlights and clips from late night shows has become my go-to release. I get home from work and tell myself I need just ten or fifteen minutes to give my mind a rest. Suddenly, I’ll glance over at my clock and realize it’s 3:00 a.m. and I’ve been watching YouTube for hours. When I fall into the Internet, I escape not just the world, but myself. I enter a kind of fugue, that isn’t pleasurable so much as numb. I become an almost entirely passive entertainment sponge, and whole swathes of my day pass me by.

So I now start my day by running. 

Starting my morning with a run helps to combat the time-wasting momentum that my screen-time seems to generate. I make a living writing and doing research on my computer, and recently, I’ve noticed how readily my fingers will punch in the YouTube address when I’m stumped on a paragraph, or unsure about the next avenue of study. Six minutes into an NBA highlight reel, I’ll realize what has happened. Unconsciousness, it appears, breeds more unconsciousness. The more I watch, the easier it is to slip back into this habit.

Running helps to break this cycle. I return from my morning 6K feeling viscerally engaged, and intimately aware of my own physiology and being. I’ve asserted control by forcing myself to do something hard. And engagement, it appears, breeds more engagement. After a run, I’m far less prone to slide unconsciously into my YouTube habit.

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On a recent morning, I looked out the window of my Toronto home into a flurry of fresh snow blown in by a chill north wind. I lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, trying to muster the willpower to put on my runners and head outside. I could almost feel a magnetic pull emanating from my laptop. I could imagine settling into the Internet’s infinite blank numbness. As a culture we’ve become quite flippant about our addictions to technology, but in that moment, the pull of the laptop felt like a real threat to me. It would be much easier, I knew, to stay inside. Maybe watch a few highlights of last night’s game…

I got out for the run. It was a miserable six kilometers. The sidewalks were slick and the cars hurled slush at me from the unplowed side streets. I bailed on the last corner before home, and didn’t even approach my PB. Nonetheless, I arrived home with my heart rate up, and feeling great. And I didn’t open my laptop until it was time to work.