Training Levels and Perceived Benefits of Running among Runners Committed to Both Running and Family versus Runners Committed Exclusively to Running

By Goff, Stephen J.; Fick, Daniel S. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Training Levels and Perceived Benefits of Running among Runners Committed to Both Running and Family versus Runners Committed Exclusively to Running


Goff, Stephen J., Fick, Daniel S., Journal of Sport Behavior


According to Joan Samuelson (1995), "Life is truly a balancing act. In one hand, you hold your running, and in the other, you hold your job, family and other tasks and challenges that you face on a daily basis. For all the things that are important in your life, you have to find that balance" (p.5). Samuelson acknowledges that in the past she focused exclusively on running. Now the greatest challenge in her life is not competition, but combining family and running. She claims that running and family go hand in hand, and this balance helps her get the most out of both roles.

Whether runners are able or willing to balance the demands of different life roles is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine whether runners can successfully attain a balance between running and family life. Training levels and perceived benefits of running among runners committed to both running and family life were compared to those of runners committed exclusively to running. The key question was whether runners can have a high commitment to both running and family without foregoing training or the perceived benefits of running.

Runners may be reluctant to forego running in favor of the demands of other roles. Glasser (1976) and Carmack and Martens (1979) argued that positively addicted runners dislike missing runs because they will miss the pleasurable feeling that running provides. Conboy (1994) found runners experience withdrawal symptoms on days runs are missed. These withdrawal symptoms were greatest among the group of runners for whom work, family obligations, or other scheduling difficulties intruded upon training.

Some highly committed runners make running their first priority and schedule other activities, particularly family activities, around running. Sachs (1981) argued that when running becomes a habit, compulsion, or addiction, other aspects of life, including time spent with family members, begin to be shaped around the daily run. Barrell, Chamberlain, Evans, Holt, and Mackcan (1989) concluded that training can consume time that is customarily considered family time. Clearly, some runners are inclined to forego family activities in order to run. Perhaps highly committed runners fear increased family commitment will lead to reduction in training and ultimately the satisfaction obtained from running.

Many runners are at the stage in life when the demands of work and family make ongoing commitment to running more difficult. Under these circumstances, involvement in running takes one of the following forms depending on the runner's level of commitment to running in relation to their level of commitment to family life. Some highly committed runners opt to forego family commitments. Though they have a family, running is their predominant source of identify and satisfaction - their primary commitment. As Sachs (1991) described this group of runners, other aspects of life including time spent with family members is scheduled to accommodate the daily run. Conversely, Conboy (1984) identified a group of runners who concede a high commitment to running is not possible due to their work or family, and while participation in running might continue, there is a decline in running participation. A third group, though not identified by previous research, might attain the balance Samuelson (1995) describes when flexibility enables a high level of commitment to both running and family. This group would enjoy the benefits of running, adjusting their schedule when needed to accommodate their family. Previous research has identified runners who are essentially addicted to running. They will shape family time around running (Sachs, 1981). experience withdrawal symptoms when runs are missed (Conboy, 1994), and allow training time to consume time that is customarily considered to be family time (Bartell et al., 1989). This strongly implies that runners high in running commitment will tend to forego family obligations but not running or its benefits.

This study compared groups of runners who differ in their levels of running commitment and family commitment to determine whether runners can have a high commitment to both running and family without foregoing training or the perceived benefits of running. We addressed the following questions. 1) Do highly committed runners train more than less committed runners? 2) Do highly committed runners perceive greater benefits from running than less committed runners? 3) Do runners committed to both running and family life train less than runners who are highly committed only to running? 4) Do runners who are committed to both running and family life perceive the same benefits from running as runners who are highly committed only to running?

Method

Sample and Procedures

A questionnaire was mailed to 1,520 members of a Midwest running club. The permission of the running club was obtained and an endorsement of the study by the club's board was published in the club's newsletter. The board reviewed the instrument to ensure questions were meaningful and clear. The club provided mailing labels with only an address and the title "(running club) Member". Among the club's members are businesses and organizations so many questionnaires may have been delivered to organizations and not completed and returned. Because 94 of the surveys were returned as undeliverable a maximum of 1,426 were delivered to individual club members. Seven hundred twenty-four were returned. Therefore, a conservative estimate of the response rate was 50.8%. Subjects were respondents who lived with a spouse or significant other, and were employed at least 30 hours a week. This group included 149 women and 319 men.

Measures

Four items from a scale developed by Carmack and Martens (1979) were adapted to measure commitment to running. Family commitment was measured by changing the wording in the preceding items slightly and substituting the word family.

Perceived benefits of running was measured by five items chosen from the ten most influential reasons for running in a sample of non elite marathoners and half marathoners (Clough, Shepherd, & Maughan, 1989).

Subjects indicated their level of agreement with each of the preceding items on a five point scale (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree). The score for each respondent on each variable was the mean item response.

Running satisfaction was measured by two questions concerning 'how happy' and 'how satisfied' respondents were with their running. Subjects responded on a four point scale (1=not at all satisfied; 4=extremely satisfied). The score on each was the mean item response.

Age, gender, hours of employment, miles per week, races per year, and years as a runner were also reported.

Analysis

Subjects were divided into four groups based on a median split on the running commitment and family commitment measures (see Figure 1). Persons in Group A are low on both running commitment and family commitment and are not the primary focus of this study. Group B is high on family commitment but low on running commitment. This group models runners who have conceded that high commitment to running is not possible and their commitment to running has diminished while commitment to family is high. Group C is high on running commitment and low on family commitment. This group models runners who are reluctant to forego running to engage in family activities and for whom other aspects of life, including time spent with family members, begins to be shaped around running. Group D is high on both running and family commitment. They exhibit the balance advocated by Samuelson (1995).

Average age, miles per week, races per year, and years as a runner were computed for each group. Average scores on running commitment, family commitment, benefits of running, and running satisfaction were also computed.

Differences among groups were identified by one tailed t-tests and one-way analyses of variance, followed by Scheffe's post hoc tests. To determine whether highly committed runners train more than less committed runners, or perceive more benefits and satisfaction from running than less committed runners, average miles per week, benefits of running, and running satisfaction scores of Groups C and D combined were compared to scores of Groups A and B combined. To determine whether runners who are committed to both running and family train less or perceive fewer benefits from running than runners committed exclusively to running, average miles per week, perceived benefits, and running satisfaction of Group D were compared to Group C.

Results

The age of runners ranged from 22 to 66 years among women (M = 41.04, SD = 8.54) and 22 to 77 years (M = 46.03, SD = 9.22) among men. The average number of years as a runner ranged from 1 to 23 among women (M = 9.20, SD = 5.30) and 1 to 40 among men (M = 13.35, SD = 7.05). There was no significant difference in either age or years as a runner between the four groups of men or women.

Coefficient alpha was computed to estimate the internal consistency reliability of measures. The reliability of the running commitment measure was acceptable but not as high as in prior research (coefficient alpha = .70). The lower reliability is attributable to use of an abbreviated version, four items as opposed to twelve in the original version developed by Carmack and Martens (1979). Nonetheless, a significant correlation between commitment to running and miles per week (males, r = .40, p [less than] .01; females, r = .36, p [less than] .01) provides evidence for the validity of the running commitment measure. Masters and Lambert (1989), Thaxton (1982), and Diekhoff (as cited in Masters and Lambert, 1989) reported similar correlations between commitment to running and miles per week - .46, .45, and .28 respectively. The reliability coefficients of the family commitment, running satisfaction, and family satisfaction scales were .76, .91, and .92 respectively.

In response to the first study question, highly committed runners train more than less committed runners. The average miles per week of both men and women in groups C and D combined was significantly greater than the average of groups A and B combined. In response to question two, highly committed runners perceive greater benefits from running and higher running satisfaction than less committed runners (see Table 1).

[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED]

In response to questions three and four, Group D runners who are committed to both running and family life do not train less than Group C runners who are committed only to running. This is true of both women (see Table 2) and men (see Table 3). In addition, Group D runners perceive the same benefits of running and enjoy the same levels of running satisfaction as Group C runners. In fact, men in Group D report higher benefits of running than Group C men (see Table 3).

Table 2.

Mean Miles Per Week, Benefits of Running, and Running Satisfaction
Scores Among Women in Groups A,B,C, and D.

Group                   A        B           C            D

running commitment     low      low         high         high
family commitment      low      high        low          high
n=                     25       47          24           53

Running Commitment     3.27     3.19        4.36(1,2)    4.35(1,2)
Family Commitment      3.16     4.34(1,3)   3.24         4.42(1,3)
Miles Per Week         21.00    18.00       26.00        27.00(2)
Benefits of Running    4.47     4.51        4.74         4.81 (1,2)
Running Satisfaction   2.80     2.58        2.92         3.03(2)

1 = greater than A (p[less than].05)
2 = greater than B (p[less than].05)
3 = greater than C (p[less than].05)
4 = greater than D (p[less than].05)
Table 3

Mean Miles Per Week, Benefits of Running, and Running Satisfaction
Scores Among Men in Groups A,B,C, and D.

Group                   A        B            C           D

running commitment     low      low         high         high
family commitment      low      high        low          high
n=                     76       64          85           94

Running Commitment     2.79     2.74        3.98(12)     4.12(12)
Family Commitment      3.51     4.65(13)    3.53         4.62(12)
Miles Per Week         18.00    21.00       32.00(12)    27.00(12)
Benefits of Running    4.25     4.44(1)     4.49(1)      4.74(123)
Running Satisfaction   2.61     2.71        2.95(1)      3.01(12)

1 = greater than A (p[less than].05)
2 = greater than B (p[less than].05)
3 = greater than C (p[less than].05)
4 = greater than D (p[less than].05)

Discussion

Both men and women in the high running commitment groups run more miles per week than the low commitment groups. This is not surprising. In fact, objective indicators of running behavior such as miles per week have been used by other researchers as indicators of running commitment and involvement. In addition, both men and women in high running commitment groups perceive greater benefits of running and report higher running satisfaction. It is important that these findings prevail in order to validate the distinction between high and low commitment runners in this study.

The key question in this study is whether runners who are high in both running commitment and family commitment train as much and perceive the same benefits as runners who are high in only running commitment. Results indicate that high family commitment does not significantly reduce training levels or benefits among highly committed runners. Group D runners in this study maintain a high level of family commitment without declines in running activity or satisfaction. It appears they have attained the balance advocated by Samuelson (1995).

Understanding how these runners maintain a high level of family commitment introduces a complex set of questions for future research. There are many possible explanations of how runners achieve balance. For example, Group D runners may have strategies or resources that help them manage their time and energy better than Group C, and thus enable them to maintain a higher level of family commitment. An effective strategy may be to schedule running at a consistent and workable time. Resources may include access to child care, flexible work hours, or training facilities at work.

Circumstances not related directly to running may explain lower family commitment. For example, in conditions of marital discord, running may be undertaken to escape from a conflict ridden environment. On the other hand, Group D runners may have a spouse who is more supportive of running or may actually run with family members. Yair (1994) suggests that incorporating family members into runs and races may be a way for runners to avoid some conflict that comes from being both a runner and a family member.

The finding that Group D men experience more benefits from running than Group C men was not anticipated. Perhaps it is the specific benefits obtained from running (improved overall mood, relaxation, and energy) that enable these individuals to maintain a higher level of family commitment.

Similarities between this study and Conboy's (1994) research warrant discussion. He identified a group of runners similar to our Group B runners, who are highly committed but who, because of work, family, or other schedule difficulties, run less frequently than in the past. He described this group as unstable. He argued members of this group feel the strongest negative effects of missing runs, and are therefore likely to either increase running frequency or go through a period of withdrawal and ultimately reduce their level of commitment. Neither Conboy's study nor this one determined how long Group B type runners have been high family commitment/low running commitment individuals. A longitudinal study might determine whether an increase in running frequency or decrease in running commitment actually occurs.

Contrary to his expectations, Conboy found runners who were most highly committed and ran most frequently experienced little withdrawal when a run was missed. He attributed this to a cognitive coping strategy in which these runners may view a day off as part of a their overall training strategy. Since high commitment and frequency of running alone did not trigger withdrawal symptoms when runs were missed, he called for a more complex description of runner groups. While both groups C and D in our study are highly committed, frequent runners, our study has added the family commitment dimension to the description of runner groups. Future research should determine whether our Group C runners are prone to withdrawal symptoms as Conboy anticipated while our Group D runners are not. It is possible that Group D runners view missed runs as part of a family commitment strategy whereas Group C runners experience negative withdrawal. In addiction, since Group D successfully trains as much as Group C, they may be more flexible in their ability to (re)schedule runs.

One possible weakness in the present study was use of an abbreviated version of the Carmack et al. (1979) commitment to running scale. This resulted in a lower reliability than has been previously obtained. Nonetheless, we are confident that the results are representative of recreational runners. The sample was large and represented runners of varied age and level of running involvement. Future studies should examine questions identified previously and should also study the relation between sport participation and family involvement among participants in other sports where large amounts of time and energy are required of participants who seek to balance athletic involvement with family life.

References

Bartell, G., Chamberlain, A., Evans, J., Holt, T., & Mackean, J. (1989). Ideology and commitment in family life: A case study of runners. Leisure Studies, 8, 249-262.

Carmack, M.A. & Martens, R. (1979). Measuring commitment to running: A survey of runners' attitudes and mental states. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1, 25-42.

Clough, P., Shepherd, J. & Maughan, R. (1989). Motives for participation in recreational running. Journal of Leisure Research, 21, 297-309.

Conboy, J.K. (1994). The effects of exercise withdrawal on mood states in runners. Journal of Sport Behavior, 17, 188-203.

Diekhoff, G.M. (1984). Running amok: Injuries in compulsive runners. Journal of Sport Behavior, 7, 120-131.

Glasser, W. (1976). Positive Addiction. New York: Harper & Row.

Masters, K.S. & Lambert, M.J. (1989). On gender comparison and construct validity: An examination of the commitment to running scale in a sample of marathon runners. Journal of Sport Behavior,12, 196-202.

Sachs. M.L. (1981). Running addiction. In M.H. Sacks & M.L.Sachs (Eds.), Psychology of Running (pp.113-126). Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Samuelson, J.B. (1995). Running for Women. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.

Thaxton, L. (1981). Physiological and psychological effects of short-term exercise addiction on habitual runners. Journal of Sport Psychology, 4, 73-80.

Yair, G. The commitments to long distance running and levels of activity: personal or structural? Journal of Leisure Research, 22, 213-227.

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