I could not ask for more right now in life. However, when my chips are down, running is my therapy. As for now, I live in a great home with an amazing guy and our two cats, I have a great teaching job, my commute is 7 minutes, and I spend my spare time writing this blog and practicing the sports that I love. My family is happy and healthy. So, my friends and family reading this don’t need to worry about me!
I enjoy a lot of sports like climbing, and surfing, and other things, but the only activity that I consciously use to help alleviate stress or depressed feelings is running or walking.
Running is my therapy for whatever difficult situation life sends my way.
Whenever I know that I am entering a difficult stage in life, like starting at a new school or working through a stressful time with family, I know that I will need to run to get through it and not lose myself.
At the most difficult times, I tell myself, “I have to be able to run 5 miles. I have to be able to get out and be gone for at least an hour.” So, I work my endurance up to 5 miles. Running is my therapy for whatever is going on.
Why running and not other sports?
There is something mindless and easy about a distance run. Comparing it to other sports, there is no counting, like in weight lifting, where you have to count reps and sets. In running there is no explosive strength or extreme effort required, like in climbing. In surfing you have to feel your balance at every split second and adjust your body maintain balance on the board. Snowboarding you must constantly watch the shape of the terrain and the texture of the snow in your path so your body can prepare and react. With running though, you just put one foot in front of the other, head up, heel lift, and pump your arms, even if you are trail running, just one foot in front of the other feeling your body for good form.
Running to me feels mindless, but what is actually going in is quite the opposite! Mindfulness is very en vogue right now. The last two years at school, we have received a lot of mindfulness training. I learned about something called a “moving meditation,” and realized that the kind of running I do when I am stressed out or feeling depressed can be kind of be defined as a moving mediation. This makes running like a form of therapy.
People who are into mindfulness will disagree here and say that, “You can’t be ‘bad’ at mindfulness,” but I am bad at mindfulness! Lol!
When I run I am aware of my breathing, I use breathing to relax, I am aware of what I am thinking about, I feel awareness of fatigue, and I feel how my body is or isn’t maintaining good running form. When find myself really sucking wind, grimacing, and reacting to the stress fatigue building up, I think about Eliud Kipchoge. He smiles when he runs, and then I try to smile too.
This article above featuring Eliud Kipchoge, Can Smiling Make You a Better Runner?, actually reports that yes indeed smiling makes you a better runner by making your body more efficient at using Oxygen. Who knew!
Anyway, when I run, I don’t intentionally try to be mindful, but I am aware of several things when I run. If you want to work on some intentionally mindful runs, there are a lot of resources and apps! Here is a link to a Runners World magazine article about mindful running with some other resources too.
Running is good stress on the body
Running is such an excellent form of ‘therapy’ because we have only scratched the surface of the benefits of running. It can cause the body to release cortisol, but it only does so in extreme situations. like over training. The stress our bodies endure while running actually causes other stressors in life to seem less.
This article by Runner’s World reports that people who run actually tend to perceive stressful events in their life as less stressful when compared to people who do not run. Two people could have the exact same bad day, but person #1, who runs at the end of the bad day, will report the day as not being quite so bad as person #2, who does not run. Running acts as kind of an adaptogen by helping our bodies manage stress better from the inside out. (A bit more on adaptogens later.) Running allows us to leave it all behind.
A quick note on adaptogens. Adaptogens are chemicals that help our bodies respond to stress. Athletes often use Maca to speed recovery. Athletes will often use it as a supplement to alleviate the stress caused by high levels of training. Maca causes cortisol levels to go down faster. Some people also use it to cope with just regular stress, not only high intensity training induced stress.
If you are interested in trying Maca, then scroll to the bottom of my running shop here!
How does “running therapy” work?
The heart of “running therapy” is up for debate! Some research says that running makes us feel good because of the endorphins released while running. Other research says that it is not the endorphins, but another chemical produced in our bodies similar to cannabis! Check out these two articles that give contradictory information regarding the mental health benefits of running.
Regardless of the cause of mental health benefits, there is no doubt about the fact that running does indeed provide mental health benefits.
The next time you or your friend has a bad day, make sure to not skip the run. At least go for a walk. If you would like to start a running routine so that you can reap the mental health benefits, I have a guide for you: How to Start Running Again.
Check out my other posts for more running and extreme sport inspiration and ideas!
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