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Running: As Much for the Head as for the Heart

Thoughts on the impact of running on mental health.

Originally posted on Running Changed My Life on July 22, 2019.

I started running a year ago with the couch to 5K program, and recently completed my first half-marathon. I started running after losing my job, and wanted a way to get in shape that was inexpensive. I’m a slow runner, but have been improving both my pace and distance. I occasionally race, but mostly just like to get out and run on my own.

I look at my calendar for the day. I have an important call in a couple hours. This could lead to a big opportunity for me. I’m nervous about it, and my mind is racing through various subjects I want to cover.

“Right,” I say to myself, “time to clear my head.” I lace up my runners.

When I’m out for a run, the past and the future seems to disappear. My thoughts are solely in the moment and the run ahead. My thoughts are on route planning, my pace, ensuring that I am safely getting one foot in front of the other. Occasionally I get distracted by the nature around me, or a friendly dog, or the glory of the sunshine above me.

A few years ago, before I started running, I was working in a very stressful job. On weekends, I would escape from the city and head into the mountains to ski. When I was out on the slopes, my work worries disappeared, and I focused solely on the moment and the mountains. I realised that skiing was like meditation for me, it allowed me to clear my mind.

When I started running, I realised that running was like skiing – meditation for my mind. I started running after losing my job. Originally I took up running as a way to get some physical exercise during my time off, and while I am certainly fitter and stronger than when I started, I now realised that running is more for my mind than my body.

If I am feeling under stress or anxious, I’ll go out for a run to clear my head. When I return from a run, I find my mental clarity and focus is improved. It is easy to sit down and get to work. Sometimes going for a run even helps unlock a solution to a problem I’ve been struggling with. Even though I wasn’t thinking about it on the run, giving my mind some space allows it to find a solution.

I’m not alone in finding that running helps with my mental health. Mental health experts say that even 10 minutes of exercise help protect against mental illness, and help manage numerous mental health conditions for those who are impacted.

Read about it here:

As with many runners, the hardest part of running is actually getting on the runners and getting out the door. This can be especially hard if you are feeling down or anxious, and would rather just stay in bed. It is at these times that I remind myself how good I feel coming back from the run, and how it will help chase away the blues and manage an anxiety I am having.

So as I am lacing up my runners, I repeat to myself my new mantra. “You are running as much for your head as you are for your heart.”

Posted by GregW 03:21 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged running

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