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Entries about running

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 Comments (0)

Couch to 5K - Why Did I Continue Running?

Thoughts on running, something that I never used to do.

Originally posted on Strava.com on Tuesday, 18 September, 2018

At the end of June, I downloaded the Couch to 5K app and went out for my first run with Laura from Couch to 5K in my ear. I have tried running before, and always hated it. Yet, now 3 months later I have finished the program and have continued running.

There are five things that I think were different this time, one about me, three about how the Couch to 5K program is structured, and one about how I run. I thought I would get down my thoughts on why I successfully took up running this time, when I have always quit before.

1) Personal Motivation

A few months before I started the program, I lost my job. While I have been looking for a job, there is a certain amount of stress and anxiety that had built up. I wanted something to take mind off my job search, if even for a short period of time. I always found that doing something physical puts you in the moment, and your mind off the future.

As well, running gave me something to do and improve on each week. Unlike job hunting, that can be stop and start with dead ends, running was something that I was getting better at every week.

I was motivated to succeed this time.

2) Structure

The Couch to 5K program gave a structure to running. When I had tried running before, I just went out running without any structure to what I was doing. I would go out and not run with any sense of how long or how often I should go running. When I felt tired, or if I didn’t want to run, I just wouldn’t go, and soon ended up giving up running altogether.

With Couch to 5K, I had a plan to follow. The plan told me how long I should be out for, and how often I should run. Some days I didn’t want to go out, but I knew I needed to get in my three runs a week. And sometimes I wanted to stop after 10 minutes, but knew that I needed to run for the full 30 minutes.

Having that structure kept me going each week.

3) Having Goals

When I started the program, I set myself a few goals. First, I wanted to run a 5K by the end of summer. Second, I wanted to run a 5K in under 35 minutes.

Knowing that I had those goals to work towards have kept me motivated to get out and push myself.


4) Breaking the Wall

Before, without the structure of a program, I ran until I felt tired, and then stopped. That often meant that my runs were quite short.

When the Couch to 5K program went from running for 5 minutes to running for 8 minutes, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was tired at the end of 5 minutes, and running for another 3 minutes seemed impossible.
But the program gave the motivation to keep running. I ran past 5 minutes, and kept pushing myself to 8 minutes. I was tired, but I kept going.

With that I learnt that it was just a matter of mentally pushing yourself to keep running when you are tired. Your mind quits before your body. While the program improved my physical fitness and physical endurance, importantly it has also improved my mental endurance

5) Learning to Pace Myself

Once I got up to running for over 20 minutes, I noticed that I usually started out fast, but got slower and slower as the run continued. That’s when I started paying attention to my pace much more than how long or how far I was running. Learning to start at a pace I could keep up, and continue that pace throughout the run, has allowed me to run further and further, and focus on getting faster.

These five things came together to keep me out running, and to achieve my goals. I have also learned that I actually enjoy running. It improves my mood, and gives me a great sense of accomplishment. Plus, I’m doing up my belt two holes tighter as my waist has slimmed.

Next up, I am setting new goals – longer distances and faster 5K times.


Posted by GregW 03:17 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged running Comments (0)

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