Without going into too much detail, last week was a rough one. The first hammer dropped Monday, the second dropped Tuesday, and the third one on Wednesday was enough to send me back to Kentucky for a weekend at home.
Love you, Kentucky
Through the turmoil, it would have been pretty easy and understandable to skip marathon training runs- and not going to lie, I thought about it a few times. Waking up in the morning wasn’t as easy for me as it usually is, and typically, I really dislike running at night for a variety of reasons (most notably: I always seem to run into a swarm of gnats while I’m trying to take a deep breath with my mouth. Just, ugh). But, with a hectic week of switching roles at work, evening runs on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were just what I needed to clear the tangles in my brain and calm my head a little bit.
Of course, I’m not the first one to experience the benefits running has on stress relief. Exercise in general relieves stress by releasing endorphins; it also clears your “fight or flight” chemicals, helps you sleep better at night and offers you a time for “meditation in motion,” as the Mayo Clinic phrases it.
Running especially is a great stress relief because of the rhythm involved. The repeating action calms your mind, allowing you to “focus on everything and nothing at the same time.” This is the part I most identify with when running to clear my head- I can zone out, put my body on auto-pilot, and kind of think things through and work out my kinks. Some people might like the social aspect of running with a friend to relieve stress, but I like to use the time for Kristen-time, as I’m fond of saying. This Active article has more tips about 4 Tips to Run the Stress Off
Of course, if you’re fired up about something but you’re not a big runner, going out and running ten miles might do more harm than good; or, if part of your stress is caused by long days and you can’t get in an hour-long run, just going for a 10 minute walk a few times a day will help. Active recommends adapting your exercise to your kind of stress; for example, if you feel out of control, running, swimming, and cycling may help, plus yoga and pilates to calm you down. If you’re “angry or aggressive” (their words, not mine), act it out with kickboxing. And if you’re just getting started with exercise, go slow and ease your way in.
At the end of the day, I’ve realized that taking the time out of a rough day/week to go for a run is way better for my stress levels than skipping it, and I come out of every run happy that I did it and with a more optimistic outlook on life.
Free run, or $200 an hour for a therapist? It’s a no-brainer.
How do you use running to relieve stress?