Maybe your grandma is sick. Maybe your dog died. Maybe you broke up with you partner. Whatever the reason, when you have a bad day or week, your instinct is to lace up and work it out on the road? Welcome to my life. No matter what life throws at me running is my stress relief. A run with no goals. A run without checking my watch. Just me and my thoughts. Stress relief through running means that you run as fast as you like for as long as it takes for your problems to feel just a little smaller.
Stress relief through running?
But run superstressed, experts say, you could be setting yourself up for injury. Running to decrease the stress also means that the run itself will be harder. Mentally and physically. But for the most part, running is touted as a mental tonic. Stress relief through running has shown that your routine six-miler helps keep granule neurons in the brain from firing, making you better able to deal with anger, anxiety, or grief, the negative emotions referred to, collectively, as stress.
Before I’m leaving for a run to relief the stress I keep my mind focused just on my run and I try to stay fully engaged with the sensory experience of running. It’s hard sometimes, but it works. My view of a beautiful vista like Manhattan mostly keeps my mind away from drifting off to stressful thoughts.
I’m pretty sure many of you remember runs like this one? I remember crying on a run. It’s amazing though how a 60-minute jaunt in your neighborhood can ease the grief, pain and provide clarity.
How running eases stress
Stress relief through running works in these ways:
- It brings on an endorphin rush. Have you ever heard about the “runners high”? Well, it’s a real thing. Endorphins are hormones that are secreted by the brain during runs. They reduce pain, combat stress, and make us feel good. If you never have experienced a stress relief run before, I’m sure you felt on top of the world after one of your regular runs? Same thing! The endorphin parties in your brain.
- It lets us give in to the “flight or fight” response. Give yourself a break. These days, stress comes in different forms and is usually more constant than it has been in the past. We all work hard, we suffer from heartbreaks and other emotional problems. However, our bodies still experience the physiological reaction of fight or flight. This is the reason why running does feel so amazing, when we feel so shitty. We literally get to flight and leave our problems behind, even if it’s only temporarily.
- The rhythm of your foot turnover relaxes your mind. The sound of the repetitive motion of putting one foot in front of the other is soothing and allows you to zone out. As a runner we know that clearing the mind on a run is a good thing. This can do magic for your stress levels.
Of course, we cannot truly run away from our problems, but running has taught me that I feel much better prepared for my life challenges once I turn around and run back to them.