Running during stressful times

I’ve been quiet on this blog over the last few months. This has mainly been because posting about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle seems a little trivial with what is going on in the world right now. 

Last weekend I had time to think and I spent a lot of time thinking about what to blog about. I decided that I would carry on blogging and focusing on fitness and living a healthy lifestyle, mainly because running, eating well and generally focusing on being healthy has helped me get through difficult and stressful times – and right now times are pretty stressful. Saying this, if you are suffering from mental health issues no amount of running, yoga or meditation will get you through and instead you should speak to your doctor and get professional help and support. 

As running has been a big part of my life for over a decade and has helped me through some of my darkest times I’d thought I’d share some tips on how to continue running during stressful periods. 

Running is a stress reliever, but it can also cause stress if you put too much pressure on yourself and force yourself to follow a strict training plan when you’re mentally not up for it. 

Seven years ago I was suddenly made redundant – I literally walked into work in the morning and within an hour was walking home without a job, absolutely no warning! During the months when I was job hunting, running with a friend early in the morning was one of the things that helped me get through. It was during this period that I signed up for my first half marathon as I knew I wanted something other than job hunting to focus on. 

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon felt like such a great achievement. And at a time when I was feeling like a failure, it gave me the confidence boost I needed. 

Since then running has meant so much more to me than just keeping fit, burning off calories and getting PBs (although PBs are always nice!). 

But running during stressful times isn’t always easy. 

There have been times mid-run when I’ve just wanted to sit on the side of the road and burst into tears. Other times when I’ve struggled to run more than a mile because my anxiety was so bad that just being outside was too much for me. 

Now I’ve learnt that it’s important to be kind to myself when going through stressful times. When I’m feeling mentally strong and everything is going well, I can force myself outdoors for early morning marathon training runs. But when I’m not feeling great, I need to take a more relaxed approach – skip runs when I want to, run/walk when I need to, and not worry about pace or distance. 

When times get hard it can be easy to close the door and stay at home, safe within your comfort zone, but, while getting outdoors and into the fresh air for a run won’t make your problems go away, it will help boost self-esteem, confidence and provides a much needed sense of achievement.

Tips for running during stressful times

  • Don’t worry about pace or distance and instead just try and focus on enjoying the run 
  • If you struggle to run when it’s busy try and run early in the morning when there are few people around 
  • Run with a supportive friend 
  • Try and choose routes that take you through areas with lots of nature  
  • If you need something to focus on, sign up for a race that you can work towards finishing

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