The Calming Effects of Running

The Calming Effects of Running

Still one of my favorite workouts!
Still one of my favorite workouts!

Why do people run? For some, the answer might be weight loss, for others, it might be to improve heart health and fend off coronary disease, and for others it may be to build strength and stamina. The answer to this question of course, is very individual and probably a combination of many factors. I’ve been involved in some form of exercise most of my life, from basic calisthenics in the home, to aerobic exercise tapes (did someone say, “Let’s Get Physical”?), to weightlifting, and everything else in between! My main reason for exercising always has been for weight loss or to maintain a certain weight, but I certainly enjoy the added benefit of building muscle strength and stamina.

Running is a relatively new form of exercise for me, having only been doing so for a little over three years. What I especially like about it is that it can be done pretty much anywhere, costs next to nothing, and can be done year-round, both indoors and outdoors, depending on your climate. And I don’t hate it. In fact, I kind of love it. So why not get out and do something you love?

Feeling a little stressed?
Feeling a little stressed?

Like all forms of exercise, running can help a person lose weight, maintain or improve their overall health, and build strength and stamina. But what about mood? Lately, I’ve been feeling a little anxious. Not the full-blown-panic-attack type of anxious; more of the feeling unsettled and a little off-kilter type of anxious…just a little on edge. This is a very busy time for me, unusually so for this time of year. My ‘busy season’ usually doesn’t start until mid-March, and I’ve been in full blown crazy-busy-work-and-travel mode since the first of the year. Add to that the usual stresses of being a wife/mom/daughter/etc., it sometimes gets overwhelming.

As a consequence of being so busy, running has pretty much taken a back burner. Priorities, you know. Like yoga pants (love them as we may), Strava doesn’t lie. If you check my feed, you will see I have barely run in the past few months. I was coming off of a hip injury in November and December, but I finally got it taken care of in mid-January. I felt great and went out for a run two days later. And then…I didn’t. Between my crazy-busy schedule and the horribly cold temperatures in the Midwest, I just stopped.

Back in the Saddle Again
Back in the Saddle Again

Then earlier this week, in the midst an extremely busy day of trying to meet too many (self-imposed) deadlines in too short a period of time, I just had to stop and walk away from it. Literally. I changed my clothes and made myself get outside. Not having run in the past few months (which brings with it the added bonus of having a few extra pounds creep their way back into my life), I mostly walked, but I did some short bursts of running here and there. The first mile was a little tough for me, frequently feeling winded as I tried to run. I also spent that first mile with my mind still reeling about all of the things I needed to get done by the end of the day.  The second mile felt a little easier, but I still couldn’t get the thoughts of my never-ending list of things to do out of my head. Then by mile three, I felt a calm come over me. The running came a little easier, and my head felt clearer than it had in the past several weeks. I intended to go five miles that day, but I felt so good, I wound up going seven instead.

When I got home, I finished what work I could, and set the rest aside for the following day. And while that next day was then even busier because of what was left over from the day before, I still managed to get outside and get a few miles in. So hopefully, I’m back. We all know we need to take care of ourselves in order to be more effective at everything else we do, but sometimes, life gets in the way. It’s a constant struggle to try to keep things in balance. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. But as long as we remember to make ourselves a priority, it’s easier to keep everything else on an even keel.

Why do you run? Do you find that running helps you clear your head? What other things do you use to bring calm to your life?

42 Comments

  1. Running ALWAYS helps me clear my head. Whenever I’m feeling stressed, sad, or overwhelmed, I turn to running. It’s one of my favorite things about the sport :).

  2. I run primarily for health reasons. High blood pressure and cholesterol run in my family, so I’m trying to make smart choices now to avoid going down that path

  3. I’m in a similar place: coming off a hamstring injury and little running = weightgain and running is slow and hard. But I still feel better when I get out for some miles, however slow.

    1. Author

      I’ll take the natural release of endorphins over a pill any day! Not that they don’t have their place, but I’d rather do it through exercise!

  4. I agree…running is calming, and it does help me sort out details of “life” and brainstorm blog posts and rewind previous conversations with others LOL

    1. Author

      I do so much thinking on my runs. I love running through conversations in my head before I have them. That way I am able to say what I want to say when the time comes!

  5. I definitely use running to clear my head! I took little break over the past few weeks to deal with some potential injuries, and the cross training Ive been doing just doesn’t help me to relax in the same way that running does.

  6. Running is my anti-depressant and stress reliever. The more I don’t want to run, the more I probably need to do it. Luckily my husband knows the signs and kicks me out the door when I can’t seem to make myself get out there.

  7. I wish I’d realized many years ago the psychological benefits of exercise. I didn’t start working out until later in life, and it’s been the most wonderful thing ever!

  8. I definitely run for some of the stress relief that it provides. I always love the zen like state that I get into on a super long run.

  9. There are so many benefits to running beyond the obvious physical ones. I often do some of my best thinking when I’m out running. And after having a baby getting out for a run helped me to feel like “me” again.

  10. So glad you were able to get back out there!

    I run for the challenge and the accomplishment. I also use it to try to stay fit and healthy.

  11. Running is a great way to clear my head… as is a long walk. As long as I am outdoors, I am good!

  12. I don’t run, I skate, but the mental health benefits a strong motivator. I had to be off exercise for a long time recently and am very glad to be back!

  13. Running is always the best way to de-stress, I am currently out with an injury so I know how hard it is to be on the sidelines.

  14. I LOVE running for that very reason! Some days, it can be so calm. But, if you’re me, running is expensive. I have a problem with running clothes… I need an intervention LOL!

    1. Author

      Haha well I guess I AM like you! I have so much running clothes, it is beyond ridiculous! And the shoes, socks, other accessories…aye, aye aye!

  15. I run first thing in the morning so nothing else gets in the way. Otherwise I would find it hard to get out the door instead of dealing with everything else.

  16. Yes running absolutely clears my head! It’s the only time I’m not thinking about all the other things I need to be doing. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other!

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