If you’d have told me a few years ago that I could quite comfortably run 10k without stopping, I’d have told you that you were an outright liar. Running has been my go-to exercise for years, as the freedom and clear headspace it gives me is like nothing I can get from any other area of my life. The mental benefits of running in the great outdoors far outweighs the physical positives for me, and first and foremost, that’s what makes me run. So I thought I’d share the ways in which running is helping me through lockdown.
Until recently it was never particularly a regular part of my life. It was something I psyched myself up for now and again when I felt I needed clarity, or when things felt they were getting a little bit too much. I never had any physical goals or milestones I wanted to hit, no marathons in the pipeline or anything crazy. In fact, when I first started going out on runs, I could only just cover 1km without feeling like I was about to keel over and die, and I always had to stop and walk a few times to catch my breath the further I went. It truly baffled me how people could go out on a comfortable 5k run, no biggie. And that is more poignant now than ever, with the Run 5, Donate 5, Tag 5 trend going round on instagram. It’s all I’m seeing!
Although in the past year or so, or at least since last summer, running has been a pretty regular part of my life, and I really hope I can keep that up, well, forever? I decided at new year that I would take a commitment and sign up for my first official run. I’ve watched the Great Manchester Run for the past few years and the atmosphere is incredible, so it was obvious that that was the one for me. So there I was, sat at my laptop on a miserable January evening, still working my way through leftover Christmas chocolate, and committing myself to my first 10k. And at that point I hadn’t ran since November, when I entered Christmas mode (a body fuelled by red wine and camembert can’t run).
Signing up for the 10k worked wonders as I’ve ran at least twice a week since then without fail, as gentle training, and I’m so much happier for it. But now that the run has been postponed due to the C word that I will not mention today, so I’ve got until September to train but I’m still trying to keep the minimum twice a week rule going, for my brain and endorphin levels if nothing else. Anyway, enough of my running journey, here’s the 5 ways that running has improved my life.
As I’ve already mentioned, running, particularly outdoors does wonders for mental clarity. Feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Go for a run and I promise you will feel at least a little bit lighter on your return. The break from being trapped between four walls, and probably looking at one screen or another, and even from human interaction, just for 30-60 minutes, is so beneficial to our mental state. I swear by running for clarity, as a self-confessed over-thinker and someone who really struggles to wind-down, I actually can’t imagine how wound up I would be if I didn’t get out and run every week. I would actually feel sorry for Luke having to live with me if that was the case!
A lot of learning to run is developing your mental stamina. It’s a battle between your body telling you that you have to stop, and learning to push yourself and determine that yes, you can keep going. Eventually it gets easier, but it’s really tough at the start. I always found setting small goals helped me tackle this. Telling myself I can run to the next lamp-post, and then when I can get there, I may as well run to the end of that road, then when I get there why not run until the end of whatever song is playing? Before you know it you’ve run an extra km than you thought you could. Feels good to beat that voice.
3. Increased Energy Levels.
I am so much more productive in every aspect of my life on days when I’ve been for a run. It’s hard to feel lazy after a run, you just naturally have more energy to burn. But even when you do come to chill out in front of Netflix at the end of the day, you really feel like you’ve earned it, and for someone who struggles to relax and switch off without feeling guilty, this is a massive pro for me. Plus because of the energy you’re burning, you will normally sleep much better at night too.
4. A Positive Mindset.
Those endorphins don’t lie, I promise. If your head is feeling jumbled, like many will probably be in the current global situation, get those trainers on and get running in the fresh air. If the sun is shining, even better. Honestly it will do wonders for your positivity and putting your worries into perspective, which is a major reason that running is helping me through lockdown, especially when the news and the world around you seems so miserable and scary by default, the endorphins are a serious coping mechanism.
5. Cardiovascular health.
I had to give one physical positive didn’t I? Like I said, I mainly run for the mental benefits, but it does also give me some peace of mind to know I’ve improved my cardio fitness so much from not being able to run 1km without spluttering, to the point where I could keep going for 10km without feeling like death. Cardio gets a bad rep as being almost torturous for so many people, but if you push past that stage, it really becomes something much more beneficial for you.
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And there we have it 5 ways that running is helping me through lockdown. Are any of you guys into running? I’d love to hear about how you got into it and why you do it! Or if not, let me know below what exercise is helping you to scope at the moment?