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Running Can Help Your Mental Health


When you think about running, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it excitement? Joy? Even sometimes dread? Running makes people feel different things, and whilst for some people it’s the last thing they would like to do, for many it can be a saviour. My own mental health has benefitted enormously from running, it has become a way to escape from my own thoughts (and during lockdown, my own home!) and continues to be a reliable friend through a pretty tumultuous time for everyone. Frustrated at work? Run. Bored of not being able to go out and see your friends? Run. Too much bunched-up energy needing an outlet? Run. 

I asked a few of my running friends on Twitter to let me know about how running has helped their mental health both during lockdown and beyond, and their responses made me fall in love with running all over again – I hope it does the same for you, too. 

@christhatruns: ‘There are so many elements of running that have helped my mental health. The fitness, being outdoors, sense of achievement, the social life.’ 

@kathyweston6: ‘I run because it gives me a physical sensation of release in my brain, like undoing the button on your tight jeans after a big meal! I honestly don’t know how else to describe it. I am less anxious and more productive when I run and generally feel more “in control” of my life!’ 

@melrunsforfun: ‘I began Couch to 5K to help get me out of the house after being signed off work with a bad bout of anxiety. What I didn’t anticipate was how much it would help my mental health! Getting out there and running is now such an important part of my self-care. Some refer to it as their ‘thinking time’; I find that it empties my head and helps me to let go of whatever’s in there, calming me and settling me. My body is much fitter and healthier nowadays, but so too is my mind. Thank you, running!’ 

@runnerrunnermike: I used to run early on as a means to fight through the problems I was experiencing. It has developed into a lifestyle tool now. Running helped me fight negative thoughts, gave me a sense of purpose and provided targets to achieve when I felt all was lost. I have met new friends and developed regular routines which gets me out of bed. Running helps me stay mindful and reduces stress which at a time of home schooling is very important – you never regret going for a run. The only side effects are getting fitter and healthy. If I feel my mental health dipping, I know I can go for a run and it will help me in some way. It’s got me so far that I’ve recently signed up for a marathon and cannot wait!!! This has always felt an impossible target.’

@onelittlebird7: I don’t think I ever anticipated how good running would make me feel. It’s not just the running, it’s the being outside, it’s the setting myself goals, it’s making friends and exploring new areas. It started with a park run, and it’s led to last week running a half marathon! During lockdown, they closed my local park and I found that devastating as a person without any outside space. I then realised how important running was to me. There have been days where I have been laid on the sofa not being able to do anything, no motivation and feeling as though everything is pointless. Getting off the sofa, and dragging myself around the park, smashing a PB, or just having gone and done SOMETHING, getting out of the house helps me feel motivated, it helps to 'clear my head' and I often get home and feel energised, I also then sleep better which is something which hugely affects my mental health.’

@natruns: Running helps me as I had anorexia for years, and then I got really into running and it helped me to approach exercise as something to be enjoyed/to focus on what my body can do. Now, whenever I’m having a bad day, I just pop my trainers on and it always helps, so definitely a big tool in the MH kit, especially during Covid. I find it wild that I’ve been able to go through something as unsettling as Covid, and stay well, but I really think that’s because of my running! It’s not a magic bullet and with eating disorders you’ve got to be nearly weight restored first, but from that point onwards, I wouldn’t be without my sport now. 

 

I have to say, I signed up to Twitter with a slight feeling of trepidation. You hear multiple horror stories about trolling and bad behaviour online, and it’s something to be wary of. Having said that, all I have ever felt from the running community on Twitter is support and enthusiasm. It has become an outlet where I can talk about all things running, which would normally bore people to tears! It is also a brilliant source of running knowledge, and as you can see from the above quotes there are some inspirational stories to be found on there, too. I’m now a fully-fledged Tweeter at @bethplodsalong, loving the online running community I have become a part of – if you need a bit of a push out of the door, Twitter is the place to get it!

Mental health has so many layers, and I’m certainly not saying that there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution. The reality is, there isn’t, but running is certainly a good place to start. I will shout from the rooftops about what running can do for you, and my new Twitter community would all do the same. There are about 80,000 of us just on Twitter in the UK alone, so we must be doing something right! 

This blog post was contributed by Beth Henry, who works for This Is London Magazine. They are currently publishing online at www.til.com as well as through their social channels; 

Instagram: @thisislondonmag

Twitter: @thisislondonmag 

 

They have new active content each issue, with new running/cycling routes and information about all things active in London. The magazine makes sure that their readers are up to date with the latest information on all things London. 


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