Mental strength when running is something I’ve spoken a lot about on my blog.
I recently came across this BBC article that looked at some of the reasons why people take up running.
As I read about some of the experiences and stories of the people in the article, I realised just how incredibly powerful running is for a lot of people, including myself.
In the article, you meet a range of people who talk about their love affair with running, including Martin, who describes being in a “long term relationship with running”.
He says “Running helps me control my thoughts, it slows me down, and gives me the opportunity to focus on the things I need to focus on.”
I resonate a lot with what Martin, and how running has had a hugely positive impact on his physical and mental health.
The article got me thinking about the reasons why I run, and why I have done so for the last 10 years.
Mental strength when running: Running saves lives
Running truly save lives. It may sound like a bold statement, but I’ve met so many people who see running a way out of darkness – a light at the end of a tunnel.
My own running journey has had its ups and downs – I’m sure you can relate. But through all these ups and downs, running has been my one true constant. The thing I go to when I’m ever feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
I can always rely on running to make me feel better.
The feeling you get after finishing a run is like no other. The endorphins rushing through your body, the post-run high – something that can become addictive after a while.
It’s no wonder then that more people than ever are taking up running each month across the world. My own battle with my mental health has meant that my relationship with running has completely changed.
When I first started running, it was all about weight loss and getting fit. I was desperate to shed a few pounds after I graduated from university.
As I’ve got older, running has become much more spiritual for me.
Following a period of burnout in early 2019, I took six months out of my corporate, 9-5 life and took a huge step back to re-asses what I wanted out of my life.
For years, I had been climbing the corporate ladder. One job role after the other.
None of my jobs were awful. In fact, I have been incredibly lucky in terms of the types of roles I have managed to land throughout my career.
But I just had this gut feeling that something was not right. I wasn’t leading a life where I felt I was making an impact.
I had lost my purpose through all the calendar invites, Skype meetings and lunch meetings.
So in early 2019, I took the leap. I resigned from my role and took some time out to re-evaluate my life.
Throughout this period of uncertainty and anxiety, running remained my friend, my confidant. No matter how horrible I felt, or how much I doubted myself in all other areas of my life, I knew that when I went for a run, I’d feel on top of the world again.
Running, for me at least, has this uncanny ability to silence those fears and negative thoughts in my head.
When I’m pounding the pavement, it brings me into the here and now. My worries, concerns and anxious thoughts seem to fade away.
When you’re going through huge periods of change in your life, the one thing that remains constant feels like gold dust!
When everything is whirring around you and your brain feels like one big foggy mess – something that has the ability to calm you down and bring you back down to earth is something to hold onto.
This is why I love running.
And it seems I’m not the only one. I’ve met loads of people who feel the same about running, in that it helps them through tough times and allows them to break away from those negative thoughts.
I truly believe in the life changing benefits of running. The positive impact it can have on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is incredible, and I’m on a mission to share my love of running and its benefits with as many people as possible.
Running, like any form of meditation, is a way to reconnect with yourself, your thoughts, and nature – and that’s why I love it.
Here’s what running has taught me about inner strength.
It teaches you not to give up
There have been so many times on a run when I’ve just wanted to pack it all in and give up.
There are days when running feels so incredibly hard. It’s not just the physical side of running that can be a challenge, it;s the mental side too.
Many people would argue that the mental side is what is hardest to overcome.
When you train for longer races like half marathons, marathons and ultra marathons, you really appreciate how much your body and mind are capable of.
Despite the pain and sore muscles, you find it within yourself to attack your training plan week in, week out.
Some weeks it’s not pretty. The blisters, sore feet, bruises – but it’s all worth it in the end when you can say that you’ve crossed the finish line.
Running teaches you about your inner strength and that it’s much stronger than you can ever imagine. Giving up is an option, but your strength and determination is what keeps you going.
It teaches you that it’s much more mind than it is matter
For me, running is 70% mental and 30% physical. Some runs feel like a psychological battle with myself to get out the door and keep running.
There is almost two parts of my brain: the part that wants me to stop and the part that wants me to carry on and smash the run.
In these instances, I’m reminded of the battle you face in your brain when you do anything outside of your comfort zone.
Think about any situation where you’re about to do something that you’re just not used to doing, or you feel uncomfortable doing.
Your brain does its utmost to stop you from doing it – its way of protecting you.
When you run, you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You are challenging yourself and testing your limits.
I am a big believer in pushing your limits. After all, this is one of the best ways to learn and, more importantly, learn from failure.
So, next time you go for a run, if your mind is convincing you not to go for a run, dare to second guess it. You are capable of much more than you think.
It teaches you about physical toughness
Running is hard. I remember when I was training for my first half marathon.
Those long training runs really took it out of me. I remember my husband asking me one day: “Why do you do it to yourself?”
He could see how tired I was after a run.
Despite the exhaustion, I was determined to put on my trainers and get out there again a few days later. The pain had been forgotten and I had fallen in love with running all over again.
A few years down the line and much more training under my belt, my half marathon experience is much more enjoyable.
But I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am today without those earlier struggles.
Running teaches you that those physical struggles are necessary in order to become a better runner.
You develop a toughness within you that gets you across the finish line time and time again.