People run for all sorts of reasons and as we approach the week long campaign from England Athletics #runandtalk encouraging the running community to open up and talk about mental health I thought I’d try and put running into some kind of perspective. We all have mental and physical health and both are of equal importance. Running is so much more than being physically fit, it is also about being mentally fit as well.
I’m stressed at the moment, little stressors, not big life changes stressors, just daily hassles that are accumalting into a big ball of stress. I didn’t need to run on Sunday, in fact, running this morning would have no impact on my overall training whatsoever, but I needed to run. I needed to take to the hills with my furry friend and get out into the fresh air and just run. I needed to see the trees and feel the ground beneath my feet. I needed to forget the stressors and just be. The miles flew by, not because of speed but because I talked and walked and laughed as I put the world to rights and watched as Finn lost his ball and rolled in fox poo again (and again and again).
Physical improvement is generally linear, you train harder and in theory get better. Mental improvement can be more like 2 steps forward, 5 steps back, one step forward and 100 steps back. The human body works in a completely logical manner, your joints, ligaments, muscels, tendons all move and respod to stimulus in a predictable and logical way. But you put a human brain on top of your body with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and worries and your body starts behaving in a completely irrational manner. Does this sound about right? Arghhhh why won’t my body work.
Learning how to be mentally fit is hard, you won’t learn it from a text book, we are all different and have different experiences that make up our thoughts that can affect our behaviour. As a running coach I am fortunate enough to know what else goes on in other people’s lives that can affect their running performance, one training plan does not fit all, everyone’s journey is unique. We all have different stressors that can affect how we feel and how we behave and stress can be either a cause or an exacerbation to many physical illnesses. This may not make any sense to you, how can it be that our body can be physically changed by us having a tough time at work or at home. Is our mind really more powerful than our body? The answer is yes, our body is powerless to override whatever signals our mind sends telling the body what to do. Look at the stress mind map, see how much a stress can impact so much of our lives.
Next weekend we have so much going on for RunVerity members, 5 are running Berlin marathon, 15 of us are heading to the Jurassic coastline to run a tough off road event and 12 members are running the Ageas 10k. No one race or run is more important than the other, a mile is still a mile.
My advice is to try and put running into perspective, go back to basics and ask yourself why do you run? I run to keep me mentally fit, to keep me sane and keep depression and anxiety at bay. Running up the hills in the countryside or by the sea is my daily anti-depressant, it keeps the negative thoughts from spiralling out of control and makes sure that I am looking after myself. I have to run and I find the time to do it, to put it in the diary, to make it a priority, to make me a priority.
The focus of the running sessions this week is #RunAndTalk