I know I say that running cures everything and I do believe that the physical and mental benefits to running are huge and as you know I spend a huge proportion of my job trying to break down the barriers that stop people from getting out of the front door.
We know that taking up a sport like running has a huge amount of physical and psychological benefits as is widely reported but what happens if you just can’t get out of the front door due to anxiety and depression. Starting something new, especially later on in life is a big deal and anxiety levels can go off the scale just at the thought of doing something that you may already think you are not very good at. People can even experience feelings of low self-worth for not trying something that is deemed to make them feel better. To a certain extent you have to have a healthy relationship with the exercise for it to be effective in treating depression and anxiety. It can’t just be go for a run, you’ll feel better, the sheer mental wall that has to be climbed just to get out of the front door can be unreal.
I receive a lot of emails from people saying they won’t start running until they’ve lost some weight or can run 5k already. The perception is that we need to be really good at exercise before we even start or we just shouldn’t do it.
In my experience there seems to be a message that until you have the body of someone who exercises then you can’t exercise. A common theme in my email communication from prospective clients is “I’ll be the obese one!” I’ve never met that person, they don’t actually exist, only in the head of the nervous would be runner who just wants to give it a go to see if they can run. And these thoughts aren’t gender specific to women, I have the same emails from men as well.
A lot of people run to lose weight so that they can start leading the life that they want to “when I’ve lost that weight, I will be happier, look like someone else, live a different life”. A great deal of time can be wasted comparing ourselves to others, looking sideways for our self-esteem when in fact we should be looking at what we have achieved already. Comparison to others can lead people to experience even more anxiety and it can be a very lonely and destructive road to go down.
Learning to run and sticking to running is hard, we live in a world of instant gratification, where we get results quickly, lose weight quickly, smash our 5k time quickly. Sometimes we need to just slow down, breathe and work with the body we’ve got right now. Having even a small shift in attitude towards starting something new like running and learning to appreciate not only the physical benefits but also the impact on our mental health. Looking after our mental health is just as important as our physical health, learning to self-care and being kind to ourselves can only be a good thing.
I heard a good suggestion the other day about self care, treat yourself as though you were a puppy, nurtue, feed, water, exercise, encourage it to rest and have lots of cuddles. I think that is good advice, I haven’t got the answers, I know that getting out of the front door can be like climbing mount Everest in your slippers, why do you think RunVerity was set up? Be kind to yourselves, we are all doing our best.