Mental Health and Running

I have several great loves of my life but one as a child I never thought I would have because I hated it, is running. I’ve mentioned it before, I run to keep myself skinny but I actually love it.

I started properly a few years ago when I hit 25 and all of a sudden jeans that fit easily were getting tight, hangovers got a lot worse and stairs became even more difficult. I tried zumba and cycling but it never stuck so I thought I’d give running a go. I downloaded the Couch to 5k app, went out with my old trainers, cotton t-shirt and shorts, ran for 30 seconds and honestly thought I would die. Over 10 weeks, my fitness slowly increased and at the end, like the app promised, I was able to run 5k without stopping, not very fast or at all well, but I could do it. Then, the addiction starts, I can run 5k, let’s try 10k and slowly but surely you are regularly running and begin to build up your wardobe so you own more exercise clothes than normal clothes.

As normal, I got bored of running by myself and sought out my local running club. I joined with arrogance thinking I could definitely run better than most. Turns out I was distinctly average however, there were now people like me, I was trying new routes, meeting new people and happily paying for something I can do for free. Three years later, I plan my life around running, regularly participate in races and my running friends are some of my best friends, plus the online running community are some of the most supportive people I’ve come across.

However, there is another reason I run, when I was in and out of the doctors for panic attacks about sleep aged 19, looking back it was OCD, but they ‘prescribed’ exercise. Again when I was going back on medication they recommended exercise and a few weeks later I was running.

Exercise is ‘prescribed’ for many reasons, the main one being endorphins, after a run, regardless of how it went, I’m always glad I went. Even if it’s just to get outside. It forces me to remember that there are good things in the world, it might be as simple as seeing an owl early evening or watching a lightening storm as you run in the rain. It’s beautiful. Secondly, it tires the body so that when we rest we are not restless and to knacker the body forces the mind to rest. Finally, it’s just generally good for you, as you force yourself to look after your body, the rest follows, I eat better and drink less to make sure the work I’m putting in is maintained.

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Looking happy with the world at Cambridge Town and Gown 10km

However, it’s difficult. My mind is constantly telling me I’m not good enough, can’t do things and should give up. This is also the antithesis of my naturally competitive nature. Sometimes when I’m in a good place, I can run happily for miles, I am the most dogged determined person so I will get a good run done. Other times when I’m feeling low, be it due to anxiety, an OCD breakdown or just a standard bad day then I’ll struggle, really struggle. I’ll stop, walk, beat myself up, even to the point when I’m crying because I can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, feel stupid for wanting to do something I am no good at. I run with a watch and my times/distances get uploaded and I’m stupid worried about people laughing and judging me for how slow I’m going or little I’m doing, so I go faster, longer, harder, then get injured and can do nothing! But on the other side, I also cannot give up, I’ve never been a quitter, never been able to give up which usually is a great trait but it means I don’t give myself a rest.

Running is about listening to your body and mind, mine so frequently tells me if I don’t go I’ll get fat and no one will like me, tells me if I don’t go, my running friends would lose interest in me, if I don’t go then I’ll get laughed at for not even being able to run, meaning if I’m struggling, I don’t listen, don’t give myself a break.

It’s ultimately a great love of mine, but something I struggle with like most things in life. Also, remember there may be many other runners and exercise addicts out there that also struggle and it’s something to be mindful of.

If you would like to chat, feel free to reach out in the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional and if you would like professional help, please see the ‘Support’ tab.

2 thoughts on “Mental Health and Running

  1. Your journey is so incredible. It’s such an amazing thing as to how running has affected your life. I’m happy you’ve found something you love to do! This really is a great post, thank you for sharing it. Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

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