My feet gently strike the ground – one, two, one, two. The world passes me by in a blur of blue, green and grey. I feel calm.
It’s as though someone has pressed a pause button on all my worries. What thoughts are whirring around my brain stop as soon as I take that first step and begin to run.
I don’t run for my physical health. I run for my mental health – my wellbeing. It’s not about speed or distance or time. It’s about the way you feel at the end of the run.
Some runs suck. Some days, I don’t want to run – it’s too windy, too icy, too late… my calf hurts (a lot). And that’s okay. On these days, I go with the flow. I take it easy. Just a short run today. No pressure. Maybe, I won’t run at all. It’s all about listening to what I need in that specific moment.
But when I do run. I feel great. It’s euphoric. Whether it’s a 2 km run around the block, a 5K park run or a 12 km trail run, I feel great. I don’t always feel great physically (hello again, sore calf muscle) but mentally, I do.
Reasons why running is great for my wellbeing
There’s no one single well-being benefit of running. Instead, there is a myriad of small factors that all add up to create that post-run sense of elation and pride. Running doesn’t cause a huge seismic shift in wellbeing. It’s more like tiny 1% increments. Small, almost unnoticeable changes that all add up to benefit your wellbeing.
The reasons why running is great for my wellbeing include:
- Mental clarity
- Boost mood
- Improve sleep
The reasons why running is great for your wellbeing may be different. What works for one person isn’t necessarily the same for the next. I’ll dive into the well-being benefits of running for me next…
Running for mental clarity
Running can feel like a mental reset at times. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or I’m struggling to make sense of my thoughts, going for a run is like hitting a pause button. I pull on my running shoes, put on a guided run playlist and hit the pavement. Instantly, my mind clears. The thoughts or worries that were overwhelming me, stop.
Running gives me mental clarity. It allows me to step back and see things from a new perspective so I can approach things with a proactive mindset.
Running to boost my mood
I’m going to preface this section by first saying that running doesn’t always boost my mood. Sometimes I get in my own head. I get to caught up in the numbers on my watch or simply finish my run feeling like crap.
I also don’t always run when I’m feeling low or in need of an uplift. Sometimes – okay, most times – I’ll curl up on the sofa with all the chocolate, cake and bad TV you can imagine.
But running can boost my mood. I can start a run feeling pants (read: anxious, sad, stressed, worried, annoyed…) and finish it feeling amazing.
Just like running offers mental clarity, it can also boost my mood. Giving me the emotional uplift I needed. Starting my day with a run will most likely start my day off on the right foot. It gets me in a good frame of mind for the day ahead.
Running improves my sleep
Just like any physical activity or exercise, running helps me sleep better.
On the days where I’ve been for a morning run, you can guarantee I’ll get a good night’s sleep. It makes sense. There are tons of scientific studies and journals out there explaining how exercise, like running, can improve your sleep cycle. But all I need to know is that it does.
If I stop running – often due to injury because while I enjoy running, I’m not the best at it and I’m injury-prone. But if I stop running for a period of time, I tend to notice it in my sleep cycle. I’ll have more sleepless nights which shows that not running disrupts my sleep. So, on the flip side, running improves my sleep.
Getting started running
I’m a firm believer that running, like bouldering, is a really accessible sport. It’s something that almost anyone can do.
All you really need is a pair of trainers and you’re good to go.
Everyone’s running kit looks different and some people’s kit will be more extensive or more expensive than others. You’ve got to find what works for you.
My current running kit looks like:
- Running shoes – my current running shoes are the Adidas 4DFWD Pulse running shoes which are perfect for road runs. If I’m going for a trail run, I’ll pull on my Salomon Alphacross trail running shoes.
- Activewear – if you’re going for a run, you’ll want to wear something comfortable. My go-to running outfit is a pair of gym leggings or shorts (the more compression, the better IMO), a sports bra and activewear top. Then on cold days, I’ll wear a running jacket and I always wear a running vest to pop my keys and phone in and add some reflective visibility.
- Music/podcast – some people can happily run to silence but not me. I prefer to listen to music or a podcast. On road runs or short runs, I’ll pop on a Nike Running Club guided rung along with some music. For trail runs, however, I’ll tend to stick a podcast on to keep my company and moving forward.
- Fitness tracker – You don’t have to track your runs but I like to. I used to scrutinize every tiny detail of my run. These days, I don’t mind too much. I’ll glance at my watch to motivate myself to keep pushing forward or to learn whether I ought to back off. If anything, I track my runs so that I can check my progress afterwards and to serve as a reminder to keep trying.
I haven’t always loved running. As a teenager, I actively avoided any kind of exercise – especially running. I hated it. It was boring or I’d worry that it would make me lose weight.
Now, I love it. I love how it makes me feel and I love how it lets me see the world differently. I have a newfound sense of appreciation for my local area when I run. And trail running lets me explore new places in different ways.
Running really can be something amazing if you just let it.