A question I am often asked is “Why?” Why do I run?
There are lots of reasons and in the following months I hope to talk about some of them in my posts. Today I am going to think about running for a healthy mind.
When I am at work I talk all day to all sorts of people from all kinds of backgrounds. I try to be a good listener. I try to imagine myself in their position so that I can provide the best possible service to them. So when I come home I often need some quiet time for my mind. Quiet time is often associated with passivity. But I am not always very good at sitting quietly (unless I am reading – but that’s another story!). So I go out for a run, and get some head space that way. Usually I run listening to my own thoughts, and focussing on simply being in the moment. Last night however I ran while listening to a couple of podcasts. One got me thinking: BBC World Service The Why Factor – Extreme Sports about why people take part in ultra-running events or Ironman competitions. Now I do not propose ever taking up running 100 miles in one go! But a lot of the reasons the participants suggested, and the psychologists reported, were to do with feeling good about yourself. That rings true – when I’ve run 10+ miles I am amazed at myself! ‘I really did that’ I think. ‘Isn’t it incredible that I can run for so long and so far?!’ It doesn’t matter that others can run further and for longer – what matters is that I just did that! And survived! It does make you think well if I did that then I can do xxx – whatever other seemingly impossible thing there is in your life.
Is there evidence? Well yes there is, and it isn’t just anecdotal. Many studies have shown that there is a link between exercise (it doesn’t have to be running necessarily) and good mental health. Even better is exercising outdoors – greenwoods and water can literally blow your mind! And you don’t even need to be exercising in the conventionally accepted sense to benefit. Research published by the charity Mind shows that just being active outside benefits your mental health. Reduced anxiety, a better mood, more relaxed – the evidence is there.Being active every day can make a difference.
Once upon a time many years ago I ran on a treadmill at the gym. I cannot imagine doing that now. Even running in the worst weather is preferable to the boredom of the treadmill. I can’t wait for my next run out there – wherever that may be!