Does running make you feel good?

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A nice sign my wife made me

First of all let me say thanks for all the feedback on my Dunoon sporting blog!  I forgot to mention my unreasonably successful basketball exploits and some of the names that helped out at the sporting clubs, I may go back to that later.  Also thanks to everyone who has shared my blog, donated money or even sent a message to me.  All of these things are really important to me and keep my motivation up.

I made a good bit of progress today – I wasn’t having the greatest day in the world and my initial thought was “I can’t wait to get out a run tonight”.  For me, that is progress!  In the past I would have thought “I can’t wait to get to McDonalds for a Large Signature BBQ burger meal with chilli cheese bites and a strawberry milkshake” or “I can’t wait to go to KFC for a large Fillet Burger Box meal with a small popcorn chicken (with beans and a Pepsi) or “I can’t wait to go to Burger King for a large Whopper meal and 2 chicken strips”.  Ha, reading back there I see I think about that too much 🙂 Then, if Kirsty was working, I would get home, go to bed about 6, waken up around 9 and feel awful!  But today, today I decided to go for a run instead.

I can pretty much pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was a “bit of a worrier”.  In Primary 2 David Mitchell (who was in Primary 3, I was in a composite class) brought in a Dundee United pennant to school.  At the end of the day I held it aloft as if I were celebrating a win – but it broke.  I went home that night worried sick that I was going to get into trouble for breaking this pennant but the next day nothing was said about it.  I felt a little relief but then I realised I had forgotten my library book so I started to worry about that.  Then, and I remember this as clear as yesterday, I thought to myself “Hey, I am always worried about something” – for a 6 year old that is a pretty weird thought!

Fast forward 36 years and I still hold the same thought.  I know myself I need to make a real effort to calm myself down and to stop worrying but it isn’t as easy because, I will always find something else to occupy my mind negatively.  It could be a health thing, a work thing or something as trivial as someone not saying hello to me when they pass me, I will immediately go to the worst case scenario and let it play over and over.  These feelings get worse at times of high stress in my life, for example when my Mum wasn’t well.  It could also have played a part in what happened to my eye so I am trying lots of different things to help me out and prevent it happening again.  At a visit to the doctor I was told my blood pressure was too high and the thing that brought it down the best was relaxing (as well as losing weight, cutting down on the salt and the blood pressure pills!).  I wouldn’t say I suffered from anxiety, I have seen people have an awful time with that, I am definitely an anxious person though.  One aspect I am really lucky with and which helps me out a lot are my family, friends and colleagues, a more supportive bunch of people I couldn’t hope for.

1 thing that helps my state of mind most though is getting out a run.  I have a few ideas about why this may be, here they are:

  • Breathing – people say deep breathing helps you relax – when you are running you do a lot of deep breathing (too much if you are like me and not the fittest!)
  • Short term, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed goals.  Ha, it’s like a job interview here…On a treadmill you are constantly looking for when the kilometre is over, when the mile has passed, how long you have left etc.  When you meet each of these milestones you get a wee boost.  One wee 5k run sees you aim for the 1k, 2k, 3k, 4k, 5k, 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, quarter way, third way, halfway, 2 thirds way and 3 quarters way – that’s 13 mini targets in the space of about 26 minutes, one feeling of success every 2 minutes – you don’t get that success rate in too many places.  Your mind is also fixed on these goals, on your breathing and on putting one foot in front of the other, you don’t have time to think about anything else really.
  • You are listening to something you enjoy.  I have a few good podcasts that really make me laugh that I love to listen to – this in itself will put you at ease, never mind the fact that you are running about.
  • Endorphins – I don’t know too much about these but apparently they are things that make you feel good and are released when you exercise.  The so-called “runner’s high” can leave you feeling amazing after a run
  • The social aspect of running – this is something I really like.  When you are out running other runners will say hello to you!  It doesn’t seem much but everyone from the fastest Callum Hawkins to the slowest Stuart Taylor will give you  nod or a smile as they pass you by and that wee bit of sociability isn’t too present in many other areas of life nowadays – don’t get me started on the self-service scanners at the supermarket.
  • Being able to chart improvement – who doesn’t like getting better at things?  The more you run, the better you get.  That’s one of the things I love about parkrun, being able to chart your progress over the months – again, a feeling of satisfaction.
  • Increase in self-esteem and confidence – for many reasons running can boost confidence.  It may be that you can lose weight and fit into a jacket you haven’t been able to in a while or you may feel fitter when you don’t get out of puff going up the stairs – it all combines to boost the old self-image.
  • Being able to enter races like the London Marathon give you a target, something to look forward to, something to aim for and the chance to help a great charity like the RNIB.
  • Spending quality time with the wife!  Kirsty and I often head to the gym together, it’s something different than sitting on the couch watching Netflix.

Hopefully this blog is ok.  I know there is still a bit of a stigma talking about things like this but I reckon it is important.  I know I am very lucky and have a really good support system around me but other people aren’t so lucky.  I also know that some people may be reading this and thinking they need a lot more than just going out a run to help them and for those people, I really hope they get the help that they need, mental health services in the UK are brutally underfunded – although real progress is being made in this regard.

You can visit my justgiving page here if you would like to help me raise money for the RNIB or you can do the following:

Text SMTR76 £1 to 70070 to donate £1

Text SMTR76 £2 to 70070 to donate £2

Text SMTR76 £3 to 70070 to donate £3

Text SMTR76 £4 to 70070 to donate £4

Text SMTR76 £5 to 70070 to donate £5

Text SMTR76 £10 to 70070 to donate £10

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