Exercise helps us manage our weight and reduce the risks of physical health problems, it reduces the symptoms of anxiety, depression and low mood and raises our self-esteem, happiness and brain function.
Exercise improves our mental and physical health.
Running gives us brainpower. When I’m struggling with uni work I find it so easy to sit in my room all day staring at the wall, panicking that I won’t be able to get my work done. But if I force myself to get up, put my trainers on and go on a quick 20-minute run, I find I come back to my work with so much brain energy and creative ideas.
Running increases our productivity and motivation levels. Busy schedules can make it difficult to squeeze in exercise every day, however a run doesn’t have to be long to make us feel more productive and motivated. Taking 20 minutes out of your day to run outside will make you feel great.
Running reduces stress. Cardio exercise such as running increases the body’s concentrations of norepinephrine, the chemical which regulates the body’s response to stress.
Running is calming. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the happiness hormones that make us feel good. The chemicals released through running also make us feel calmer and lower our levels of anxiety. When I’m running I’m not thinking about anything. I don’t feel stressed or worried when I run because I’m channelling all my energy into thinking about putting one foot in front of the other and focussing on my breathing.
Running outdoors is a great way to get more vitamin D – a nutrient which lowers our likelihood of experiencing depression and low mood.
Running helps us sleep better at night – especially if we’ve been running outdoors and breathing in the fresh air. Running is actually suggested for people who suffer from insomnia.
Running provides achievable goals. With running you don’t have to be able to go really fast or really far to be good at it. You can set small and manageable goals of what you’d like to achieve and keep working towards those bit by bit.
Running can improve our self-esteem. Before I started running, I always felt it was something someone like me could never do. But as I kept training regularly and motivating myself to get out and run, I realised you don’t have to be the fastest and best runner in the world to enjoy it. Running makes me feel good mentally and makes my physical appearance look better too which improves how I feel about myself.
Running is sociable. Some people like to run alone and put their music on and forget about the world, but I really enjoy running with company from time to time. When I moved to a new area and didn’t know anybody, I joined a social running group where I made lots of friends who I looked forward to running with every week.
My Running Journey …
I began running in 2016 when I had just moved to a new place, started a new job and didn’t know anybody. To be honest I felt a bit lost with what to do with myself in my free time, but I knew I needed a new challenge and a goal to work towards to keep me positive and healthy. A colleague of mine, Rachel, suggested we sign up to the Manchester Half Marathon in 6 months’ time. I told her she was crazy because I had never run anywhere in my life! I politely declined and told her there was no way I’d be able to do it.
But with the seed planted in my mind, that evening I set off on a short jog around my new local area. I probably only managed to run 5 minutes, but I power-walked for another 30 minutes before making my way home. I felt fresh, energized and proud of myself for managing those 5 minutes! So the next day I set off running again, this time managing to run for 7 minutes. Every day I added 2 minutes onto my run.
After a couple of weeks of running, I found I could jog for around 20 minutes. I’ve always ran slowly but at a pace that feels right for me. This was the perfect way for me to discover and explore my new area, the Ribble Valley. The RV is made up of lots of smaller towns and villages, and I lived in a farmhouse between the town of Clitheroe and the village of Waddington, so there were many places for me to explore. I started to crave my daily run and adored finding beautiful picturesque spots to get my breath back in. I called my colleague one evening and told her I’d changed my mind about the Half Marathon. In just over 5 months I was about to embark on the biggest challenge of my life to date.
Rachel and I would run in our evenings after work and motivate each other to train. Rachel supported me through all of the challenges I encountered in my training such as injury, stamina and fatigue. There’s no way I could have done it without her.
We ran a practice 10k in September before the Half Marathon in October. It really put my mind at ease knowing I could complete the 10k in good time and knew how an official event worked. Nothing could have prepared me for the day of the Half Marathon though. It was typical Manchester weather and we were drenched before it even started! But I powered through and was so delighted to cross the finish-line and see my mum cheering me on.
Since then, I have fallen in and out of running several times. I love the thrill of running in a race and pushing myself to beat my PB’s. But I’ve also experienced injuries and phases where I just can’t be bothered to put myself through it! I am, however, so proud of my huge medal collection at home, as I’ve gone on to run over one hundred 5, 10 and 15k races and 2 half marathons.
At the minute I haven’t got any races in mind to train towards and I have no desire to run a marathon any time soon. But never say never!
If you’re new to running and not sure where to start, then I’d recommend the NHS Couch to 5k programme.
Running has changed my life. It makes me happier, healthier (physically and mentally) and I’ve proved to myself that I’m capable of more than I ever thought I was.