Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Run Through This..

Most who run are well acquainted with the myriad health reasons associated with why one should run. There are a glut of articles, books, blogs, etc. that espouse the benefits to your heart, your health, and overall well being that are tied to running.

I frequently characterize running as a 'panacea' as I look to a few miles on the road as a veritable cure all for whatever is ailing me (save running incurred injuries). Below are a few items that running has helped me work through.

A Breakup

I think most can identify with the pain associated with a split from a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, significant other, etc. Life suddenly feels a bit rudderless and uncertain. You may find yourself filled with negative thoughts and emotions.

While your first instinct might be to grab the nearest bottle and knock back a round (or three...or four) and drown your sorrows, consider putting this course of action on hold (at least for a little while).

With yoga and meditation there is always a huge focus on 'breathing'. It is often this focus on the simple act of breathing that helps ground us.

With running, it's not much different. Consciously or unconsciously, breathing is a HUGE part of running. Going out and breathing rhythmically for a few miles always helps me clear my head and almost inevitably makes whatever pain I'm feeling seem a bit more manageable.

A Hangover

OK. So, a few miles didn't solve all your problems and that bottle (or watering hole) is a bit too conveniently located. Don't beat yourself up the next morning when your head is spinning and ringing like a fire alarm.

You're human and sometimes running a few miles isn't going to heal all your wounds. While going for a run while you're nursing the hangover from hell may be the LAST thing in the world you want to do, I'd encourage you to give it a shot.

Several years ago I went out for a run with a nasty hangover. I felt so terrible that I figured a run couldn't possibly make me feel worse than I did and maybe, just maybe there was an outside shot that I'd feel at least marginally better.

Needless to say, I was more than surprised to find myself feeling vaguely human again after running a few miles. The world stopped spinning, the pounding in my head ceased, and I found myself feeling somewhat lucid again.

So, before you try a 'hair of the dog' or any of the other homespun hangover cures out there, try hitting the road. The first mile or so isn't going to feel good, but after you've been out for 15-20 minutes, things will start to come around...I promise!

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Every once in awhile I will find myself struggling to get a solid 8 hours (who am I's usually 6-7 hours at best.) of sleep. More often than not this occurs during a period when I'm anxious/stressed/preoccupied AND I've usually deviated in some way, shape, form from my normal running routine.

Shockingly enough, doing my standard 5 mile loop through Golden Gate Park always seems to reset things. Ideally, I run this route a bit harder than normally so I feel a bit fatigued by the time I wrap things up. Whether it's the fresh air, the elevated heart rate, or the muscle fatigue, I am usually jonesing for a nap or a good night's sleep by the time I'm done.

A Vexing Conundrum

Life is full of conundrums. Many of these conundrums don't have easy answers. Many runners I've encountered are critical thinkers and highly analytical. They obsess over miles run, course details, pacing, and goals.

This mindset is VERY valuable and has great crossover into a myriad of areas in life. But, a highly analytical mindset can sometimes get you stuck in a quagmire as you turn a problem over in your mind time and again.

Slowing the wheels of your mind down (or getting them to stop) isn't easy. Sometimes getting a change of scenery can help you find the answer to your problem or at the very least getting out on the road can help you find some silence and peace if only temporarily.

Da Funk

Maybe you're feeling down, blue, or otherwise suffering from a bit of ennui....for whatever reason. Whether it's work, life, family, or all of the aforementioned, there's plenty of evidence out there to suggest that running (and regular exercise in general) is in fact one of the best anti-depressants around.

The runner's high is in fact real. While you're running a wonderful cocktail including serotonin, endorphins, and phenylethylamine is being released into your bloodstream. Not too surprisingly, those who run (or exercise) on a regular basis tend to have a lower Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) meaning they are generally in a better mood.

This is not to say if you're SERIOUSLY depressed you shouldn't seek therapy/counseling, but there is NO QUESTION that regular running or exercising absolutely will improve your mood. But, it needs to be a regular habit/routine. '1' run isn't going to be the answer long term.

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