We all know that exercise is good for us. Not only does exercise make our muscles stronger and our bodies more resilient but it can be a major contributor to our general wellbeing at home and at work. It is also a wonderful opportunity for some mindfulness and alone time.
More of us are stepping into our lycra and gym shoes than ever, and that is amazing news! If you’d like a piece of the action, then I can recommend no better form of exercise than running. Running is beautiful in its simplicity; anyone with a pair of trainers and a bit of willpower can do it. I started running 9 years ago because I wanted a simple, cheap and portable form of exercise… I never looked back. Putting one foot in front of the other at an accelerated pace has become one of the defining pastimes of my life. I owe much of my mental wellbeing to the sport and I advocate it for the following reasons…
Endorphins are good for us. You probably know this. But, although we buy into this piece of information, do we know what it is that endorphins actually do? Well…
- They interact with the part of the brain that deal with pain. Ultimately, they dull your perception of pain, a regular dose of this helps you up your general resilience.
- Endorphins trigger a feeling in the body similar to the positive feeling induced by the effects of morphine… so exists the feeling known as ‘euphoria’. This feeling leaves you feeling more energised, more positive and, ultimately, happier.
- Other known side effects of endorphins in the body include reduced anxiety, reduced stress, a better quality of sleep and a boosted sense of self-esteem.
2. Unpack Your Head
We often become stressed because we don’t have time to find brain space. This space is important for our mental resilience as it gives us the opportunity to mull over issues in our head without the distraction of everything else daily life throws at us.
If something is on your mind and stressing you out, try going for a run. The simplicity and rhythm of a run offers the clarity you need to really mull something over. You will find yourself returning from your exercise session in a much better frame of mind… you may even have run into the perfect solution to your problem!
3. Listen to Your Body
The action of sustained running demands that you listen to your body. To improve your running and to make the exercise more efficient you must enlist a little mindfulness and presence. Any tightness’ or knots will make themselves known, they will demand you take notice! However, if you make a point of noticing your alignment, how heavily you are impacting the ground, how relaxed your shoulders are, how far you are striding; you will soon improve your technique automatically, through mindfulness.
4. Be Present
For me, one of the biggest joys of running is the ever-changing scenery. This is particularly great if you travel a lot. If you are a gym goer, your exercise environment will me more or less the same, wherever you go. With running, your mind is always registering something new. Even if you run in the same park all year round, it will change with the seasons. So, open your eyes and notice your surroundings when you run, connect to the world and feel a surge in the quality of your wellbeing. As a side note, noticing your surroundings serves as a lovely distraction if you are experiencing a particularly challenging run!
5. Beat Yourself
This helps you to focus as well as being a way to push yourself and improve your performance. If you usually run 5k in 25 minutes, work on doing it in 24. If you usually run 4 miles, why not try and push it to 5? Giving your run a single purpose will help you to focus and be present. Some days you just need to discard whatever else is going on with you and concentrate on the present. This act of mindfulness works perfectly with the simplicity of the action of running.
“Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days” ~ Rob Haneisen
Just one run week, however fast or far, can massively improve your wellness. It gives you a weekly space to unpack, discard or take a break from your daily issues and take an opportunity to be present and mindful.
By Chris Thomson
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