How running helped me work on my mental health
Does anyone really actually like exercise? I used to think not but actually I’ve recently discovered it to be a huge positive in my life. Does anyone really actually like exercise? I used to think not but actually I’ve recently discovered it to be a huge positive in my life. Does anyone really actually like exercise? I used to think not but actually I’ve recently discovered it to be a huge positive in my life.
Anyone who knows me, or who has seen me, knows that I’ve always been a bigger guy. I’ve always had trouble with my weight but I love food, who doesn’t right? The problem is that when my mental health hit an all time low my food intake hit an all time high. I stopped wanting to take care of myself and would eat constant streams of rubbish. It became my crutch. Bad day? Cheer up with some snacks. Good day? Reward yourself with some snacks. Hard day? You deserve a treat. This became a huge part of my life but I always found that I felt guilty after a binge, meaning regardless of how my day had been I’d always feel terrible after eating. The issue with this is that whilst becoming much more unhealthy physically, my mental health worsened twice as fast. A balloon like expansion of my waistband meant that my confidence pushed further down than it already had been, and where previously I would have been out doing things I would opt to stay in my flat not wanting to see the outside world, and I’d usually drown my sorrows in food. So not a great time for me.
Ever since Christmas last year I’ve been on a mission to lose weight. I started this by just generally improving my diet which wasn’t difficult considering how bad things had been before. It was when lockdowns struck however that I started to combat some of my boredom with long walks out during the day. I’d enjoy the break and the time to myself felt almost like a form of meditation, giving my mind a rest and allowing myself to listen to music and be peaceful. I always felt good after too, feeling like I’d achieved something with my day and starting to gradually feel more physically fit, and more confident. Eventually I decided to chase this feeling and turn my casual walking habits into a more routine plan of going on regular runs. I started the couch to 5k workout plan, I highly recommend this to anyone struggling with confidence or feeling unfit. The great thing about this workout is that at the start the 30 second runs feel excruciating, but week by week you can see and feel the progress you’re making, getting a huge boost in confidence every time you complete a level or run faster or further than before.
Having completed this plan and carried on to the 5-10k I am fitter than I ever have been, and whilst I still have a long way to go in terms of my weight and health I’m certainly in a much better way than I was before. Not only that, my mental health has seen a huge improvement. Not only do I feel more confident slipping comfortably into jeans that didn’t fit me before but I also just feel generally happier. I think running or any cardio is one of the best forms of exercise for this because you are on your own. Sure, I wake up some mornings and really don’t feel like going, sure there are times halfway through a run where I feel like cutting it short and turning back, but getting into the habit of self-discipline and self-motivation, pushing myself to go when I least felt like it has been a huge positive for me. I have to say that those times when I don’t feel like it are usually when I need it most and once I do force myself out I usually have a more enjoyable run and feel much more accomplished afterwards. Furthermore, on those odd days where I do give in to myself and don’t go for a run I usually have a more difficult day, hampered by guilt knowing that I missed out on my exercise.
Now that I am back at work too running is exactly what I need now more than ever. I work a desk job and anyone else who holds a similar vocation will tell you that sitting down all day with the exception of the odd cup of tea trip can make you a little restless, but going for a run before work gets this out of my system and helps me feel fully prepared for the day ahead. I’ve never been one for the roll out of bed and into the car kind of thing, I need some time to wake myself up properly and going running does this perfectly. I now have an hour or so after I wake up and before I start work on my own in the fresh morning air to clear my mind, get my blood pumping and put myself in the right frame of mind to sit down and have a productive and positive day.
To be honest I’d have read stuff like this before I started running and thought it was just some nonsense, and I’m sure some of you are doing the same now. You might be right and it might not work for you. I would implore you to try though. The hardest part for me was getting started, deciding in my head that I was going to commit to it and take it seriously. In a busy world when people have less and less time it’s not easy to commit to something that most people think they won’t enjoy or that they think is difficult. For some people though once you start getting into the routine you may see the benefits to your physical and mental health and that’s pretty priceless.
"I hate every minute of training. But I said, don't quit. suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." - Muhammad Ali