Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.
Last week, I used Friday Finds to focus on the importance of sleep. I was aware that, for various reasons, I hadn’t been prioritising rest as much as I should and wanted to remind myself of the difference being well-rested would make not only to my training but to my day-to-day life. This past week I have been going to bed a bit earlier and do feel better rested when I wake in the morning, but I also still feel tired later in the day. At this time of year, much of that stems from how busy work is and the stress that can accompany having so many things to do in a short space of time, so this week I want to focus on articles surrounding stress, anxiety and being more mindful in the context of running/exercise. It’s a reminder not just for me, but for everyone juggling training with the demands of a busy modern life.
As a runner, I know that in times of stress I naturally turn to exercise. No matter how mentally exhausted I feel, I know that a run or workout will help. I can finish work feeling like my eyes are heavy and sunken, that the whole world is closing in around me, yet just 30 minutes later feel refreshed and ready to tackle anything. In those circumstances I might change a planned speed or hill session to an easy run and use that time to help clear the cobwebs from my addled brain. But could that stress have a negative impact on my running? As someone who can be quite injury-prone I tend more and more to err on the side of caution when it comes to training through stressful times and this article from Runner’s World helps to explain why running when you’re highly stressed might be risky as well as offering some strategies to help cope.
Yet there’s a rather fine line to walk as a little bit of stress helps our bodies to adapt and become stronger. What we must be careful of is that we don’t exacerbate our training stress with our life stress as that’s when the problems can occur. This next article, published in Trail Runner Magazine, explains the different types of stress and how we can make the “right” stress work for us to improve our fitness.
But what about when it’s the running that’s causing us the negative stress? Something that’s becoming increasingly common, especially among young people, is anxiety. In the following article, a young blogger shares her experiences of anxiety and how that impacts on her running.The ideas of perfectionism and comparing results to everyone else sounds exactly like the sort of thing I hear from anxious pupils and it can have a detrimental effect on performance. What is perhaps most useful in this article is the expert advice provided afterwards. A great reminder to manage our expectations and avoid unproductive comparisons. It’s aimed at junior athletes, but the message is just as valid for the rest of us.
Get it right and that run or walk in times of stress or anxiety could be the one thing that helps to improve things. If you’ve ever had a training partner then you’ll know how easy it is to chat on the run, and the longer the run the more you open up – that’s why those who train for marathons together are forever connected through the sharing of thoughts and feelings that might otherwise have been kept private. But according to this article from The Guardian, running (or indeed any kind of movement) can do so much more than help us to open up. When we focus on the moment, our feelings and how our bodies move then we are being mindful, and that mindful running can reveal a lot about how we feel about other aspects of our life. It really is no coincidence that many people refer to running as their therapy!
And finally, if all else fails there’s always chocolate…dark chocolate that is! Frankly there’s not much that can’t be solved (at least temporarily) with a cup of tea and piece of chocolate, and you’ll be pleased to know that choosing the right kind of chocolate can actually boost our running performance. Hey, it’s in Runner’s World so it must be true!
The Running Princess