“It’s fine, I ran today”
Home is where my family is. It is my cats welcoming me at the front porch with their meows and circles around my legs. It is my dogs’ wet kisses, tail wags, and happy howls as soon as I open the front door. It is a hug from my husband after a long day at work, curling up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee, and the sight of the twinkle lights dangling from our fireplace and lighting up the entire room. It is the sounds of my kids talking and laughing throughout the house, and it is even the messes and piles of dirty clothes they leave trailing behind them.
My second home, however, is in my running shoes. I slip them on and they take me places I never thought possible. Running is the most relaxing part of my day. That sounds crazy to non-runners, I know, but it truly is. A little over two years ago I would have thought that sounded crazy myself, but running brings me peace, clarity, confidence, and a huge sense of accomplishment. It is time with myself to unwind, let go of the things that have been weighing on me throughout the day, and enjoy miles of soul searching. You may have heard the sayings “Running is cheaper than therapy” or “I run because punching people is frowned upon”. Meant to be funny, but those make perfect sense to me now! No need to be alarmed though; I certainly won’t be going around punching anyone if I don’t get to run today, but I do consider running to be my daily therapy. And it is cheap. Okay well my husband may disagree with THAT, what with all of the running clothes, shoes, accessories and race fees that have been needed. But enough about that. They are necessary, and we will leave it there. You know how they say “the proof is in the pudding”, well when it comes to running, the proof is on the pavement (or the treadmill sometimes). I started running to improve my overall health and quality of life which has been an amazing success. Now let me tell you why my love for running has grown so incredibly much.
Yesterday was an absolutely wonderful day to run. The sky was a beautiful blue, the clouds were puffy white, and the sun was shining brightly to create the most perfect Sunday afternoon. The birds were chirping and swooping from one tree to another, and cherry blossoms were blooming all around me. Spring was in the air, but that is not all that I could feel in the air. There was joy and gratitude, new goals I was setting my mind towards, and about two to three miles I was about to celebrate accomplishing. A huge smile came across my face (really, it did) and I started taking off. As my pace increased, I felt the cool breeze even harder against my body. And just as the wind was blowing through my hair, I felt my worries blowing away. There are so many positive benefits to running, but for me, one of the biggest benefits that I never saw coming was the stress relief.
So let’s talk about these inevitable parts of life: stress, anxiety, and worry. We are all human, so some level of stress is expected and is always going to exist in our lives no matter what. My anxiety level pre-running was off the charts though. I touched briefly in my blog One Choice, Forever Changed that I dealt with a fair amount of anxiety which was linked to my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but the source of my anxiety was something much larger. I had been diagnosed years before with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and let me tell you, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. No one. Never. It was like my mind was never, ever, ever able to shut down. The wheels were constantly spinning and thinking up what it was going to worry about next. Some of them were legitimate concerns, but I obsessed over them way too much and went down roads that didn’t exist. Some of them weren’t legitimate concerns, but my mind could come up with some very extreme reasons I should worry about them, a lot. It was a constant cycle, it was terrible, and I had no clue how to escape it. Except when I ran. I began to realize that the half hour or so that I was running was the only part of my day my brain could shut down the worry and let it all blow away in the wind. And just as my IBS symptoms slowly started fading away over the days and months that I was running, so were my worries. Now by no means am I saying I don’t have any stress or worries now, but the relief has been huge, I would even say life changing for me. Running has given me an outlet and a way to deal with what is now just normal day-to-day stresses.
So another little tidbit about myself. I tend to be a fairly sensitive person, it’s just who I am. For the most part, it doesn’t take much to hurt my feelings, although, the older I have gotten, the better I have become about letting things go or in some cases, actually standing up for myself. I am also a people-pleaser; I like making others happy, and it causes me stress when others are upset with me (especially if I don’t know why, that’s the worst). I’m sure many of you out there get this, there’s plenty of us people-pleasers out there. And all of my fellow people-pleasers would likely join me in saying….it can be very draining!! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change who I am for one second, but it can definitely build up and reach a point where it becomes mentally and emotionally draining. But now I am able to come home, take a deep breath, and run it out. I have let so many things go while I was running; it is my release and it has become my peace. I assumed I would become more physically fit and overall healthier when I started running, but I had never thought about all it could do for my mind, my spirit, and my soul! The benefits of running have reached places I never thought possible, and I embrace it with all of my heart. I have laughed, cried, problem solved, and prayed on a run. I have found hope, stillness, and simply learned to let things go on a run. In a way, I believe running has saved me and I am such a better person for it. Run, release, repeat, and enjoy the journey along the way. That’s my new motto.
How often do you get to shut down the spinning wheels in your mind and focus on the very important, well deserved, YOU? The time I dedicate to running each day has become the only time I really get to focus on myself, and has become the time that is most important to my wellbeing. I am now a firm believer that daily exercise is extremely beneficial not only for the physical body, but for the mind. It is a wonderful gift you can give yourself, and one that keeps giving back. I would love to bring you on my running journey with me, but any kind of exercise that gets you moving and exerting energy is beneficial and worthwhile. YOU are worth it! I am not saying that a new exercise regimen won’t be challenging, but it is the challenging things and moments in your life that create change. I look forward to writing more in the future, providing tips and tricks to help you overcome specific challenges when getting started with a new exercise routine. In the meantime, stay tuned…and get moving!