How do you deal with stress? Running helps me a lot, and here's why.

When I think about the last year, I've moved cities, I've started a new job, I've taken a promotion, I've worked through 3 lockdowns and I'm just about to move (again) into my own I guess that the last 12 months have been a little stressful! With the worry of coronavirus on the whole world too, we've all stressed about the health of ourselves and others and how we can keep safe.

On top of this I've been training for marathons, sometimes running 80 miles a week! Paris and Manchester marathon were obviously cancelled last year but I'm a month away from Wrexham elite marathon and it's still not confirmed that we can race yet. So yes, I feel stressed!

We all have our stresses though, yours might be very different to mine but the feeling is the same. How do you deal with it? Would you say that running helps? I would, and here's why:

1 - Its a respite from your worries.

Running can be your 'break', your 'me time' if you like. I find that a run can sometimes be a rest? That sounds a little strange but I like to switch off from the world, listen to some music and enjoy the feeling of being outside. It's time for me to think about other things, or maybe just be focused on the present moment and a chance to 'forget' about everything that's going on.

A rest from the stress can actually be very productive, similar to when you look at a project with 'fresh eyes' or leave a scenario until the next day after you've 'slept on it'. I've often returned from a run feeling more energised and engaged to tackle any stresses that I'm feeling.

2 - It's an opportunity to think through things.

On the other hand, running can sometimes be time for therapy. Have you ever had a stressful situation that you just can't switch off from? I've used running to help me to think about it before. Trainers on and out of the door just to think about this one situation, and I've often come back from a run with a solution! Or at least a plan of my next steps, which reduces my stress as I now have an action plan of what I'm going to do. I always feel better with a detailed plan!

It doesn't always happen this way, but it's a bit of time to really concentrate on it if I need to, and if I can't think of a solution on my own I'm very lucky to have people who I can confide in and talk to.

3 - It supports the immune system.

It's proven that your immune system improves with regular exercise, and running regularly (it doesn't have to be intensive either, as that can have an adverse effect if you're not training properly, so make sure that your running is right for you) will help this as it's moderate exercise. Running can help to maintain a healthy body weight, it can help to reduce your blood pressure (which is a big positive when we're thinking about stress) and it can improve your circulation. All of these overall improvements to your general health have been linked to keeping your immune system functioning at its best! 

4 - It gives you something to look forward to.

Well, you might not always 'look forward' to a run (I certainly don't) but it definitely helps to have something different booked into your day. 

It might help you to schedule your run in for a particular time, or arrange to meet a friend to run, it then gives you a time to work towards and it'll make you switch off the computer if you have a time in mind! Sometimes when we're stressed we feel like we don't have time (we've all made this excuse!) but this should help you to get out of the door!

5 - A sense of community.

When I first moved to London I thought that I'd never be alone, but lockdown 2 and 3 meant that a lot of my training was on my own, and in a new city that was quite hard to deal with initially. However, through social media I was able to connect with others and we'd 'run' together at the same time of the day, which was really helpful for starting a long run and it made me feel part of something (and once you start running you often forget about the initial lethargic feeling).

Knowing that others were out there at the same time was very motivating, and I always feel better once my run is done! And now that we're able to meet one other person outside to exercise it's been so much better, I can have chatty runs with a friend or a challenging session with someone to work with, and I don't have time to think about my stresses!

So get your trainers on and let me know how running helps you! Enjoy!

written by

Jenna Wilkinson

Maths Teacher from London

Age group: 30-34

Coach: Simon Taylor

My Disciplines
Ultra marathon Ultra trail run Marathon 10 KM Half marathon