Garmin Running Ambassador Martin Yelling discusses the impact running can have on mental health how it’s now more important than ever. Martin will be continuing the conversation with Dr Simon Marshall, published on our GarminUK social media channels.
Running has the power to make us feel better physically, but also mentally. The benefits of exercise, and specifically running on our mental health are becoming well established. Indeed, the UK’s current policy on running outdoors (once a day, whilst following social distancing guidance, staying local, alone or with members of the same household) has been implemented to maintain not just our physical, but also our mental health.
How we support our mental health is more important than ever. Research from the Office of National Statistics (April 16th 2020) recently found that 53% of adults in Great Britain felt the current situation was affecting their wellbeing and 47% reported high levels of anxiety. We’re all feeling it in some way.
This is why running is, and has become, so important for so many. Running is about so much more than the physical benefits we get. We run to help our emotional stability, to maintain a sense of normality, rhythm and control in our lives. It helps us wrestle with concerns and anxieties, simmer in emotion and settle our thoughts and feelings. The ability to take this time to process or escape from what’s happening around us becomes even more important when the world challenges us.
But can we look at our running to make it do more, or do differently for us?
Being mindful in our running
The issue is, without thought it can be tricky to make our running do more and be something other than end-goal orientated. Especially if that’s the running world we know most about and is especially true when we’re surrounded by ‘motivational’ messages challenging us to push ourselves. The idea that we suddenly have lots more time means we’re being encouraged to ‘use our extra time’ to challenge ourselves, to take on self-improvement, to learn new skills, to increase fitness like never before, to be even more fruitful and aspirational.
Yet, for many people, life normality has been turned upside down. The day-to-day struggles are very real. There is a risk of these well intentioned call outs being more destructive than helpful, putting more strain on our mental health through feelings of lack of achievement.
Completing personal challenges can make us feel great, we’re not saying don’t do them. But, understand if and how they help you. Challenges can take our focus away from the real reasons we benefit from exercise and running. For once, our races, milestones and club runs aren’t pressing, so we have the time to use our running to intentionally and purposefully focus on supporting our mental health. We have a real opportunity to focus on why and how we run, and to use the current situation as a pivotal point in our running mental health.
Think about what motivates you to run? If you’re driven by performance and achievement goals, with the postponement and cancellation of events, your first reaction is probably to reset your goals with some alternative or virtual physical challenges to help you keep you focussed. But instead of defaulting to comfort in challenge, you could also explore through your running, exercise or workouts at home a potential second response. One where you could look to focus more on the benefits and changes that will stick with you to help you transform your running or exercise in the future.
Next time you run, walk or workout at home give your mental health some real attention by;
Being proactive with processing.
- Let your emotions arrive, simmer, settle and pass.
- Give yourself permission to feel something, to have feelings. That’s ok.
- Don’t fight negative thoughts and feelings, accept and manage them.
- Let running do it’s magic in weakening powerful emotion.
Coping with uncertainty.
- Explore why you run when you run, what does it bring to your life?
- Use structure, routine and reward as an antidote to uncertainty
- Practise breath control to cope with intense moments.
- Remember why you run, what it brings your life.
Develop compassion and kindness (for yourself and others around you).
- You don’t have to move mountains with every workout.
- Focus on small, simple exercise targets.
- Reward yourself without feeling guilty. Not just through kms clicked or calories burned but through new and novel ways to feel good.
Want to find out more?
Check out our Facebook and Instagram for more information on a conversation of mental health and running with Martin Yelling and Dr Simon Marshall. Dr Simon Marshall is an author, performance psychologist, former Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, former San Diego and Professor of Exercise Science at San Diego State University and founder of Braveheart Coaching. See the full video below.