Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Of the many reasons people run, stress relief has to be up at the top of the list. Pose the question and you'll get a lot of responses like these I pulled from a Boston Globe online feature called "Why I Run."

"I run because during that time my mind stops worrying and my body relaxes. I am in complete control during my runs. It is my stress relief and my time to focus on life." -- Sara, 26, Worcester, MA

"Running is my catharsis." -- Martina McPherson, 28, Brookline, MA

"Running has always been there for me, through the ups and downs of life, I've always been able to lace up my sneakers, head outside and pound the pavement and every bad thing just melts away, even if its only for a little while. It brings peace to a chaotic world." -- Jim Getchell, 30, Portland, ME

And here's a snippet of what I submitted to the same Globe feature on April 17th:

"I run because it's cathartic. If I'm having a bad day it centers me and makes me feel better."

Most of us probably turn to running at some point as a means of therapy, and, scientifically speaking, there's good reason for it. The endorphins produced during a run are known to produce a "feeling of well-being" and work as "natural pain relievers."
[1]  It's the perfect answer to the long day at work, escape from a demanding family life, and distraction from life's larger events.

The problem with relying on running as a form of therapy is that it alone can't solve all our problems. In fact, doing so can often lead to new, physical ones. Runners are typically intense, competitive individuals that are accustomed to pushing their bodies to the limit. Combine these traits with the desire to "work out" a problem and you have a recipe for fatigue or injury. Simply put, we don't always know when to quit.

As runners we are used to listening to our bodies when it comes to the physical, but we must also apply the same common sense to matters of the mind. If a run isn't leaving us feeling better we need to recognize that and act accordingly. Pushing the pace harder or the distance longer won't always produce the desired affect. We must remain self aware and seek out other stress-relief avenues when running doesn't help. Here are some alternatives to consider.[2]

  • Write. It may help to write about things that are bothering you. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. Or think about starting a stress journal. This helps you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. After you know, you can find better ways to cope.

  • Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress.

  • Do something you enjoy. This can be:
    • A hobby, such as gardening.
    • A creative activity, such as writing, crafts, or art.
    • Playing with and caring for pets.
    • Volunteer work.
1. Endorphin. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
2. Stress Management - Ways to Relieve Stress. WebMD. Retrieved June 15, 2010.

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