Sunday, 7 June 2015

Managing Stress

For several years I have run as a means to keep fit and healthy, always in pursuit of that washboard stomach. But running has other benefits; it is a great mood booster and has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels. In addition to this, engaging in physical exercise for 150 minutes per week can also reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, by up to 50%.

I have been running more often as a way to improve my mood and reduce anxiety and stress. There are of course other ways to combat stress but not all of them are free. For instance, my favourite and tried and tested method is clothes shopping. My wardrobe has been particularly rammed as late but I am not complaining, I have acquired some fabulous new outfits dah-ling! Anyway, it's not as though running doesn't have its own drawbacks. Although running is recommended to unwind and improve your emotional state, if you're running whilst feeling angry, tense, stressed or anxious you increase the likelihood of causing injury to yourself. It kinda defeats the object if you wait out your down moods until you're calm and collected. Higher levels of Cortisol and adrenaline can actually boost your pace short term but too much, and it can affect your form. To reduce the risk of injury and ensure your run is enjoyable, follow these simple steps.
  1. Warm up and warm down. Don't slack on these pre and post run, your body will thank you for it later. If mid run you feel your muscles twinge or it becomes uncomfortable don't be afraid to stop. Knead your calf muscles and spend extra time stretching then get back to it.

  2. Run on a flat, well lit surface. It is preferable that you run a scenic route that you find calming so that you can enjoy your run and be present and in the moment. 
    • When running my route in the city of Leicester there are several traffic lights that force me to stop mid run and noise and pollution add to my already frayed thoughts. Sometimes the buzz from running isn't enough to take my mind away from unwelcome distractions and my performance is hindered. In contrast to this, I enjoy a more leisurely pace in Wivenhoe, taking in breathtaking views along the river Colne and pretty fields with far off vistas. (See below picture of poppy fields I happened across on my run today!) This route inspires me to run again soon.

  3. If you're feeling angry you may feel inclined to go all out and blow off steam, don't. Take it down a notch and slow your pace. Get into a nice rhythm and control your breathing. 

  4. Listen to music. Whether outdoors or on a treadmill, music is a great stress reliever. Create different playlists with songs that have a calming effect or that energise your workout, depending on what you need at a given time. 
              Wivenhoe poppy field near Essex University.