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How Running Can Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety

Regular running can help reduce your stress and clear your mind

The real world is full of stressors. Whether at home or at work or just life, there are various ways your stress levels can increase. This can lead to poor eating, lack of sleep, and weaken your immune system. Running is an activity that is known to reduce stress levels and anxiety. Regular running provides you with a schedule to follow and a way to exert energy. When setting your routine, following the ABCs of goal setting can help you stay on track. Here’s how running can reduce your stress, improve your immune system, and jumpstart multiple health benefits for your life.

  1. The joys of runner’s high

Sarah Jackson, 2020 Austin Marathon female champ, crossing the finish line with her arms raised joyously in the air. Running is a great way to reduce your stress.

Sarah Jackson, 2020 Austin Marathon female champ, experiencing runner’s high as she crosses the finish.

Even if you aren’t a regular runner, you’ve probably already heard about runner’s high. It’s a euphoric feeling runners report experiencing during a run. One school of thought believes that this is caused by the release of a feel-good hormone called endorphins’ into your system. At the same time, hormones related to stress, like cortisol, are decreased. This combination makes runners feel amazing and provides a mental boost during and after the run.

Another school of thought points to something else – endocannabinoids. Recent research shows that running releases a biochemical substance called endocannabinoids into the body. According to Dr. David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, endocannabinoids can move more easily through the bloodstream and reach the brain. Here, endocannabinoids act as a mood-improving neuromodulator that can reduce your stress and anxiety.

  1. Take a break

Social media has been linked to increased anxiety and FOMO – or the fear of missing out. Stepping away from Instagram or Facebook and running, even for an hour a day, gives you a break from the social world. You can be one with your thoughts, listen to music or a podcast, or chat with your running partner.

Running can offset the stress from a bad day at work.

Other parts of your daily life, such as a bad day at work, being stuck in traffic, and various daily hassles can also increase the likelihood of you experiencing stress. According to research, running helps control chronic stress. Even the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has linked regular exercise, such as running, to reduced anxiety and stress.

  1. Build up your immune system

Good health and strong immunity have a powerful effect on mental health. Running regularly can help improve cardiovascular function, improve blood circulation, control blood pressure, maintain healthy body weight, and much more. Regular running can also increase the production of blood vessels that support the brain. This is done through a process known as neurogenesis. When new brain cells are produced, this has the added benefit of improving your brain’s performance and mitigating cognitive decline. Pro tip: keep everything on track with these tips for balancing life and training.

  1. Sleep better at night

Regular running can help you sleep better at night.

A bad night’s sleep can have adverse long-term consequences for your overall health. It’s also a causative factor behind the development of chronic stress and anxiety. An article by Psychology Today revealed that regular running can control your body’s circadian rhythm, help you fall asleep faster, and sleep better.

  1. Improved concentration and memory

If you want to get better at learning, retaining new information, and performing better daily – turn to running. Studies show that high-intensity anaerobic running as well as low-intensity aerobic running improves overall brain performance and makes you a better learner. Your hippocampus, or the part of your brain linked to memory and learning, gets a huge boost from regular running.

  1. Build community and friendships

Running can lead to improved memory and concentration.

Many people are aware of the health benefits of running. Today, there are various communities and apps dedicated to helping runners connect with each other. There are many benefits to connecting in-person or socially, like accountability and support. Pro tip: follow this advice and convince your friend to train with you.

You can also interact with other runners on your route – a smile or a wave has mood-boosting effects on the body. Running events, running groups, and other community events are also common among the runner’s circle. Amp up your social life by running and enjoy the benefits that social interactions have when it comes to reduced stress levels.

Running is a great reward for your body and mind. You can set your own goals, develop your self-confidence, meet new friends, and build a healthier lifestyle. With regular running, you’ll begin to see a difference in your life when you reduce your stress and anxiety.

Safety Tips to Follow During Your Next Run

7 safety tips that’ll keep runners safe

Running outside has tons of benefits no matter what type of run you’re completing! You can hit up the trails, take in the sights of a new city, breathe fresh air, say hey to folks you know, and so much more! But with those benefits comes some potential harm. There are many ways to ensure you finish your run just as healthy and safe as when you began. Whether you’re running one mile at your local track or 20 miles on your favorite trail, these 7 safety tips will help keep your training on track.

Run with a friend

Running with a friend is fun! It’s also one of the best ways to stay safe on a run. You’re more likely to be visible to vehicles and less likely to be the victim of a crime. Think strength in numbers. Should something happen to one of you, the other will be quicker to get help and assist until help arrives. Plus, everyone knows it’s better to train with friends because they will hold you accountable. If you need help convincing your friend to train with you, this advice should do the trick!

Listen to your surroundings

Whether you’re running the roads or the trails, you should always pay attention to your surroundings! Music can help us power through our run, but it can also prevent us from hearing what’s going on around us. If you run with earbuds, keep one out. If you run with both, keep the volume at a low level. You can also ditch the earbuds and play your music out loud. 

Run against traffic

Take your phone with you during your run in case you need it.

It’s important for you to see drivers and for drivers to see you. Running against traffic allows you to see what’s coming your way. Avoid running against traffic on blind corners as drivers won’t have enough time to react if they don’t see you until the last second. Plan your route ahead of time to ensure you’ll always run against traffic, especially when you increase your mileage.

Look both ways when crossing the street

This tip goes all the way back to childhood. When running, you should pay attention to everything. Don’t assume vehicles will stop. Chances are they might not see you. Also, just because you pushed the button to cross the street doesn’t mean it’s immediately safe to cross the street. Pay attention to all signals, when it’s your turn, still look both ways! Even though you think you know the light sequence, it could’ve changed. Don’t assume anything Pro tip: if you’re stuck at a light, spend that time completing one of these 4 stretches.

Wear reflective clothing

Reflective clothing will help with visibility, which is imperative when running outside. You want to be seen by vehicles so they can plan accordingly. Light-weight lights can also be placed on your arms, shoes, ankles, or hat. Reflective clothing and lights will also help you be seen by cyclists and other runners. Reflective clothing is especially helpful in the dark. These BSEEN LED bands will help you be more visible in the dark. They’re lightweight, have an extended battery life, and can fit on your arm or around your ankle. If you run early in the morning or at night, check out these night running safety tips

Carry your phone

Your phone can do more than just play music or track your GPS. It’s the most beneficial tool you can have in the event of an emergency. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you take off on your run. If you’re ever in an accident or come upon one, having your phone available can make a massive difference. Carry your phone hassle-free with a SPIbelt. They’re available in many different sizes and colors.

Tell someone about your run

Before you take off, tell someone your planned route, mileage, and when they can expect you back. This person can be a loved one, co-worker, or roommate. This gives them an idea of when to expect you back and where to check should you not come back on time. Turn on the setting that allows someone to know your location, most smartphones have this. Here are instructions for iPhone and Android on how to share your location.

Pro tip: vary your route. Switching up your route is not only great for your training, but it also reduces the chances of someone harming you on your run.

By utilizing one or all 7 of these safety tips, you increase the chances that you stay safe on your next run. Chances are you already use some of these. Increase your safety when running by using them all the time!

Setting Running Goals? Incorporate the ABCs of Goal Setting

Setting goals can help you reach things you may think are unachievable

Achievements don’t just pop out of thin air, they are are earned. Highly successful individuals are big on setting goals for themselves. This is why it is important to apply goal setting to things you would like to accomplish in running. Goal setting in running does a few things. They can hold you accountable, be motivating, and build confidence.

Many times we desire something but we get lost on the path and come up empty handed. That is why it is important to follow the ABC’s of goal setting: Accountability, Belief, and Commitment.

By following these you will be able to grow with your goals and achieve all your running dream. 

Choosing Your Running Goals

First, choose a big goal. For beginners this might be to run a 5K while those that have been running for awhile might set a goal to win their age group or maybe even winning a marathon. These are all example of larger scale goals that can take longer to accomplish.

Once you have your big goal you will want to set smaller goals that you can easily cross off and that help you build to your goal. These can be anything from starting walking once a week, transitioning to running for the very first time, or even completing a specific type of run workout.

It’s imperative to have smaller, attainable ones along the way to your large goal. These smaller goals can keep you on track and keep your motivation levels high. Start with 2-3 goals that effect your everyday and then 2-3 goals that you will achieve over time. 

Example: 

Big Goal – Run a Marathon in 2022

Smaller goals to help you get there: 1) Set a healthy weekly meal plan 2) Wake up 30 minutes earlier to have time to workout 3) Complete a virtual 5K 4) Run a 9:00 mile

Once you have these set, it is time to apply the clue that will hold them all together.

Applying the ABCs of goal setting

Accountability

Two runners celebrate after crossing the 2019 Austin Half Marathon finish line.

You don’t have to go at this alone, invite in your friends and family. Associating with the right people always has a positive influence on your thoughts and actions. Communicate your goals with those around you and then surround yourself with those who support you.

For example, find a training partner. Training with someone who has similar aspirations will help you stay accountable. If you have plans to run early in the mornings, you’re more likely to get out of bed if you know your friend is out there waiting on you. In addition to holding each other accountable, you and your training partner can compare notes, adjust training as needed, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. 

If you don’t currently have anyone in your community reach out new places, like the Austin Marathon Facebook Group. There are so many amazing online communities, be sure to lean on these and find your people.

Belief

Image of a runner posing in front of a 2020 Finisher backdrop after completing the 2020 KXAN Simple Health 5K. First-time runners should set a goal and find a corresponding training plan, like the free 5K training plan in this blog.

Have faith in yourself, you can do this! Maintaining a positive attitude is the crux of achieving what you set out to accomplish. You’ll have bumps and bad weather along the way. Focus on what you can control. Negative emotions affect your health negatively and give you a reason to skip a run or workout.

On the other hand, believing you can achieve your goals will go a long way during your training. Don’t set completely unrealistic goals. You want them to push you, but not so much that it negatively impacts your training. Mental toughness needs to be a part of your belief system. Learn how to build your mental toughness so you can get through the tough times.

Commitment

Commitment goes in tandem with accountability. You have to fully commit. Sign up for the race that meets your goal. Trust us with money on the line and having those around you to check in and make you accountable – you are so much more likely to get the the finish line.

Commitment is an integral part of goal setting and improves the chances you do what’s needed to reach the smaller ones. If you commit to training for a race, you also have to commit to early mornings, eating healthier, and completing your workouts.

Every commitment you make gets you one step closer to reaching the finish line. Don’t let excuses get in the way of your commitment. Use these excuse busters, they’ll keep you on track.

What To Do When Goals Get Off Tack

When goal-setting, make them attainable. That’s how you improve and set goals that make you a better athlete and person. If you think you can increase your mileage with a few weeks with some hardcore training, you are wrong. In reality, you increase your chances of injury.

If find yourself slipping off and saying “oh I’ll do that tomorrow…next week”, pause reassess your smaller goals and find ways to balance life and training. When thinking about what’s next for you, make sure you begin your foundation with the ABCs of goal setting. They’ll help keep you on track and accomplish your smaller goals along the way.

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