5 Tips For Physical And Mental Wellbeing
When I first started running, there was nothing that could clear my mind with such ease. I would go out for a short trail run and return with a big, sweaty grin and a dozen creative ideas. The mileage had a way of giving me more energy than it detracted. It filled me with joy.
And then it didn’t.
Over time, I stopped noticing the scenery, my focus zeroing in on lap splits and muscle aches and championship races. And it wasn’t until I found myself sobbing before a high school cross-country race that I realized the anxiety of running had begun to seriously impact my mental health.
Seven years later, I’d still say that the intersection of mental health and competitive running is a slippery slope. But I’ve learned enough that I can confidently say: Your mental health does not have to take a backseat to your athletic achievement. Here are a few tips to help every runner stay on top of their physical and mental wellbeing.
- Diversify Your Life
Guess what? There is a world outside of running, and it’s worth experiencing. Don’t wait until you’re injured to learn this important lesson. If 90 percent of your conversations, finances and time is going toward running, I’d advise you to reconsider. Picking up new hobbies and trying new things will help you learn and grow more—as a runner and as a woman.
- Be Wary of Rigidity
We often don’t notice how harmful our habits are until we are already shackled to them. That’s why I make a habit of routinely checking in with myself and my training regimen. Currently, I have a calendar appointment for November 4 (the day after my half marathon) to re-assess my running. After more than a year of high mileage and strenuous training, I know it’s time to rest my body and reset my goals. To be happy, successful runners we can’t blindly let history become habit. More plainly: Don’t do it just because you’ve always done it. Consider the long-term needs of your body and your mind.
- Let Others In
It can be easy to brush things under the rug when you don’t have faithful friends and training partners to open up to. That obsession with your pace or weight or long run can silently grow until you’re paralyzed with anxiety. No matter how hard it is, find a few people in your life that you can confide in specifically about your running, people who will hold you accountable if they notice anything concerning. And while you’re at it: Be that person for another running friend. We all need one.
- Reflect on the Positive
One of the easiest ways to get discouraged and burnt out as a runner is to flit from one challenge to the next without stopping to appreciate your progress. When you regularly celebrate the ways you’ve grown, you fuel the positive desire to keep improving. Don’t limit this to race results though. Measure your progress in your thinking, your strength, your knowledge of the sport and even your ability to be a good teammate and friend to other runners.
- Don’t Reject Help
Sometimes the advice of a friend just isn’t enough. Sometimes we need the help of a well-trained professional, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. As an athlete who has benefited from multiple types of counseling, I encourage you to consider its value. Many collegiate and professional runners are supported by a team: a coach, a physician, a dietitian and a sports psychologist. Seeing a psychologist or therapist doesn’t make you “crazy,” it makes you incredibly wise.
This list is far from exhaustive, but it should be a helpful framework as you seek to be a strong, healthy, well-rounded runner.