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Are Runners More Resilient?

We put ourselves in uncomfortable situations all the time. It could help us cope with life, too.

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You know what’s often hard and uncomfortable and sometimes disappointing? Running. And yet most of us do it almost every day. It turns out, it helps us become more resilient people.

“Regardless of how good you are or how talented you are, or what kind of shape you’re in, we get exposed to failing at goals that we spent months training for,” says Steve Magness, track and field coach at the University of Houston and co-author of The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life. “We have the ability to deal with difficult situations, handle failure or discomfort, and bounce back. We move forward.”

Characteristics that Make Runners Resilient

No matter if you log 50 miles a week or 5, runners are resilient people. The process of running dictates that we’re able to come back after a disappointing race or slower-than-average run.

We Keep Going

It can be as simple as continuing on in a workout after one interval doesn’t go well. Or pushing through the last three miles of a marathon when your legs feel like bricks. Or even just getting out for a run when you’re unmotivated. It’s all part of training your resilience muscle, and it translates to the times in which you’re challenged in other ways, outside of running.

We Can Reframe Bad Times

“A lot of what you learn to do as a runner, like reframing a bad experience into a learning moment or a growth point, helps in real life, too,” Magness says. “It’s also learning how to lean on your support networks. There’s a lot of great research behind it—having a strong, diverse support system, like a team, makes bouncing back easier.”

Our Bodies Are Stress-Adapted

Rachel Gersten, a licensed therapist who’s also a runner in New York, puts it another way. “The more your body learns to adapt to stress in any situation, like running, the easier it adapts in future situations of stress,” she says. “The more you do it, the more you get used to it, which means it’s not as jarring when it inevitably pops up without your consent.”

We Want It More Than It Hurts

“I don’t know anybody who’s trained for a race of any distance and doesn’t run into some type of struggle either on race day or in training,” Gersten says. “There’s a million reasons to stop, right? But you often want it more than it hurts in a particular moment. We have an ability to keep pushing forward as runners, whereas I’m guessing that a lot of people would just turn around and go home.”

So does all of that that make runners resilient? It does. Take some cues from your running life and remember them when work, family, or personal issues become difficult. You can keep going.