We all know that life can be stressful, with average commutes of well over an hour into work, unrealistic deadlines to meet and not enough hours in the day to complete them… Some of you may even have children or other dependants, which adds a complete new dynamic to the stressors of life and the responsibilities you hold.
But can you use exercise as a form of escape, a place to leave your daily stress at the door? For me, I find that the effects of exercise really calm me down and help me to let go of some of that pent up stress that may have been building up throughout the day.
One example of this would be a serious interval or track session where my mind has little time to think apart from placing one foot in-front of the other. My thoughts in this session will only be on the task ahead which limits any external influences from the day entering my mind. However with this type of workout a new mental game comes into play, and that’s the one of convincing my mind that the body is capable of pushing through the pain!
Another example of my escape in exercise would be when I’m going for a slow, easy effort, like your typical Sunday long run. I will run and let thoughts enter my mind, maybe reflect on a recent situation which has happened that day or week. Sometimes I will think of all the things I’m thankful for and ponder on them, including the ones I love. This leads me into a positive attitude once my session has finished, almost like a mindful therapy session.
Other days I may leave the headphones at home and I concentrate my time on how I am moving, and how I am breathing, again moving my mind away from any daily stresses and thoughts and move that concentration onto that singular simple task of running. I find this has a very calming effect, and it can also make me more aware of my surroundings rather than blocking them out which again leads to added appreciation of whats around me.
I feel that over time, this is one reason why I have learnt to love running more and more, as I use it not only for the purpose to keep me fit but also a place to ponder my mental playground and check in on my mental wellbeing. In a day and age where life is full of distractions and we are constantly glued to some form of information, it’s good to check in, let go and switch off.
I’m a strong believer that a lot of people would actually benefit a whole lot more mentally from regular exercise, not even taking into consideration the great physical benefits, so next time you go for a run, relax into it and reap that mental wellbeing.