It’s almost here – January and its promises of self-improvement.
Maybe you’ve decided to clock in more hours on the treadmill or outdoors pounding the pavement in your running shoes in 2017.
After all, all of your runner friends swear by it, right?
While the physical benefits of running are obvious, we wanted to focus on the mental health benefits of running. We turned to track and field Olympian and Nike Canada runner Sheila Reid for a little bit of insight.
And she pretty much inspired us to take up running (once the snow melts).
1. It’s Stress-Free Time
When you go for a run, you can be as selfishly in the moment and carefree as you choose.
“For me, running is not only my passion it’s my outlet. Whether you compete in running competitions or run to stay in shape, the mental benefits are similar,” says Reid. “ I often hear it’s a stress-free time, where you can reflect and clear your mind, and I couldn’t agree more.”
“Personally, when I’m running, I feel free. It’s really a time that I can just enjoy the scenery and reflect on my life and everything that’s happening in it. And while it also helps improve fitness, it’s this freedom that draws me to running instead of another form of exercise,” says Reid.
2. It’s Calming
An inevitable – and well-received – byproduct to the whole stress-reducing aspect is the sense of calm achieved via going for a run.
“Running really calms me. I use it to relax, recharge and refocus both for running and other things in my life,” says Reid.
3. It Makes You Happier
If you’re having a bummed out day, going for a run can better your mood.
“Running can make you happier – it’s chemical,” says Reid. “It releases endorphins that help you experience feelings of happiness.”
Researchers have found that these endorphins released while running actually attack themselves to the parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion. The more endorphins are released, the more intense the natural high.
4. It’s Rewarding
There’s something that feels amazing about personal accomplishment.
“The other great thing about running is it brings out my competitive side – and I don’t just mean when I’m competing,” says Reid. “When I’m in a competition, I’m competitive against the other athletes, but when I’m running on my own, it’s really about outdoing myself, setting a new personal best and increasing my speed. There’s just something calming and exciting about being able to say, ‘I crushed my time’.”
“Start with an achievable goal (i.e.to run 15 minutes a day without stopping). You’d be surprised by the progress and momentum that can spring from such a small achievement. From there, build your goals by setting attainable challenges,” says Reid.
“Whether it’s 10K, 15K or 30K, there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve set a goal and completed it, says Reid. “With long runs in particular, you’ve worked hard to be able to get to that distance, so seeing yourself complete the distance is such a reward. No matter how many times I’ve completed a long run, the pride you feel when you’ve reached your goal is like nothing else.
5. It Improves Your Self-Esteem
Let’s face it; if you look better, you’ll feel better.
“Running helps you stay in shape, which improves your fitness level and in turn can boost your self-esteem,” says Reid.
6. It’s Social
Aside from its physical and mental benefits, running can also improve your social life.
“For anyone looking to hit the pavement running, my advice would be to create a routine and find a community that will push you and celebrate your achievements,” says Reid. “One of the best ways to keep going is by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. By finding and committing to a strong community like a Nike+ run club, you will push yourself faster and further, and the people around you will help you go beyond your limits.
7. It Can Boost your Brainpower
Research has also shown that working out can increase your cognitive functioning.
Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance.
There you have it.
Remember, though, running can be something you incorporate into your daily routine – even if that means 15 minutes on the treadmill. A big misconception, however, is that runners don’t need to incorporate other workouts into their routines.
“In addition to running twice a day, four times a week, my routine also consists of various cross training elements. I do this for several reasons; it helps improve my overall fitness, prevents injuries and helps with rehabilitation,” says Reid.
What are you waiting for?