Running is a very effective safety valve, writes Terry Brennan. Nothing quite helps you deal with the pressures of modern life – work, family, relationships – like pulling on your trainers and getting your heart pumping.
It’s a better option than heading for the nearest window, opening it and screaming at the top of your voice. It’s a bit like ‘re-booting’ - the brain shutting down, clearing out the rubbish and re-starting with a clearer view. Less dramatically running can provided good ‘headspace’ where you can think around a problem.
Just running along, nothing to ‘fog’ your thought processes, lets you find a new perspective, maybe a solution to something that has been bugging you.
When you’re in a good place – work is ticking along happily, family life is on an even keel or you feel you’re making a bit of progress – then running can sometimes take you to a ‘more creative’ level. You start to come up with new ideas – maybe training for a new qualification or a way to find work or a different kind of holiday. How come? Maybe it’s the increasing oxygen in the blood, which helps provide mental energy. To be honest I’m not too interested in the science, it works and that’s good enough for me.
Running can set you up for the day too. I’m only an early bird on weekends but that relaxed feeling that stays with you through Saturday, after a long run or a parkrun PB dash, is well worth the effort. And with running you don’t just feel good you look good too.
Go to the pub and check out the average 30, 40 or 50 year-old then go to your running club or group and make the comparison; it can be dramatic. I may be generalising but runners tend to take more care with their diet, are more knowledgeable about their bodies and nothing knocks spots off calories like regular running. And your skin glows! No wonder you feel more confident.
This is getting close to narcissism so I’d better introduce a cautionary note. Some, maybe it’s the more addictive among us, can overdo it. Negatives are running while injured, stressing about performance and worrying that set training targets are not being met. There’s much to be said for keeping it unstructured, leaving your watch/GPS system behind and enjoying the experience for what it’s intrinsically worth.
One of my best runs of the year was the morning I took a bus 10 miles out of town and ran home along quiet trails with only the songs of the thrush and the blackbird for company. I forgot my GPS system but that was a blessing in disguise and a tempo run became a day in the country.