Three years after starting my first beginning running program I’m starting a couch-to-5k program anew for a third time. I successfully completed the other two, but I have yet to fall so in love with running that I stick with it during summers in the South and hard times at work. Previously after some long breaks from running I tried just picking back up where I left off only to fail harder and dislike running more. But this time I’ve come to terms with the fact that you have to ease back into a running routine and as a result I’m just going to have to teach my body how to run again every single fall.
We’ve all read plenty of articles about studies that have shown the amazing benefits exercise has on our bodies. Obviously exercise makes you healthier, but it also boosts your mood and energy level, helps your mind focus and makes you sleep better. I know all of this on an intellectual level, but yet my mind somehow is blown every single time I start a new exercise routine by just how better I feel.
My mind is also blown at just how easily I can slip out of an exercise routine. From childhood until the time I graduated college, physical activity was a regular part of my everyday life. I rode my bike because it got me places. I attended and later coached at a summer sports camp because it was something to do. I was on the color squad in high school because I loved it and my friends were members. I volunteered for the dance committee of Dance Marathon at college because it was rewarding. Now I have to push myself so hard now to keep up with the physical activity that seemed so natural before, even when I’m doing something enjoyable.
For the first time since college, I’m starting my new exercise routine for a reason other than losing weight. Every time I strap on those running shoes and hit pavement now, I’m doing it to keep control of my head. I’ve struggled so mightily with stress and anxiety lately, and though exercise won’t make that stress go away, even some light physical activity on a regular basis makes me handle it better. If looser pants are an unintended result, awesome.
For the first time since starting the current running program, I feel energized and relaxed after my run. After all my previous runs I’ve felt like I might pass out. Even the simple ‘run two minutes, walk one’ day did me in. Today’s run wasn’t easy, and I didn’t enjoy it. But when I walked in the house I breathed easier, felt lighter and was ready to sit down and focus on some projects that have been lingering lately.
Here’s to my (mental) health.