Have you ever noticed how stress relieving a great run can be? (Duh, of course, we all do.) Lately I have really come to the realization, and appreciate, just how much I lean on running to purge my “stress tank”. For those who know me I can hear your thinking. “But Adam, you are such an optimist. You never give signs of stress, or that you think any coherent thoughts at all about office politics.” Well my friends, I am sorry to disappoint but yes, I too am affected by my surroundings. (Much to the dismay of those I confide in, or who tolerate my rants.) However, with the therapeutic effects of running I am able to survive day after day with a stress level that would bring mere mortals to their knees screaming in frustration.
I realize we all have stresses, and each one of us has our own breaking point or threshold to maintain before we “go postal”. While I am not so interested in the levels, because they are all different, I am really interested in “why?” physical exercise helps us maintain that breaking point easier. For myself, it is like a “reset” button inside which at some point gets pressed and allows me to continue with my day.
As an example, today I was feeling a good deal of stress and my mind was reeling as I tried to work through the issues. You know what I mean? I play, and re-play, and hash, and re-hash scenarios in my mind of what caused the issue, or what I could do to help solve the problem causing me stress. (Without beating someone senseless.) This is what keeps us all awake at night until we finally get up and drink some herbal tea, or simply pass out from exhaustion to have a restless night feeling un-refreshed in the morning. Yeah, I hate it too and it’s how I have been feeling lately. (Sorry to be vague, but trust me, you really don’t want to know the cause in any way?)
Back to my example…As I left the house this morning for a 7 mile run my shoulders were tight, I was a little tired from poor sleep, and these thoughts from last night were still reeling in my mind. I did some good stretching, which does relieve some of the tension, and started to run while building up gradually to my workout pace. As I run I am still working through the scenarios haunting me, but for some reason while I am running the scenes seem to play out faster than when I am not running. Also, I seem to be able to complete some so my brain no longer repeats them. Is it the adrenaline? Is it the endorphins? Or is it simply because part of my mind is busy running and sensing everything around me, so I am able to relax enough to actually get things accomplished? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that until I get a chance to run I cannot truly “put things to bed” so to speak.
Today around the 4.5 mile mark is where my “reset” button got triggered. I am amazed at how it is like an “on/off” switch, and immediately the scenarios playing in my head are GONE ! ! ! Now I actually get to run, and enjoy the sensations that come with the run. My heart rate drops a few beats per minute lower even as I speed up a bit, my shoulders are loosened, my breathing is not constricted by my chest and throat tightness, and my head bobs normally because my neck is no longer tight. It is like magic. THIS is what I call the “runners high”. When I have finished everything in my mind and can simply relax. (Angels playing harp music inserted here.)
When is the best time?
I am faced with a question, and I do not know how to answer it. When is the best time to run if you are having stress? Normally I run in the mornings before going to work, and the relief I get from running lasts approximately 1.5 hours. (If work is the cause of my stress that day.) I have been wondering if perhaps in the evening might not be the best time to run. This would allow me to get the much needed relief, and allow it to last all night long. Thereby letting me sleep peacefully, and possibly enjoying the family. (If family is not the cause of my stress that day.) Hmm, the possibilities are endless.
What time do you find best to run, and relieve stress?
Happy “Hump Day”!