- Kelly King
I hate running. I do. I hear people wax nostalgic about the “runner’s high” and running their first marathon. I’m happy for them, and they can keep it. Keep that joy of running and take a bath in it. I just don’t like it. Never have, and I doubt I ever will. But, I do it. I run.
I don’t run fast and I don’t run far, but I run. Today, I ran in the rain.
Running for me is like taking out the garbage in my brain. It’s therapy, not exercise. I have much more pleasurable ways to get my fitness jollies... like dance!
I run for my mental health. All of my aggression, frustration, anger, discontent, and malaise seems to drain out when I run. In place of the negative thoughts and feelings, I find clarity, peace, and quiet in my mind. Running feels like an accomplishment. A bite-size gift of meeting a challenge (just getting out the door) and showing up for myself. It is a ritual of showing up for my own mental health.
Yes, there are obvious physical benefits to maintaining a running practice, but the physical benefits are secondary in my experience. I am not running to become a runner. I don’t care about my pace, how far I run, or where I do it. I usually run outside, as I don’t like the atmosphere of gyms, the price of admission, or being on a treadmill. But, in a pinch, a treadmill works well, too. And, there is a recreation center down the street where I can use one for free. (Yay DC Parks and Rec!)
Running is a privilege. It shouldn't be. I run during daytime hours, as I don't feel safe running late at night. Over the years I've learned that men seeking attention through street harassment, cat-calling, and interrupting my peaceful run happens less during the day. However, as a cis-gendered white lady in America, I am safe running in most places at most hours. BIPOC and LGTBQ+ folx take a risk with their very lives when they choose to go for the same healthy run I outline below. Ahmaud Arbery's recent murder is one prominent example.
Outraged? Me, too. What to do?
Get educated about systemic and personal racism. Here's some starter resources.
Work to tear down systemic racism. Act locally. Donate, volunteer, have awkward conversations with people across difference.
Join/start a running club to create safety in numbers for all who wish to run. My neighborhood has a private facebook group for runners to organize meetup times + locations, organize by pace, and length of run. Yours might, too.
Prefer to run solo? Communicate: Either share that you're going on a run with a buddy, or offer to be a buddy for another when they run.
Most of the time, I run for 10-15 minutes. That’s it. Again, I’m not trying to beat anyone, set records, or conquer long distances. Just taking out the mental garbage. I usually walk before and after for a total of 30-45 minutes of exercise. And, if running isn't accessible for you, take yourself for a walk, scoot, or wheeled experience. You're after a physical push (sustained elevated heart rate) that's repetitive so you can enter a state of mental meandering... find an equivalent that works for your body.
Decide when in your day you have 30 minutes to devote to your mental health.
Set an alarm for your run. This is a new habit, and you probably need external supports to remind you to get out there and do it.
Get dressed and get out the door.
Run for 10-15 minutes. (If you want to go longer, be my guest!)
Walk for a few minutes to bring your heart rate and breath back to your normal.
Stretch for 5-10 minutes.
Drink some water.
How do you feel?
What came up for you mentally and physically?
When are you going to run again? I recommend starting with three days/week for 2-4 weeks. Then work up to 5+ days. Some folx practice 6 days with a one day break. Find your flow, and you do you.
Pro Tip: The first three days of running are HARD. Soak in a hot bath or a hot shower to intentionally give your muscles some extra love.