Pounding the pavement won’t just make you fitter, it’s got magical feel-good powers, too!
Running: it’s just putting one foot in front of the other, and yet many say that it has powerful benefits for both body and mind. Everyone from Fearne Cotton to Davina McCall and Amanda Holden have waxed lyrical about the positive effects that regular runs have on their mentality, and the great news is that everyone can enjoy a piece of the pie. Requiring little to no kit, no costly gym membership or prior knowledge, running is open to all of us and can make you fitter, healthier and happier in one fell swoop. Here, experts and runners alike explain why you should dig out your running shoes for a brainboosting buzz…
1. Celebrate yourself
“Running is a pure celebration of what our bodies can do,” says Rich Edmonds, co-founder of Runderwear (runderwear.co.uk). “At Runderwear we believe that everyone should celebrate the body that you have.”
Remember Bryony Gordon’s inspirational underwear runs? That was thanks to Runderwear and its #CelebrateYou campaign.
“Bryony and a community of incredible women ran the Vitality 10k where we offered free message printing on the back of our Runderwear runners. Some chose their name and others chose messages of support to celebrate their bodies: seeing hundreds of women striding through London celebrating themselves and the joy of running was an incredible sight.”
2. Morning glory
Transform your day by starting with a run, says Fiit master trainer Adrienne Herbert, who is running five half-marathons this year. “Running is essential for my physical and mental health. I always run first thing in the morning, as the increased endorphins and oxygen have been proven to boost your mood. It makes me feel re-energised, awake and focused.”
“Additionally, it brings a sense of achievement as it doesn’t matter how far, or how fast you go: you can set your own goals and easily measure improvements. It’s helped build my confidence and this translates to other areas of my life. It makes you realise what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.” See fiit.tv for trainers in your area.
3. Mood management
“Running is one of the best exercises you can do to boost health and wellbeing,” says Chloe Twist, qualified personal trainer at OriGym Centre of Excellence (origympersonaltrainercourses.co.uk). “One reason for this is that it regulates stress hormones within the body. These hormone levels are initially high after exercise but once the body adapts, the levels usually decrease long-term and lead to a more regular pattern of sleep which goes a long way to improve overall mental health. Running on a regular basis also promotes good mental health by naturally raising the emotional state and selfesteem of the participant.” We’re feeling more positive already!
4. Fun run
“Competition and goals have their place, but Nick Davies, psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and leading UK sports performance mind coach (ndsp.co.uk), believes fun is the real name of the game for maximum positivity. He says: “Running can be good or bad for you: when we’re stressed our body produces adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol ready for our response to imagined danger. But, if there is no real danger these chemicals stay in our bodies and prolonged exposure to cortisol can impair cognitive performance.”
So how does running improve our mood? “Running helps us express the ‘flight reaction’which uses these stress hormones. We also produce endorphins which make us feel physically and mentally well: the ‘runner’s high’.
“But, over-training can create the opposite effect as we interpret the exercise as stressful, so for the best health and wellbeing benefits, be sure to keep it fun.”
5. Hit the road
Turning off the treadmill and running outside brings further benefits. If you’re already a road runner, great, but consider going off the beaten track for a dose of outdoor therapy. Running along a canal path, field or forest trail means you’re absorbing elements of nature and taking in the peace and quiet, which is often uplifting. Plus, with so much scenery to take in, it’s psychologically easier to run as there’s less chance of getting bored. Trail running specialist Salomon is running 10 Run Unexpected events this autumn to help get people out on nature trails at salomonrunfest.com.
6. Bribe yourself fit
For some, getting out the door is the hardest part; so give yourself something to run for, says counsellor Lucy Cavendish (lucycavendishcounselling.com), “For many years, I found running difficult because I was slow and unfit so it felt like too much effort. However, over the past year, I’ve discovered the joys. I run at a peaceful time of day and head towards somewhere I really want to go, so I end up with a positive outcome – perhaps the river for a swim or the local café. When I’m running, I think about how I am helping my body and I’ve shown dedication to it; that I’ve done something in my day that makes me feel happier and creates better feelings about myself. My mind closes down which is such a great thing and is massively helpful in terms of lowering my anxiety and boosting positive endorphins.” Treat yourself to a post-run latte, you’ve earned it.