Stress and the workout


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.

The issues
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?)

Todays “Fix”
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?

signature_blockHappy “Hump Day”!

17 responses to “Stress and the workout”

  1. I like Wes’ philosophy; I’m now resorting to violence instead of running. Right now, I’d like to smack my butt for being out of shape. haha.

    I can’t run in the morning when it’s dark and cold. Just can’t. So I run after work in the late afternoon, which proves to be difficult sometimes as I’ve eaten too much and the day is mounting…. I love summer when I can just run when I want :).

    Hope you alleviated some stress today with your run, Adam!!

  2. ive been toying with the timing of my runs all year and still cant find a happy medium. im not an early bird, but that is the time of day that i get the most benefits from running. mid afternoon and after dinner is hard because of meal timing issues (as evidenced by last nights blog post!!!) and i feel like the stress of the day weighs me down while running late in the evening instead of getting rid of it. ideally 9AMish would be ideal for me but work doesnt allow for that. i guess there is no perfect time.

  3. I run both times of day. Sometimes, I have to do it in the morning. Sometimes I can do it at night. I’m more of a night runner.

    I’ll have to try that poster thing…..good idea!!

  4. Glad you have that stress relief…I think it does that for many of us. I’m an a.m. runner for the most part–just kicks my day into gear the right way.

  5. So true! When I was in college and stressed around finals time I used to do 2 and sometimes 3 runs a day in between studying to relieve stress.

    Btw about NYC…its obviously too late for this year but apply for the lottery asap. You can always defer if you get in and don’t choose to do it that year but I have applied the last 3 years and got rejected every time. Fortunately that means next year I am in automatically but if you want to run it within the next four years I would start applying!

  6. Hi Adam,
    Running is absolutely a stress relief for me. I have so much going on and going on a quick or long run will always do the trick:) I can also tell that my mood changes when I am not able to get my runs in…I turn into the woman who uses a broom for transportation:) Great post today Adam!

  7. You’re spot-on, Adam. I get the same effect from running. I usually run in the late morning (after my breakfast digests). I’m self-employed so I can usually fit in a run before lunch. In addition to stress relief, I also get some of my best ideas while running. Sometimes I even remember them when I get home!
    I also get grumpy when I miss my runs. I’m an addict.

  8. Hey, thanks for visiting my blog and the comment. As for stress, honestly I think my running might cause me as much stress as the rest of my life. Like, how’s my training going? Can I get a PB? Why aren’t I running faster? Will that guy beat me?

    Honestly, I need to be less competitive don’t I?

  9. This is why I am going to insane without training…I am stressed over my injury and cannot run because of my injury! I miss running, I miss biking, I miss pilates. I just wanna sweat a little!!!

  10. I’ve taken to doing some runs at lunch during the day (usually intervals) or working out in a nearby gym. The afternoons are a lot less stressful then.

    We’ve just shifted from daylight saving here (Sydney, Australia) and so it is a lot lighter in the early mornings now – so I’ve started running more in the early AM. During the summer, with it being light until much later, I’ve tended to run in the evenings. Both work well in their own unique way – one to prepare for the day ahead, the other to reflect and ‘take off’ the day that’s just ended.

    I guess it doesn’t matter when, the effect is always good!

  11. I say that the best time to run is when you can get out there to do it. As for stress relief, I totally agree, because I’m always a much happier camper after a good run. I think it was in “Again to Carthage” that the author suggested that runners self-medicate with tons of miles for the endorphins. Of course, he suggested that we may all be bipolar, so the quote may not really apply. LOL. Good stuff, Adam.

  12. For me, it’s in the sweat and getting the blood pumping. Also, the breathing.

    I think running at night is the best. Because it’s like a reset button letting you relax right after work and allowing you to have a stress free night doing whatever you want. Then you get a good night sleep as well, which is another reset button to get started on a new great day!

  13. I prefer to run am, but I mix it up. It also depends on the racing that i have coming up. Currently, in prepping for Boston I have had several runs starting at 10:30. For hot races, I may start my runs later in the day or evening to do some heat training. Also, I like to mix up the time to keep my body guessing a little. As for stress relief, running is the best, anytime I can fit it in.

  14. For stress releif, night runs always are the best for me. In fact, I’ve actually done two a days just to get out and get some fresh air after a bad day.

    Hopefully things settle down so you don’t have to worry about which is best!

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