But running can also be used as a drug-free way to help treat clinical depression and other psychological disorders. Some studies have shown that intense physical exercise works as well as psychotherapy and also relieves tension, fatigue and confusion. Running has also been proven to help prevent the depression that many people develop when recovering from serious illness. (*Always check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.) Other psychological benefits of running include:
If you prefer to keep to yourself, running can be a way of actively meditating as you become one with your breathing. Problems and thoughts that might have been swirling around your mind disappear when you’re deep in the rhythm of your footsteps—you might even discover the perfect solution when you’re done with your workout.
It doesn’t matter where you live—running can be done almost anywhere and requires very little in the way of equipment except for proper shoes and comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing.
I have a tendency to start an activity full-force and then burn out quickly, so I had to be careful not to expect too much of myself as I began my jogging program. I didn’t want to lose my motivation in a few weeks, so I didn’t set impossible expectations that I could never realistically meet. What worked for me was having a basic goal—to jog for 15 minutes straight. I didn’t imagine myself ever trying the Boston Marathon. I just wanted to be able to get in shape and still have time for other things.
The first week I started by walking quickly for five minutes as a warm-up, then I jogged for one minute and switched back to walking for two minutes. I alternated between walking and jogging several times until I had completed about 20 minutes and ended with another five-minute walk to cool down.
The amount of time I spent jogging gradually increased over then next two and a half months until I could finally jog for 15 minutes straight. What an emotional rush I felt when I finally reached my goal! I had actually done what I had set out to do. And I did it again and again in the coming days.
I’d like to be able to say that jogging magically solved all of my problems but life still pulls me in a million different directions. No matter what happens though, I still have that wonderful feeling of accomplishment deep down inside—and nothing can take that away from me.