November 17 2017
Five years after admitting defeat during a high school race, this runner reflects on her eating disorder recovery.
There is no way around it: The world feels a little bit nuts right now. Identifying coping strategies is becoming a national pastime and running—with its well-documented reputation for alleviating stress, stoking creativity and preserving sanity—is (in our admittedly biased opinion) an excellent way to escape the noise of the news cycle. (Binge watching Netflix and memes of cute animals works too, but stick with us.) Here are five things running offers that can feed your body, mind and soul, even when scanning Twitter in the morning makes you want to dive back into bed for good.
Movement is medicine, for the body and the mind. So when you feel a grab bag of emotions fueling your next 5-miler, go with it. “Running is a natural anti-depressant,” says Sharon Chirban, a clinical sport psychologist in Boston, who coaches athletes to link athletic performance to mental fortitude with strategies like visualization, mindfulness and breathing techniques. Find comfort in your training routine—just be sure to pace yourself. “People tend to over-do it and get injured at the exact time that they need their running time the most,” says Elizabeth Maiuolo, a New York–based biomechanics coach at RunningandtheCity.com.
Running is inclusive and social by nature, offering diverse ways to find your tribe. “Part of having good coping skills is to have good social support during times of uncertainty,” says Chirban. Social media has made it easy to feel connected to groups and individuals both local and far-flung. And whether your goal is to laugh, rise up, commiserate, compete or just sweat for an hour, doing so with a group can enrich your life from the top down. “I find it necessary to get out with my friends and try to figure out the world during our runs,” says Maiuolo. “Sometimes we try to understand, sometimes we just vent. But the main thing is to talk about it and not feel like you are alone in this confusion.”
On the flip side, sometimes solitude is in order. “The art of running is to know what you need and when,” says Chirban. So if your inner voice is telling you to go it alone for a while, do it. Solo running allows you to be in control of your own domain—from pace to route to mileage to tone—which can help you feel more in control of situations outside of your training. And taking a break from dinging devices and nonstop commentary can make going back to them that much easier.
The wide and interconnected web of the running world can help amplify any opinion you might have—no matter how vocal you choose to be. Oiselle got in on the act recently with its Speak Out campaign (and T-shirts) that encouraged fans and followers to share what matters to them on social media. And everything from hashtags to emojis to good-old-fashioned conversations are letting people express exactly what they feel. “I have had runs where we just questioned each other’s points of view, where we just commiserated or expressed our frustrations,” says Maiuolo, “and runs where I called my representatives on the phone or just made a statement with something I was wearing.”
Runners have made significant statements lately. Women’s Running columnist and Run Harlem founder Alison Désir spearheaded a run from New York City to Washington, D.C., last month, which raised more than $100,000 for Planned Parenthood, garnered country-wide support and is now a full-on movement called Run 4 All Women. And sisters Caitlin and Megan Jones, members of New York’s Dashing Whippets running team, hosted an event called Run Your Country earlier this month, where participants ran 1.3 miles (from Trump Tower to the main United States Postal Service building in New York City) before writing and mailing postcards to their legislators.
But remember: Taking action doesn’t require mobilizing hundreds of people. Be a volunteer coach for kids with an organization like Girls on the Run, a youth-development program for young girls anchored by running; team up and train with a runner with a disability through Achilles International; or get involved with Team Red, White & Blue, which helps veterans get in touch with their communities through physical activity. Run a race with a friend, complete your weekly mileage in solidarity with a larger entity or just keep lacing up those running shoes and getting out there. After all: Staying active in the face of uncertainty might just be the strongest move there is.