Let’s get it out there, right from the get go. I was never built for running. Comfort not speed, as they say. More than that, the actual thought of going out for a run was a major ‘downer’ and it my current state of mind, why would I need that in my life. So the idea, as had been suggested to me, of running for depression and finding relief in doing so. well, it really went against the grain.
Before we go any further I will add this. If you are unsure in any way, shape or form, if running is the right thing to do, for you. Check with your GP first. They might say it’s a wonderful idea, get it on. There is the possibility they could advise against it. That’s a conversation between you and them.
Plus, it’s not all a bed of roses. There’ll be ups and downs. Frustration, soreness and the occasional injury. The upside of all of that is, if you do start running and keep it up, well, it really doesn’t get much better.
This is how I went about it and the benefits that I gained. We’ve touched on exercise and how it can help with depression but there are other ways and this may not be the one for you. We are all different.
Why Would I Even Bother.
Whilst you are in the throes of depression, it can sometimes be hard to even contemplate doing anything, let alone going for a run. You just want to sit around and watch TV. Procrastination can be a depressives best friend, at times. Excuses can come thick and fast. Too much effort, never any good at it, probably won’t help, haven’t got any trainers/sneakers/running shoes. The list is long and inventive. I know.
For me, it was an extension of something I was already doing. I had begun doing a morning workout, not a big one, just some press-ups, crunches and the occasional 20-minute Yogalates DVD session. Also, I was going for longer and longer walks. Sometimes I actually craved the solitude.
All of these various things were helping. I felt better in my self after each and every one. It was also a way of increasing the time intervals before I reached the stage where I needed to have my medication….that would be alcohol. So the positives were beginning to build up.
Running seemed to be the next, natural, progression. We had an old running machine that we’d bought second hand after my wife had expressed a desire to run. Turned out she didn’t like using it, so it had remained dormant for a long while. I could give it a go, why not.? In the comfort of my own home. No one watching.
I Was So Bad
Honestly, I was. I had memories of being at school and playing football, rugby, cricket and never seeming to tire of any of it. Even after school I had enjoyed more football, 5-a-side and would you believe, squash. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting to bang out a 5k or anything but I thought I should at least be able to manage 10 minutes. Wrong. To say it was a body blow, well that would be an understatement.
I can’t even remember exactly how far or for how long I ran but it certainly was not over 5 minutes. Gasping, wheezing and with legs that had somehow lost the ability to carry me without wobbling, I half crawled off the running machine and sat on the floor.
All that said. It was a start. I had data. (Which if you enjoy the company of OCD, is good.) It could only get better, right ?
Persevering Through With No Style.
I was going to get better. Both mentally and physically. Initially I had no targets or goals. I had no reference point to make any. All I had was one very poor attempt under my belt. It would get easier, well, that’s what everyone was saying. I’m not sure when I went back on the machine, possibly not the next day but maybe the day after.
Now I had a plan formulating. I was going to walk at the beginning of my session. Safe bet, I could walk, been doing it for years. When I felt that I had ‘warmed up’ sufficiently, I could increase the speed and continue running. When I couldn’t run anymore, I slowed the machine and continued to walk. A ‘warm-down’ if you like. It wasn’t pretty.
At the start it was all alien. I didn’t know how to breath. My running ‘style’ was awkward and faltering. It didn’t matter though, I was just doing it. That is a constant thread though many of my posts here. Just do it.
Targets And Goals.
If you wake up one morning and decide you want run a marathon (No really, some people do) or some other distance event, for yourself or maybe as part of a fundraising event, do not and I repeat, do not expect to be able to throw on your trainers and go out and conquer it in your first week..or your second/third/fourth, you get the idea. You are doomed to failure. You will be crushed, demotivated and never attempt the like again. Obvious exceptions to this are those who have a history of running and are capable of such endeavours with even breaking a sweat. Be realistic in your goal settings, try not to over reach and become disenchanted, that will just cause you to give up and in turn feel bad about yourself. Really not the point of this exercise.
You have to build up gradually. Increase your distances and times with small increments. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small you might think they are. You are only competing with yourself, so when you add an extra minute to your distance or another 500 metres, give yourself a mental pat on the back.
I had been running for about three weeks, sometimes every other day, sometimes less and I had managed to stretch each session to around sixteen minutes. Now I could see progress. Slow, yes but progress all the same.
I had exchanged a few e-mails with my sister, who, was a mad fitness freak of a person. Her latest venture had been into the world of triathlons. Sometimes used to wonder how those genes ended up where they did. To be fair, she’s been pretty prolific over time. Hey ho, you can only work with what you’re given. I was in touch and letting her know how I was getting along. In one of her replies she said that for her, when she was starting out, the first time she managed to run over thirty minutes was a massive boost in her desire to continue and felt like a huge milestone and accomplishment.
So there it was. My first Goal. To 30 minutes and beyond.
Running And The ‘Feel Good’ Drug.
So it took me a while longer to reach that magical figure, not sure exactly how long, that doesn’t matter as it’s you that is important, I’m not setting targets for you to reach, you can do that on your own. When I got there I totally understood what she meant. It was massive and it gave me the confidence to carry on.
To get there I kind of went through a physical epiphany, not really sure how else to explain it. The science of it, in laymans’ terms, goes like this. When you do some type of physical activity that ‘pushes’ you and we all have a different point at which that happens, your brain very kindly allows the release of endorphins. They’re beautiful. As far as definitions go:
They are morphine-like substances naturally produced in the body. In our case they are produced after a decent bout of physical activity. This is what we’re talking about.
Long and the short of it…they make you feel good. A bit warm and fuzzy. Depending on you, how long this semi-euphoric feeling lasts will vary, maybe an hour, could be the rest of the day. Think of it as a reward for all your hard work. Believe me, it’s hard to feel depressed when this stuff is piling through your system. Plus its all natural and free. It won’t last forever but the effects will give you some respite.
Consistency But Not Obsession.
I have what I would call a ‘slightly’ addictive personality, with a sprinkling of OCD thrown in for good measure. This can be a blessing and a curse. In this instance it was a blessing. I was able to continue running through most of my recovery. It wasn’t just this that helped me but it was a big part.
Sometimes you need to find something that helps, for me running did just that. It is easy, however, to become obsessed. To drive yourself too hard, to keep pushing your limits and trying to achieve the next level. Try to keep it manageable. The ideal, is to be able to run on a regular basis but not to take it to far. That will lead to adverse outcomes. Injury, fatigue and a lack of enthusiasm.
It should be something you look forward to and enjoy, not something you feel compelled to do. If you wake one morning and think ” I don’t fancy it today” then don’t. I used to look forward to going for a run 95% of the time. On the occasions I didn’t, no big deal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. There’s always tomorrow.
Remember, there are no rules, just what you are comfortable with. Start small and build up, keep it regular and keep it fun. Keep hydrated and listen to your body, it will let you know if you’re overdoing it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my running ramblings. If you’d like to leave a comment or have a question please free to do so below.