Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jameel, our Community Education intern, who is a 21-year-old psychology student.
Running is difficult. For most people, it stays hard, and it is something that they are not going to do often. I am a lot like that too. A few times in my life, I have tried being a runner and then lost motivation and stopped. Running, as with most things, becomes easier the more you do it. It can feel so excruciating to try and reach a point where it feels easy. Last year I ran a half marathon, after which my running motivation was gone again. Currently, I am in the process of getting my running fitness up again, and I have thought of the benefits which are most important for me.
Building mental fortitude
I have found building mental fortitude to be the most significant benefit to running. Whether I run 5km or 15km, there are many points where I want to give up and go home. Why is that? My body can handle the entire length, yet my mind is constantly saying I need to stop or cut it short and go home. As I persevered through the half marathon training, I realised how stronger running was making my mind. Each run was getting longer, I was getting a little faster, and I did not listen to the thoughts telling me to stop or turn back. Slowly my mental strength grew stronger and stronger, and I found myself thinking much less about the run and just running. The mental fortitude built in running began to transfer out into my life in general. I found that I was more robust in my resolve to stick to eating well or keeping organised for other things in my life. Running provides me with excellent mental training that I have not been able to get anywhere else.
What is runner’s high, and why is it so hard for some to achieve that euphoric feeling? I believe runner’s high comes after a bit of perseverance. In my experience, I have found that after those initial stages of discomfort and negative thoughts comes runner’s high. The feeling is excellent and makes the entire run feel like a breeze, and I can go again. Runner’s high is one of the reasons why I have kept going back to running after breaks. That sensational feeling I get in my body after a long run makes it all worth it. It is believed that the runners high I am talking about comes from a release of endorphins. Endorphins are a hormone our body releases during running or other exercise. The hormone can cause the euphoric, relaxed state. All the more reason to try some exercise and see if you feel the release of endorphins in yourself.
Another significant part of running is the unique feeling of accomplishment that I feel at the end. I track my runs on an app, so I see the time and distance for each run. I also have a fitness watch that can tell me other metrics, like cadence and heart rates. There are so many nuanced moments that make me feel a sense of accomplishment. There are times where I have gotten faster or run longer, which are excellent. There are also times in which I can see my heart rate stayed lower during the run, which sounds small but means I handled the run better than the last, and that I am building up stamina. All these little accomplishments are great at improving my mental health and showing me that I can accomplish what I intend to accomplish—as with the first point, feeling accomplished transfers out into my daily life too. When I see I can achieve a goal like running a half-marathon, it helps me believe that I can accomplish the broader goals I set for my life.
The reasons I have discussed are just a few examples of how it has improved my mental health but running or any other kind of exercise may improve your life much differently, and that is why it is great to go out and give it a go for a while.
Further reading and references:
Benefits of running:
A great YouTube channel which has helped me a lot with improving my running:
Some beginners running tips:
Great tips to learn how to pace yourself running
More on endorphins