Why did I start running? Everyone needs to start somewhere…I started running for my health: physically and mentally. P.S. May in Mental Health Awareness month.
Last year, right around now, I was feeling really out of sorts. I was feeling very down to say the least and it worried me a bit. Actually, it worried me a lot. Whenever I thought about who I was or how I was feeling, a torrent of ugly words kept creeping into my head:
Fat. Lazy. Unmotivated. Unhealthy. Loser.
It wasn’t pretty. They were mean words. They were unhealthy words. And, they had no right to be in my head, especially since I am one of those annoying “the cup is always half-full” kind of people.
I was pretty freaked out, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. I didn’t want to talk to my husband about it because although I love him, I didn’t want to worry him. But I knew I had to do something because my negative thoughts kept dragging me down. Yet, every time I came up with an idea of how to fix it, I immediately negated it. It was a very troubling cycle.
How was I supposed to move forward if that annoying Debbie Downer was always yelling in my ear?
I was worried.
This unpleasant feeling wasn’t sitting very well with me.
Then one morning, I woke up and said, “I’ve had enough.”
Yep. I had enough. I had enough of the negativity. I had enough of feeling bad for myself. I had enough of the excuses. I just had enough – of everything.
So I went to Old Navy and bought two running outfits. Down and dirty running outfits. No fuss, no muss. Then I walked next door to Modell’s and bought some Sketchers memory foam sneakers. As soon as I went home, I downloaded the C25K app and told my husband I was going for a run.
The Ironman looked at me in shock. He tried to quickly recover, but I saw it flash across his very handsome face. But along with shock, I also saw relief. He knew I was out of sorts, but he just didn’t know how to help. But the athlete in him knew that exercise would help me.
I always find this amusing because when people are feeling at their worst, the last thing they want to do is exercise. Yet, exercise — and the endorphins that come with it — trigger a positive feeling in the body, often referred to as a “runner’s high” because of the energizing vibe it creates. Unfortunately, it takes a lot to motivate someone who is feeling very bad about themselves to do something good for themselves.
That first day, I wasn’t quite sure what would happen. I was not an athlete by any means. I played sports in high school and college, but I wasn’t excellent at them. I played more for the social aspect. And I most certainly was not a runner. I hated running. I could barely finish the required timed mile each year in high school. So, I had no idea how it would all play out.
I remember plugging my headphones in and selecting one of my upbeat playlists from my iPhone. As soon as the music started playing, I pushed start on the C25K app and walked out the door. It was the first time in years that I walked out the door without caring what was going on behind me. The kids and dogs were safe with my husband and that was all I needed to know.
To be honest, I was quite surprised at how easy it was. I was amazed at how good it felt to feel the warm spring sunshine on my face. I remember how wonderful it felt to be free – no kids, no dogs, no work, nothing. Just me, my music and my heartbeat. It was awesome.
With each step I took, I could feel myself growing stronger. More confident. Less negative. I know it sounds corny as all hell, but it’s true. Every time my foot hit the ground, I was stomping out negativity and letting light back in. I was doing something good for me — and it was refreshing because I hadn’t done anything good for me in a very long time.
I came home with the biggest smile on my face. Everyone was in the backyard and when I walked in, I flopped onto the grass and immediately got tackled by the dogs. The kids were psyched to see me home — happy and smiling. I couldn’t believe that all it took was just a few minutes of “me time” to help snap myself out of my funk.
I also couldn’t believe that I wanted to go again, and again, and again.
We all know that exercise is good for us. It reduces stress, boosts self-esteem, helps you sleep better, and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. But it also has other health benefits: it increases your energy levels, lowers blood pressure, improves muscle tone and strength, reduces body fat, and strengthens your heart. It also makes you look — and feel — fit, strong and healthy.
For me, exercise is important because it replaces any negative thinking with lots of positive thinking. Now, when I think about who I am or how I feel, those negative thoughts are no longer with me. Instead, I see and feel words like:
Strong. Happy. Healthy. Motivated. Content.
With this gradual shift in thinking, I have become a happier, more centered me. But, this doesn’t mean that running and I are always best friends. We’re more like frenemies that have a love-hate relationship. I may not always like going for a run, but I always know that I feel so much better once I’m done.
For me, my negative feelings stemmed from the fact that I never put my own feelings or needs first. Once I accepted this and made the decision to change, things got much better for me. But this isn’t the case for everyone, so I’m sharing this story with all of you because May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.
For some people, negative feelings can linger and turn into ongoing bouts of depression and anxiety. These feelings are very real and if you know of someone who is in need of help, reach out to them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Be there for them. Go on a walk with them.
As many of you know, my sister and I are strong advocates for mental wellness and most our freelance work focuses on organizations that support youth and families dealing with mental health concerns. As such, we know of some pretty great resources that you can direct a friend or loved one to that can help them get screened and learn more about their feelings. Here are some that could help:
- Mental Health America (MHA)
- National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI)
- Long Island Families Together (LIFT)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Thanks for listening,
P.S. For anyone interested, C25K is amazing – it tricks you into running, and in the beginning, you do more walking than running, and magically, over the course of time, you end up running more than walking. I highly recommend it.