RUNNING TO RELIEVE STRESS
could be good. . .could be bad
The past two weeks have been challenging for me and when I get challenged, I am MORE than happy to go for a nice long run.  With work, my girl's schedule and planning for upcoming events there are times when my thoughts become like a shattered 1000 piece puzzle that I have to put back together in a minimal amount of time.  My heart starts to race and I pace the floor like crazy! I don't like bringing those stresses to my family so I quickly grab my running shoes and head out the door.  For me, it calms me down and the run starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  After about 30 minutes or so, I am cruising and my plans become more solidified and ready to go.

Now, yesterday was a different story.  For the first time in a LONG time, I let a marketing disagreement really get to me at work and I couldn't get out the door fast enough to run/shake it off.  My body was tense, my mind was on fire and anger pretty much took over.  Needless to say, I got home to pick up my daughter and paced a hole into my kitchen floor...no, not literally!  When I was finally able to hit the pavement, I bolted down the street like a locomotive! I looked down at my MOTO and my pace was a whole minute and a half faster than usual.  I couldn't slow down, my face was so tense, and I literally could not relax!

When your stress is so high that your body tenses up, you can actually injure yourself.  Depending on what your body can handle, environmental conditions and definitely your mindset. . .the stress can take over, increase your heart rate and push your body right into an injury.

From a Runner's World article published in 2009, in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport reported that triathletes who had to recently deal with a "minor life event" or "hassle" (family, work, health or financial issue) were more prone to injuries than those under less stress.  Another study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that elite athletes were more likely to get hurt if they competed while angry, confused, fatigued, tense or depressed.  

In order to use running as a stress reliever, there are a few things that you need to consider and have worked for me for nearly 20 years (other than the pacing).  First, you have to find a way to calm yourself down before a run.   I really believe that when I start to pace, this is the first phase of my body taking over the stress.  I usually go over every detail of a disagreement or situation and when it takes over my thoughts, I start to pace.   The pacing begins to calm me down and the rational side of my brain starts to kick in.

Doesn't your watch
say this?
Active stretching before a run or workout can help as well.  When you prepare your body, focusing on how you stretch and move those limbs is a great way to get your mind under control and off the stress.

Next, if I hit the road or even the gym I don't take the hardest, hilliest route or pack on the weights in the weight room.  I take the flattest course, pack on the lightest weights and hit an area that's open but not overwhelmed with people.  This helps take those puzzle pieces and put them in place one by one in my head.  Keeping my pace at a comfortable pace helps me take control of those negative thoughts and I start to feel stronger.

Lastly, this is kind of off the subject but chocolate has become my BEST friend on rough days.  I use to restrict myself from those little chocolate bites of sin but now, I keep small portions in my desk or purse and splurge from time to time.  (Yours could be a cup of Joe, your favorite little candy and hopefully not a bag of chips).  Of course, you have to watch what you eat but to treat yourself DURING a stressful situation is OK! Heck, I won't talk about ch'ya!

Just be careful when heading out for a run when you are stressed. It's not worth pulled a muscle or any other physical injury that will keep you from doing what you love.  

You have control of what goes on even when you think you don't.  Remember that and keep moving.  
Happy Running!