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Using Running To Combat Anxiety by Michelle

I am a runner, I am a runner, I am a runner

August 2015 I decided to run. I had always been a gym bunny, I would love hopping on the cross trainer for an hour, rowing or attempting a small run on the treadmill and then finding it too tough so settling for the bike instead.

I have been physically fit for a while and gym obsessed some might say. Some would be right. August 2015 makes the time in my life where I had just been discharged from an eating disorder clinic where I had spent 10 months of my life recovering from an eating disorder. By recovering from, I mean I regained weight, maintained a healthy weight and started to challenge my thoughts and move towards being more recovered than I was relapsing. I worked hard, I was determined and I wanted a life. My mum had recently been diagnosed with Bowel Cancer and I was having to find new ways to deal with my emotions than turning to food (or lack of). One year prior to going out for my first run, I could barely walk up the stairs without feeling like I was going to collapse. But I wanted to run and wanted to do something for me that acted as a release and was healthy.

I found a local running group and decided to join them for a run. That in itself was a challenge, not only had I been stuck inside in an eating disorder clinic for 10 months, but I had awful anxiety and in particular social anxiety. But I laced up and joined the group and I loved it!

It wasn’t long before I was out running 3 or 4 times a week, taking time out of the day to just run and clear my mind of stress and anxiety that I was carrying. Before I knew it I was playing around with tempos, running up and down steep hills over and over again for fun and then parcel after parcel arrived as I treated myself to new running kit, and my first pair of Nikes which I loved! Running was the best release for me, it gave me a focus and it gave me some space to breathe, where I didn’t have to be anything to anyone, I didn’t have to pretend I was ok. I could just run.

I can’t say that I am ‘recovered fully’ as I don’t know what that means but when I find myself getting really irritable and anxious, I realise I haven’t been out for a run for a while, I just lace up and head out to find a park or some trails. As my confidence increased I moved on to running half marathons and then took on the Race To The Tower ultramarathon series. Running has shown me how to be resilient, how to bounce back when things don’t go well and how to readjust my focus. I can’t recommend running enough, it is incredible for mental health and it is something that can be started with little cost. A pair of trainers and a decent sports bra and you are away.

For anyone struggling with anxiety get those trainers on and get outside (much better for mental health than treadmill running) and just run, or run/walk as you build your fitness up. Run, breathe in the fresh air and just feel that freedom.

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Thanks to Michelle for sharing her story and it's great to hear how running helped during a tough time.
  
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