Running for our lives!

WE TAKE A PERSONAL LOOK INTO THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF RUNNING.

One of the main advantages to running as a form of exercise is that it is pretty much open to anyone, no gym membership, access to a pool, fancy equipment or elaborate gear is required – just a simple pair of trainers and the will to get outdoors is all that is needed.

Indeed, running has become the perfect ‘pandemic exercise’, a natural for social distancing!

When Boris first announced, we could ‘only go out for essentials, or exercise’ many of us found ourselves running more – just to get out! In turn, a mini boom in running was created.

Regular running is a great way to improve our overall physical health, it improves our heart and lung health, helps build bone strength and even boosts our natural immune system.

Running is also an extremely efficient way to lose weight and burn calories, it increases our post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), so our bodies continue to burn calories even after we have stopped running.

On top of the many physical benefits, running can also improve our mental wellbeing, helping towards reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. It is well documented that while running, the brain releases chemicals called endorphins which can improve our mood and overall happiness.

People start running for a variety of reasons, whether that be to lose weight, improve health and fitness, to take part in a charity event, or just to try something new, everyone’s journey into running is individual.

Local Mum of two, Tracy Turley had decided that before her 30th birthday she wanted to run the London Marathon. “It was one of those bucket list things I needed to cross off!”

After securing a charity place for the 2008 London marathon, Tracy began training. “I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done, I was so naive and didn’t really know what I was doing, I hated the whole thing. The relentless training on my own and then the actual run, well that was horrendous! When I eventually finished, I vowed I would never do another!”

Later that year however, Tracy was introduced to a local running group and her passion for running developed.

“Every Wednesday evening an ever-growing group of us would meet, regardless of the weather, to pound the pavements. I made some true friends in that group, ladies I am still friends with now. I ran with them for the next few years, taking part in many 10k and half marathon runs, until I was 6 months pregnant with my first son.”

It wasn’t until after the birth of her son that Tracy found that running became something more to her.

“It became my me time, my escape, my time to think and just be me. I ran the London Marathon again in 2013 and whilst it was still hard, especially training with a young baby, it gave me something to focus on that was just for me and I actually really enjoyed it.”

Now an avid runner Tracy tries to run at least three or four times a week. “Running is my happy place, it’s how I cope with my anxiety and depression, it allows me the head space to process my thoughts, to give me clarity, plan, or have a good old cry. I can save the world when I am out for a run, but then forget how to do it by the time I get home! When I’ve been for a run, even on the days where it’s hard to get out of the door, I come back a much happier, calmer person”.

Tracy has also been delighted to witness how running is benefiting her son. “My son now comes on runs with me too, we don’t do many things together, but I love that he wants to run. I find he opens up a bit more when we are running, and it definitely helps him to manage his anxiety.

“In May we both did the Miles for Mind challenge. Mind have been a huge support for me, and I ran the Brighton Marathon for them in 2017, this was and still is my favourite run to date.”

As a personal trainer too, Tracy is keen to encourage others to reap the benefits of running as part of their exercise regime.

“I try to encourage everyone to run, it doesn’t have to be fast, it doesn’t have to be far, but just putting on those trainers and getting out the door is a step in the right direction, for both physical and mental health benefits.

“Running has helped me appreciate my body and mind and what they are capable of. It also allows me to eat cake and drink wine and not feel guilty!”

One of the greatest benefits of running of course, is that it can be done entirely alone and without the need to fit into other peoples schedules, and with the ever increasing technology and multiple apps available, from the classic Couch to 5km to the increasingly popular Strava app, that has seen a huge soar in usage during lockdown, there is something out there for everyone to keep us fully motivated and keep us on track.

But for many however, the camaraderie of running within a group and surrounding themselves with likeminded individuals is what keeps them going, and is a huge part of their whole enjoyment of running.

Local running group, Sevenoaks Ladies Joggers offer just that “When you are part of a team that exercises together, it can help to see you through challenging times. Exercise can be daunting for a number of reasons, but group exercise – although intimidating for many at first, can give you the confidence you need to continue. Achieving a goal, such as going from a complete novice to running 5km in a matter of weeks, is an incredible achievement and the pride and happiness that our runners feel is palpable. Especially when you have a group of people spurring you on.

“So many people tell us how our running group have helped them through relationship issues, bereavements, health scares and all the other things life throws at us. The ability to get away for an hour or two from their busy lives and run, walk and chat while spending time outside in the company of like-minded people is a real tonic.”

If you would like to contact personal trainer Tracy or Sevenoaks Ladies Joggers running group, please visit their respective websites at www.tracyjaynefitness.com and www.sevenoaksladiesjoggers.co.uk.