If you've come on tough times and stopped lacing up as a result, you're missing out on one of the greatest benefits of running—its healing power. Here's how to get back on track and run through the pain, not away from it.
Running may mean time alone with your thoughts, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Use positive visualization to tackle your grief head-on. While running, actively imagine a finish line (screaming fans and all!) waiting for you. Attach a word to that finish line ribbon, like "stronger" or "resilient," and break through it each time in a full sprint. This isn't just a bunch of feel good, mumbo jumbo. It's neuroplasticity. When you actively visualize success, you're creating new neural pathways that help tie that image to reality.
Make an Intentional Playlist
Running is a full five senses experience, and what you listen to during your bout of sadness is especially important. Make an emotionally intentional playlist by asking yourself what you need that day. Are you in the mood to cry it out to Coldplay or do you want to feel like you're blasting through the hurt, Beyonce-style? And remember, this is your time to feel whatever you need: sad, angry, hurt, and yes, even strong.
Join a Community
It may feel good to isolate yourself right now, but connecting with others will actually help you bounce back more quickly. Sharing the universal experiences of loss and disappointment cuts down on the time you spend mourning them, according to grief expert George Bonanno in his book, "The Other Side of Sadness." Join a running group and make your recovery a team effort.
If greasy Chinese takeout and pizza are your two main food groups and you can't remember the last time you got a full night's sleep, you're practically begging the flu or any other kind of illness to wipe you out. Research has consistently shown the benefits of an active lifestyle, including a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine that tied exercise to boosted immunity and cold prevention. Make running the first step to taking back your health and get ready to see a domino effect. After plugging in a few miles, you'll likely eat and sleep better.
Loss can come with no warning. Our inability to control it can easily lead to feeling like a victim. Instead, rise to the challenge and take the reigns on something you can control: your response. It may seem small, but making the choice to run will increase your self-confidence (look at you getting out there!) and leave you feeling empowered.
Find your next race.