Today’s post is in honour of Mental Health Month.
“Running is my therapy”. A common phrase that many people have heard and/or shared. But, what do we mean when we say this? And what do we think when we hear this? For many, running is an important part of their identity, an integral part of their stress management, and a fundamental coping strategy. For me, personally, when things get hectic and overwhelming, nothing feels better than a run. Sometimes, it’s a hard run. Working on speed work allows me to push everything out of my mind and focus on the task. Other times, it’s a long run. Heading out for two hours or more allows me to unwind and process things that are weighing on me.
Despite the amazing benefits of physical exercise, it is important to remember that fitness is just a part of our coping toolkit. For many mental health concerns and issues, running simply isn’t enough. See below for 6 quick resources that can help with developing skills and strategies for mental health support with running as the platform (1 book, 2 organizations, and 3 links).
Move the Body, Heal the Mind
Recently published by Jennifer Heisz, Canadian associate professor at McMaster, Move the Body, Heal the Mind is a book about overcoming anxiety, depression, and dementia, and improving focus, creativity, and sleep. The book shares significant research on how exercise affects the brain. Of particular interest to runners will be the finding that “intervals of intense workouts, or even leisurely walks, help stop depression and dementia, lessen anxiety and ADHD, and encourage better sleep, creativity, and resilience. So, next time you are faced with a tough hills or repeats workout, remind yourself that you are doing good for both your body and your mind.https://www.jenniferheisz.com/book.html
Bigger Than The Trail
Bigger Than The Trail is an incredible organization, focused on advocating for mental health through the platform of trail running. Through awareness, community, and support, BTTT endeavours to help individuals with treatment options and educational information. Check out their website to get involved or to access their services. There is even a virtual event this weekend. Head to https://www.bttt.run/events/2022-block-party for details.
Team Unbreakable is a mental health program for children and youth focused on the connection between physical and mental health. The program uses running as the vehicle through which young people learn skills and strategies such as goal setting, coping, relaxation, and mindfulness. This April, I started this program at the elementary school where I teach. Students in Grades 3-5 are learning how to take care of their physical and mental health. It’s amazing to see them push themselves each and every week! If you are an educator or community volunteer, check out https://www.teamunbreakable.ca/ for more details.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Check out our city’s most well known centre for mental health support. “The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centres in its field.” https://www.camh.ca/
Still I Run
Still I Run was founded by Sasha Wolff to promote running as a mental health coping strategy. From their website: “Still I Run is a community of runners and mental health warriors determined to take control of our physical and mental health while also breaking the stigma surrounding people that live with a mental illness.” https://www.stillirun.org/
The Shakeout Podcast
Kate Van Buskirk, Canadian olympian and champion of “Be Relentlessly Positive”, is the host of The Shakeout Podcast. Check out the two episodes below:
-Neurofeedback Training: The Link Between Mental Health, The Central Nervous System and Running Performance. “In this episode host Kate Van Buskirk shares her experience with neurofeedback training, a form of therapy that helps to regulate the central nervous system. Kate and her therapist chat openly about what neurofeedback training is, and why it can be so effective for athletes of all levels.”
-The Rundown: Lanni Marchant Gets Candid About Mental Health, Wonder Woman, and Her New Relationship with Running. “In this episode, Lanni speaks openly about the struggles and lessons of the last 5 years, about developing a new relationship with running, and about her epic NYC Marathon comeback! “ Content warning: suicide, substance abuse, and eating disorder.
Whatever you do to care for your mental health, reach out when more might be needed. There are resources, community members, and groups who can help.