• Kay Johnston

Exercise is Now My Friend

Twelve months ago, I joined a running club and I can honestly say its one of the best decisions I have ever made. The difference going out and running three times a week has made to my life and the improvement to my mental health has been tremendous.

As soon as I finish lacing up my trainers the buzz begins. I still find it hard to believe that I really find pleasure in running. I was never keen on exercise growing up and this was made worst by the horrendous PE teacher we had at school. Never once was I encouraged. I just saw it as a weekly punishment. I was once awarded a G- in my school report for PE.

I am never going to be the fastest. I am more of a tortoise than a hare. But that doesn’t matter. I really enjoy running and I always feel proud of myself when I get to the end.

This weekend I went for a long walk with four old school friends and we reminisced about our school days. We all now have found our own love for exercise and for some of us it has taken over 20 years to discover this. Just think if we had been given the slightest bit of encouragement rather than constant ridicule and put downs, how different our relationship with exercise could have been. We might have started to exercise and enjoy it earlier in our lives.

I have discovered that going running has benefited me in many ways other than just feeling fitter. I have made lots of new friends in my running group. I have been made to feel welcome since the first day of running with them. We don’t just run together, we have social events and are always guaranteed a good time and lots of laughter.

I always sleep much better on running nights. My sleep pattern has improved dramatically over the past twelve months, I now have hardly any sleepless nights. This is a definite improvement for me as I have struggled with poor sleep and middle of the night waking for many years. Now I get a good eight hours and more if I can get a lie in.

I have felt enormous pride in myself over these past 12 months, I have set myself goals and achieved them. First completing my C25K, and then a 10K and I ended the year by running a half marathon, something which I never thought I would be able to do. Running has given me a fantastic sense of achievement. I have felt proud running as part of a team and enjoyed helping others to achieve their goals as well as my own.

Me at the end of the Half Marathon

On busy days I have found that running has cleared my head and made me feel much calmer. When I am running, I can’t think about much else apart from breathing, running and not falling over. Any stresses and worries get forgotten about while I am out running. If something has been on my mind during a run, talking to my running buddies has helped. They have been a great source of strength and advice and by the time I have got back, problems have often been solved.

Going for a run or walking with my dog has helped my creativity. I find that with a clear head that I often have some of my better ideas either during or just after I have exercised. If work is getting on top of me, I find that after a good walk or run I feel more inspired to get on with things and I do tend to perform better.

Running on uneven ground helps to improve your cognitive function and can reduce the risk of memory related illnesses. Although I find this hard, as I am quite clumsy. Running off road wakes me up and makes me focus more on what I am doing. My Grandma passed away after being ill for several years with Dementia. Watching someone suffering with this catastrophic illness is one of the saddest things to see. If I can do anything to stop me being at risk of this dreadful illness, then I will give it a go.

“One of the best workouts we can give our brains is walking rapidly on uneven surfaces. It’s the equivalent of taking our brains to the gym to lift weights all day long.” – Source

I have always struggled with energy levels and low mood in the winter months. Getting out into the daylight and going for a run or a walk I find really lifts my mood. When exposed to sunlight your body creates vitamin D, this can help to reduce the symptoms of depression. I also take a supplement of Vitamin D in the winter months to make sure that I keep myself topped up and ward off any dark days.

Talking to others really helps your mental health. This week our running club is promoting #RunAndTalk giving people the opportunity to get them talking about their mental health. Offering support for anyone who needs help and at the same time exercising. Events such as this and the Time to Talk Events really help to get people talking about their mental health and help to reduce the stigma.

Mental Health Info Board at RunAndTalk Event

So, for me exercise is now my friend and I no longer see it as a form of punishment. Exercise is now something I look forward to, it helps keep me healthy, it makes me happy and I really enjoy it.

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