Recently I began training to run a half marathon. Through the years, I have run many races but it's been about 4 years since I ran a half. In the process of training for this, I have come to realize how much I truly missed running and training for races. I find it so rewarding and fun to put together the puzzle pieces of a training program over time to get your body ready. It's amazing to experience your body and your mind adapt so you can accomplish a goal.
For many years running or power walking has been my primary source for stress relief. I choose to go for a run or power walk when I feel extreme emotions (especially the negative ones). It clears my mind, helps me calm down and reduces my anxiety. Study after study cites the benefits of running/power walking (especially outside) for mental health.
The runners high is real!
I have definitely experienced a "runner's high" and it feels amazing! After about 20-30 minutes, I start to feel more positive, grateful, relaxed, clear minded, more confident, strong and I just have a higher level of overall happiness. It feels really wonderful!
"After a nice long bout of aerobic exercise, some people experience what’s known as a “runner’s high”: a feeling of euphoria coupled with reduced anxiety and a lessened ability to feel pain. For decades, scientists have associated this phenomenon with an increased level in the blood of β-endorphins, opioid peptides thought to elevate mood. However more recently, researchers have shown the brain’s endocannabinoid system—the same one affected by marijuana’s Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—may also play a role in producing runner’s high, at least in mice" -American Scientific
If you want to feel good naturally without putting toxic substances in your body, go for a power walk or a run outside in the sunshine and ride the runners high!
improvements in sleep
Regular running or power walking has been shown to help you set a normal sleep schedule. Chemicals released during and after relax your body and encourage deep sleeping. Having a regular sleep schedule with an adequate amount of sleep is good for your brain and improves your mental health.
For me, getting outside and moving more brings a noticeable improvement in my sleep patterns, which in turn improves my general mental health and mood the next day after a good nights sleep.
reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety & boosting mood
Running or vigorous walking reduces anxiety and depression. When you run, blood circulation to the brain is increased and the part of your brain that responds to stress and improves your mood is affected. This causes a change that temporarily improves your reaction to stressful situations. There are many studies that have backed this claim.
I always say that getting outside and getting my heart rate up improves my mood and state of mind 100% of the time, it never fails me!
I can't even tell you the number of times going outside for a run or power walk has turned my whole day around into a more positive direction mentally. Running has served me through the stress of raising 3 boys, the loss of my mother, difficult life challenges and hard personal growth.
I highly recommend getting outside and getting your heart rate up to feel great naturally and effectively.
Keeping your workout routine new and exciting by mixing up different workouts into your routine has enormous benefits to your fitness goals and overall physical and mental health. Here are 5 reasons to mix it up and some ideas for different workouts to keep it fresh.
5 REASONS TO MIX UP YOUR WORKOUTS
1. Injury Prevention
Overuse injuries are very common when people do the same repetitive movement over and over. These injuries can occur anywhere on the body and can be chronic. Mixing up the workout styles you do throughout your week gives your muscle groups, joints and ligaments time to heal and recover, while still working other muscle groups.
2. Pushing Past Plateaus
Whether your goal is to lose weight, complete a 5K, grow muscle, or all of the above, it is common to reach a plateau and feel stuck. Mixing up your workouts keeps your body from acclimating to one style of movement. Your body becomes more and more efficient over time and will burn less calories at one particular movement like running, swimming etc. If you confuse your muscle groups with cross-training you will make the gains and strides you are seeking.
3. Beat workout Boredom
If you find yourself counting down the minutes until your workout is over, you need a mix up. Boredom will not serve you well and you will be less likely to stick to it. You should leave your workout feeling invigorated and happy. It is exciting to try new things and seek out new ways to have fun with workouts. Being open to new experiences will not only serve your physical goals but it will also serve your mental health.
4. Build New Muscles
Building new muscles physically and mentally benefits your over-all health. There is study after study citing overwhelming evidence that having more muscle can help prevent numerous deadly diseases, increase your metabolism and prevent injury. Mixing up your workout activates muscle groups you many not use often and will work to build that precious muscle you need. It also activates your mind requiring your mental muscle, coordination and mind-body connection to flex by moving your body in different ways.
5. Make New Friends
The social aspect of joining into group fitness is huge for accountability, consistency and mental health. Making new friends is fun, exciting, and helps you look forward to the next workout together whether in person or virtually. Bonding over how the workout makes you feel and how fun or challenging it is, keeps you motivated. Of course making friends might seem easier in person, but you will be surprised at how quickly a virtual group becomes a community by taking a few minutes before or after class to get to know each other and talk about how the workout felt with like minded friends. It's great to mix both in person and virtual classes throughout your week, that way you meet people locally and from all over. It may also give you more options for class formats and time slots from home.
SOLUTIONS TO KEEP IT FRESH
Don't let the title or name of a class intimidate you. You will be surprised at how most classes will offer modifications and various levels of intensity to accommodate all fitness levels. Be open to trying new things, what is the worst thing that can happen? Maybe you get into it and realize it's not for you, so what. OR maybe you get into it and realize you love it and now have a new option to benefit your goals! It's worth a try.
YOGA- All styles of yoga are good for you. Whether you try a power flow vinyasa, restorative, yogalates (Yoga/Pilates mix) or balance/meditative, you will find that one or more benefit your strength, mobility, muscle recovery and mental health.
HIIT- High Intensity Interval Training may sound intimidating but it's not as crazy as you think. This class consists of cardio, strength and core moves in various time intervals of work and rest. There are modifications and levels of intensity/low and high impact for every move so all levels of fitness can participate. The science behind the benefits of HIIT are huge, giving your body a great mix up, working your whole body, varying muscle groups and improving your cardiovascular fitness. It is proven to be a very effective and efficient way to get a total body workout and burn lots of calories.
STRENGTH TRAINING- As I mentioned before, the list of science proving the great benefits of strength training is endless. Whether you train with body weight or with weights, your body is getting stronger, faster and more functional. Form is key to preventing injury, get with an instructor who can guide you through proper form in a class or one on one so that you can get stronger safely.
CARDIO- Taking a dance class like Zumba or hiphop, or mixing up your cardio with cycle or a cardio focused class keeps your heart and lungs healthy. Fluctuating your heart rate and also keeping it at an elevated steady state for various periods of time, burns calories and gives you the cardiovascular benefits you need.
As a trainer, I highly encourage and recommend that my clients be open to various formats and mix up their workout routine. Give your routine an overhaul and you will love the results!
Amy Francis is a certified and experienced group fitness trainer, personal trainer and nutritional coach based in Colorado. 15 years in the fitness industry with many happy clients, Amy offers in person and virtual classes. Try some classes for free!
Amy has spent her career helping others reach their health and fitness goals. "I hope sharing my knowledge and experience with others can help someone to live a healthier and more joyous life."