By Emily Kulkus
Running is good for ________. If you were to fill in the blank I would think many of the responses would be physical. You might say “my body,” or “my legs,” or “my fitness.” But last night I was reminded of perhaps one of the most important things to go on that line: “my brain.” Somehow along the way I'd forgotten about all of the mental benefits to running...
I think I do a lot for my brain. I love to read, although lately it’s a lot more news than novels. I take vitamins, try to eat right, get enough sleep and challenge myself to try and experience new things. (My brain enjoys some “junk food” sometimes too: TV, social media videos, silly play time with my kiddos.)
But I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that my brain is constantly on the go. Lately, it’s been moving far too fast – trying to keep it all straight: school, daycare, work, dinner, bills, family, friends, laundry, shopping, cleaning, appointments and on and on and on. My days – just like yours – are spent juggling all of these things. And when I lay my head down to finally sleep, my brain spends a good amount of time rehashing it all.
Last night, on a tough workout with the half-marathon and marathon training groups, I was reminded of the brain-clearing power of a good run. I’ve been trying to run more often without listening to music, especially at the training runs since I’m enjoying meeting new people. Without the music, my brain is consumed with just one thing: me, on the run. And man, I’d forgotten how satisfying that could be. For about 40 minutes last night I only thought about that run, my speed, my cadence, my form and how in the world I was going to finish that darn workout.
I remember when I first started running people saying things like “running is as much mental as it is physical.” I’ve been so focused on the physical the last few years, as I’ve clawed my way back after two babies, now much closer to 40 than 30, that I’d kind of forgotten about the mental benefits of running. But last night brought me back. I was back in my head and it felt great. And for that workout, the only thing my brain had to focus on was the road ahead and how it was going to help me get there. Forget the legs; I’m going to focus on that for a while.
Emily Kulkus is marketing coordinator for Fleet Feet Sports, Syracuse. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.