Runner's World (UK)
CAN’T RUN? RELAX. HERE’S HOW
Use these simple tips the next time you feel stress or anxiety sneaking up on you
tightening and relaxing each muscle, finishing with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress, and it is often recommended for people who suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders.
Recall one of your de-stress successes
One of the biggest parts of any high-pressure situation is the feeling that you won’t get past it, according to Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness: the Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. tactic that keeps you running a few extra miles more than you thought you could manage.
Once you give yourself the initial pep-talk moment, follow it up with a language change, suggests Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. For example, instead of saying, ‘I’m stressed by this deadline,’ try, ‘I’m looking forward to hitting this deadline.’
Change your thoughts
Several studies have suggested that music you consider relaxing can have a direct effect on numerous functions in the body, including the autonomic system – the one most involved in your immediate stress responses.
Turn on some tunes
Or a single bite of anything, really. Chew extremely slowly and notice the texture, advises Rissetto. This mindful-eating exercise helps bring you into the present more easily, she says, and that can de-frazzle you. Bonus: this kind of chewing aids digestion, and having better digestion reduces your stress response.
Eat one blueberry
Step away from social media for a bit suggests Breuning. (You’re reading this, which is a great start.) If your feed makes you feel energised, then keep up your digital consumption. But if it’s making you anxious or feeding your stress, go offline and recharge until you can come back refreshed.
As if you need another reason to hydrate – drinking water can reduce your response to stress, according to Dr Mithu Storoni, author of StressProof: the Scientific Solution to Building a More Resilient Brain and Life. That’s because even a little dehydration can raise levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for your fight-or-flight response, she says.
Drink a glass of water
Originally a word or sound meant to deepen meditation practice, ‘mantra’ has evolved to be any statement that’s repeated frequently and has meaning for whoever is saying it – or even just thinking it. For example, a simple assurance that ‘I’m OK, everything will be fine’ becomes a mantra when you repeat it strategically. Breuning says that your brain craves this kind of repetition and instruction, even if it sounds corny.
Use a mantra
to the list: tailor your runs to your in-the-moment preferences.
Autonomy = efficiency?
Researchers at the University of Nevada, US, had 32 adults (16 women and 16 men) run for 20 minutes at a moderate, conversational pace (65 per cent of each runner’s VO2 max). The runners were shown a series of photos during their run, but half of the group got to pick which photos they wanted to see, and in what order. The other runners were shown the same photos in a set order. The difference, then, was that the photo-choosing runners were able to exercise some autonomy over the details of their run, while the other half had this aspect of the run forced on them.
For such a minor variable, whether the runners got to select the photos had a notable effect on performance: the pick-their-pictures runners had significantly lower oxygen consumption and heart rates compared with the other runners, despite all of them running at the same relative pace. In other words, being able to control this aspect of their run appeared to result in those runners having better running economy.
Make it enjoyable
Picking what pictures you want to see on a run as a way to improve performance might sound silly. But what about controlling the music you listen to? That, too, has been found to work. So has focusing on being relaxed, as have brief bouts of smiling (as demonstrated by Eliud Kipchoge). These seemingly disparate practices are similar in that they run counter to the common perception of the successful runner getting their best results by grinding their way through the toughest parts of a workout.
Of course, if you have race goals, you still need to do the hard work that boosts your fitness. But what you don’t need to do is rigidly stick to a training plan because you think that’s what you ‘should’ be doing. As 1983 Boston Marathon champion Greg Meyer once put it, there are many ways to get fit.
Tailoring your training to what most appeals to you will make your workouts far more enjoyable and, therefore, more likely to be something you want to repeat. This new study suggests that, on a given run, a greater feeling of autonomy will also help you run more efficiently. What’s not to like about doing what you like?
How to make training work for you
Choose your location Dislike the track? Transfer to the roads or canal towpaths. Instead of five 800m repeats with a 400m recovery jog between, run hard for the amount of time an 800m repeat usually takes, and jog for half of that time to recover.
Take the scenic route Make long runs special by doing them in your favourite area, or plot a new route rather than
sticking to the same old loop. Selecting scenery that appeals to you is akin to the runners in the above study choosing what photos to see.
Use the music Research that was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that listening to music can get you fired up before running, and also that listening to music after a run can speed up recovery.
NUTRITION ADVICE FOR HEALTHY, HUNGRY RUNNERS