Running and depression

Despite a severe lack of sleep last night, it was a good day.

I run.  I’m not good at it but all the literature says that exercise is a positive force on the brain when it comes to depression.  There are a few down sides, however.

I don’t get a runner’s high.  I’ve been around enough runners that live for running.  I’ve seen them out at noon when it’s in the 90’s just going full bore.  That ain’t me.  Sure, I actually prefer to run in the heat and humidity, as opposed to the cold, but even I have my limits.  And I’m goal oriented.  If I’m not training for a race, it’s difficult to motivate myself to run.  I don’t run for the sake of running.  I run for the sake of not looking like crap at a local 5k.

The other issue with running is that for however long I’m out running, depending on what I’m training for, I’m alone in my head.  It’s not a great place to be because if I’m not in the right frame of mind, it will make my run totally suck.  I’m stuck in my head, for over 20 minutes, thinking about how awful everything is. And I’ve got a lot of practice thinking about how awful everything is.

Here’s how I cope.  First off, I run with music.  Lots of runners will tell you not to, and for good reason.  I run on mostly deserted rural roads, but when a car does come along, a lot of times they speed past, and it’s good to be able to hear them.  I keep my music turned down just enough to be able to hear it, but also hear what’s going on around.  Also, bears. (I’m not shitting you on that one.) Also, not that I’m a competitive runner, but some races don’t allow people to run with music and the trick to training is doing things that you can replicate if you do run a race.

Second, figure out what I can think about, other than how shitty my life is.  Here are things that I’ve thought about while running: pending cases I need to do work on; my wife; if I’m close to doing a race I’ve done before, the course; my wife; an animated short about running I’d love sometime to write but I know I never will; and, my wife.  (Ok, I like to think about my wife a lot.)  If I can distract myself with those things, I tend to do pretty good as I run.

This is what derails me even if everything is otherwise set up perfectly: an injury; pushing myself too hard, particularly on a long run; if I have to walk at all; or sometimes, it just happens, I’ll just start to think about bad things.  It happens.  Depression sucks like that some times.

My wife is very encouraging me to run (and exercise in general) and since I know she’s a lot smarter than me, I’ll listen.  She knows that when I stop taking an interest in running, or stop doing an exercise class at the local Y, there’s a problem.

So, get out there and exercise.  I’m not going to swear by it, but I do think it is a positive in otherwise dealing with depression.  It doesn’t have to be running either.  Just do something to get moving, get your heart pumping, get the good brain chemicals flowing.

Now, a shameless plug for something new I’m trying.  I set up a tumblr site specifically targeting depression and running.  There’s nothing there yet, but I hope to be adding to it soon.  You can check it out at thedepressedrunner.tumblr.com

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