Fun Fitness

Book Review: Running is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier

It’s that time of year … the time when I attempt to convince myself that I am a winter runner. I LIKE WINTER RUNNING (And I hope to believe this someday.). Actually, I don’t like winter running. Not one bit. I don’t like thinking about wearing layered gear, simultaneously sweating while freezing, having cold air blasting my face and freezing my eyelashes, wet socks, running in the dark, and that one time when I actually got frostbite….

Research suggests that people are in a better mood after exercising. However even for those who are consistently active, motivation to get out and exercise can be particularly challenging over the winter months when it just feels more difficult. How do runners find that extra boost to incorporate exercise to improve mood and increase energy, in spite of the cold and gray winter weather? As the cold weather looms, I search for motivation. Somewhere in the midst of the water-proof running shoes, the mushroom miracle coffee, and the hand warmers, I found the book, “Running is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier.” In this 2018 essential read for runners, well-known running writer Scott Douglas thoroughly explains research about how running can actually make us happier, while inspiring readers to get out and run. While Running Is My Therapy is packed with a plethora of useful information about how running supports mental and emotional wellness, it also offers some practical tips on what Scott refers to as “activation,” meaning getting out there and exercising.

Strategies that unlock us from “perceived fatigue” are key to activation. Perceived fatigue is the phenomenon of thinking about doing something and postponing doing it until you feel you have the energy. An example of perceived fatigue is thinking about all that one has to do in order to get out the door for a run. Rehearsing the mental checklist of first finding layers, then shoes, planning a route, how much time, etc., can bring about feelings of dread that lead to procrastination. Perceived fatigue is thinking in a pattern that exhausts you before you even leave your seat. So, rather than thinking your way into procrastination and negativity (All those reasons you should wait to get out and run or maybe just do it later), begin instead to energize yourself to start the activation process:

  • Instead of thinking about that longer run that you need to fit in this week, break it down into something smaller. Shift your thinking to a small, task-oriented activity that approaches a goal.
  • Tell yourself to just get in a token, easy-rolling run. If you feel worse in ten minutes, you can go home. If you feel great, you can always keep going.
  • Put on your running clothes and shoes and do some gentle stretching; then see what you feel like doing.
  • Have your running gear ready to go – have a plan before you go to sleep the night before. Identify time in your schedule to work out. Visualize the start of your activity for the next day. Note how good you’ll feel having gotten a few miles in.

Larger activation strategies have to do with finding personal meaning in your quest to improve your fitness. Set good goals for yourself that: are trackable, have a deadline, require you to push yourself and are fulfilling. Running can be a great way to break free from “What’s the point?” type-thinking and can also help with overcoming apathy.

In Running is My Therapy, through personal narratives and well-explained research, Douglas also notes that the short- and long-term effects of running on the brain and body can be profoundly positive, particularly for those who struggle with anxiety and depression. Running opens up regular opportunities to prove self-defeating thoughts wrong and to feel better about ourselves through our own abilities. The book itself is motivating, interesting and helpful, particularly for those who struggle with depression and anxiety; or feel overwhelmed by life stressors. If running is your thing, and your motivation to enjoy winter running needs a boost, it’s definitely worth the read!

For more ideas on how to stay active during the winter months, check out these other articles by MSU Moves

Winter Warm Up Couch to 5k

Embrace the Elements and Get Outside This Winter


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