Guest blog: Running with anxiety

I don’t often feature guest blogs on here, but I’m glad to make space for this honest and thought-provoking piece written by an amazing woman whose friendship changed my life.

At the beginning of 2017, I decided to have another go at the Couch to 5k program. It’s gone a lot better this time than my 2014 attempt (when I stopped in Week 4, but was already a convert – it was “right for me”, just not “right for now”). But this has been because of a couple of decisions about how I’m approaching running this time. Call it personal growth.

My problem is keeping motivation up. Sticking with it. Don’t ask me to list the personal objectives I’ve had that were abandoned halfway through. It’s embarrassing how many there are. No, it’s shaming. But the advice on running has a common theme:

  • find a running buddy
  • join a club
  • enter a race .

I understand how all of these work. You don’t want to let someone else down. It’s no longer about just you. What will they think? I’ve paid money to enter, what a waste. I understand how all of these motivations work. It’s about making your exercise about more than just you. Good tactic.

But I’ve been experiencing (I just deleted “suffering” because I don’t want to wallow, but you draw your own conclusions) anxiety and depression. This time last year, it got so bad that for a two month period, I did not wash. At all. I’m not proud of it. Rather the opposite. But it helps as a yardstick. I’m feeling better than I did then. And I’ve taken up running. I’m looking for ways to bolster my motivation. And all I find are articles suggesting the above three approaches.

Here’s the thing. All three sound to me like emotional blackmail. All three are anxiety-inducing. All three run counter to why I’m enjoying running in the first place. All three almost guarantee I will fail if I try to adopt them.

What I am loving about running is that it’s not a competition. It’s not a class. It’s just me. While I far prefer getting out of bed, changing into my running gear and going for a run as soon as practicable, it doesn’t have to be that way. Life doesn’t necessarily accommodate what works best. What generally, actually, happens is I go walk the dog in my pyjamas, we eat breakfast, I read about today’s awful news – THEN I change into my gear, etc.

But here’s the thing. If I’m not able to do it right that moment, the park isn’t going anywhere. I can do it in half an hour. Or after lunch. Or at 3pm. Or tomorrow. And I understand that for a lot of people, this is a problem with running. This is what impedes motivation. You don’t have to do it now, because there’s always another moment. And that’s why the tactics above are suggested. For me, it’s the strength. I really want to do it. That’s not to say I’m not afraid. I was petrified about the switch from run/walk to run. But that there is always another opportunity is what helps me. I can run any time. It’s easier in the morning, but there’s no rule saying I can’t run in the afternoon. I can’t do it right now. Give me a minute…

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About abradypus

A Bradypus or Sloth am I, I live a life of ease, contented not to do or die but idle as I please; ... [Michael Flanders and Donald Swann]
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2 Responses to Guest blog: Running with anxiety

  1. blackandtabby says:

    This is exactly why I loved running when I first started. No pressure (except what I put on myself), no awkward small talk with running buddy, freedom to run, or walk, or stop and take photos if I wanted to. It’s only 8 years on I finally like running with others.

    Enjoy your journey.

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