Running is a powerful tool in coping with depression and really just life in general. The physical activity relieves stress while releasing endorphins that elevate the mood. Many of the runs I do have the sole purpose of giving me release from the chains of depression.
Runs all need a purpose. Some days it is a cure-all for emotional distress. Other days it is pushing for a new personal record. And at other times it is also a chance to seek out new adventures.
What happens when a run lacks purpose? Most runs that lack purpose feel flat and unfulfilling. You naturally fall back into habits and the full benefit of that run gets lost. On the other hand, giving a run purpose provides a foundation for the movement in that run and helps you focus expectations.
How do you set purpose for a run?
- Begin by planning ahead. Having a training plan that identifies each run and its purpose ahead of time helps set the stage long before you lace up your shoes.
- For each run decide what conditions you need to fulfill that purpose. For example, if I am doing a tempo run, I like to get some faster friends along for the ride to help me push the pace. Make arrangements to have those conditions met.
- The night before set the stage for execution. Is the intention of your run to socialize with friends after work? Then be sure to pack clothes so you don’t have to come home after work, but rather can go straight to your meet-up.
- At the beginning of each run, silently or out loud, set an intention. Tell yourself, “On Today’s run I want to……” Use this intention to set the expectation for the run and let all other expectations go. If your intention is to use the run as a recovery run, that is the intention. Do not expect to set a new personal record on Strava that day and be okay with that because running fast is not the intention for that days run.
- Don’t be afraid to adjust your purpose if you need to for that day. You may have an endurance run planned, but just need to get anger and frustration out so you can be present for your family. Do it. Maybe you are tired from a long week and just need an easy run or have missed a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Change your purpose to get what you need in your life.
What are some examples of purposes for a run? We often think of the purely physical purposes….tempo run, fartlek run, long run, and so on. But for the majority of us, there are far greater and more important reasons to run than just getting faster or running longer.
Here are some of the intentions I choose to set before a run:
- Social interaction – spending time with friends and deepening relationships
- Good for the soul – spending time in nature and reconnecting with my inner self
- Adventure – seeing and exploring new places
- Stress Relief – pounding out anger from a hard and frustrating day
- Recovery – moving my muscles in an easy way to stimulate recovery from hard efforts
- Building Speed – shorter bursts of faster speed to build speed for longer runs
- Building Endurance – long miles in an aerobic zone to build the bodies endurance
Picking the purpose of your run helps you be ever mindful of what you are seeking to get out of your running. If you give running the chance, it will deliver far more than physical fitness. It will deliver some of the strongest friendships, the best mental health medicine, ability to deal with conflict and challenging events in life, and so much more.
What are some other intentions you have set for a run? How do you give your run purpose?
Build longevity, embrace the delicate within and let the journey continue…..