How Exercise and Running can help with the stresses of life

Source: WebMD.com

Source: WebMD.com

This past week a monumental shift occurred in American politics, the people elected a new president in the person of Donald J. Trump. Now this in and of itself while big news is no cause for concern as elections are held every four years. But, unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you know what has transpired in the last sixteen months of American politics. Thus, the results of the election has underlined a deep divide in the electorate and catapulted a seemingly generally unpopular and controversial person into the role of president elect. Many are calling for boycotts, protests, cessation and are even threatening to leave the country and this is only locally. Internationally, the backlash has many governments and people weighing in with many expressing negative emotions, chief among them uncertainty as it pertains to US policy and relations with international counterparts. Amidst all of this life continues for the average man or woman. He or she must continue to rise with the sun and cope with life as it unfolds.

Whatever side you end up on, there’s no denying that life is enormously stressful for some people right now and extends a ways into the foreseeable future. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, and Winter looming, there’s enough going on to keep you in stress mode for some time. The runner and opportunist in me sees all that’s happening and is determined to use it as a platform to make necessary and positive improvements to myself, and to encourage the same of others. If you’ve never given thought to pursuing a health strategy before then there has never been a better time. A good exercise plan is a great idea to begin the holiday season and an excellent way to channel all negative emotions and energy in a positive way.

Exercise has been shown in countless studies to effectively treat stress, depression, anxiety and even the common cold (active.com). It is a universal remedy that is natural, relatively low-cost and pretty accommodating. Here’s how:

(1) It has been known to increase endorphins which lift your spirits and promote your feel good receptors. It’s why you often hear people talk about how great they feel post a run or an exercise session even if they had reservations about doing it in the first place.

(2) A good workout can cause you to sleep better. It reduces your chances of tossing and turning and affords you a more restful sleep which translates into less irritability and moodiness and promotes a more alert, driven and positive attitude.

(3) Running can provide an avenue to let go, block out and/or clear one’s head. Lacing up a pair of sneakers and going for a run engages your entire body system (muscular, cardio & respiratory) in getting on board in a cohesive response to stress which develops this ability for future responses.

(4) A group run or exercise class can promote healthy relationships and friendships that can provide encouragement, validation, accountability and forge solidarity while providing a host of avenues to engage in stress-relieving behaviors.

(5) A good exercise plan that promotes excellent health can give you focus and purpose and engages your time wisely thus providing less time to worry and dwell on things that are stress-inducing.

(6) Having a schedule or routine is a marvelous way to organize and take back control of your life especially during uncertain times or in times of political upheaval such as this. It gives one comfort to know that he or she is taking positive steps to get desired results.

(7) Running with new people, exploring a new route or trail, or taking on a new race distance or cross-training activity can provide stimulation as the element of risk or trying something new produces excitement and challenge; this channels our flight or fight responses into engaging in new methods to preserve self and sanity.

(8) Choose an exercise you love and you’ll get the best results. Life is challenging enough as it is without trying to take on something that will just add more stress. There are a variety of exercises to choose from. There is no rule that says you have to choose this or that. Find what works for you; whether it’s running, walking, cycling, yoga, kickboxing, swimming or any or all of these or one on the endless list of exercises out there. There is an exercise for you that will leave you happy and satisfied. Discover your niche, run with it and leave stress behind.

Getting into the zone where you appreciate that exercise or any of these activities provide a challenge yes, but is offset by your ability, focus and energy can be pretty liberating and empowering. No case has ever been made where stress allowed to thrived have produced anything but more stress, a decline in health and chronically negative attitudes and behaviors. The onus is on you, the individual, runner or not, to seize the opportunity before you and rise above current circumstances – just as the american patriot chooses to rise above partisan politics, for the greater good – in this case, for your greater good.

Sources: themayoclinic.com, active.com, runnersworld.com

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The Other Side of Running the TCS NYC Marathon: Volunteering and Cheering

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Last Sunday was Marathon Sunday here in New York City. Over 50,800 runners braved the most windy and chilly day we’ve had in the longest time for the coveted title and medal for having run the largest and, some would argue, best marathon in the world: the New York City Marathon. As far back as last year, I had decided I wasn’t running this year; I felt I wanted to explore and expand my boundaries and focus my running outside of the city. I’ll be honest, on Sunday I was torn. Witnessing runners of all persuasions with varying abilities and over 50,000 reasons for running brought out my competitive spirit and I couldn’t help but wish that I had run. On the flip side, volunteering at the start quickly assuaged those running notions as I witnessed the anxiety and chilly determination of runners as they hunkered down in near-freezing temperatures to await the start from as early as 6am.

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

We did the best we could, chatting them up and seeking to encourage them as we too bore the brunt of the wind. Finally, it was time to usher runners on their way, as the canon boomed in the distance declaring the sending off of the first, second, then third and finally fourth wave of runners at 10:55am over the Verrazano bridge in Staten Island to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York.” Consider those runners as they progressed throughout the five boroughs, oftentimes to the company of a head wind especially upon crossing the five land-mark bridges of the race. Tenacity is the one word that comes to mind, it describes the mindset and spirit that pervaded runners as they struggled against the odds, having to adjust their strategy and even goals. Through their journey they were not alone; accompanied each mile by cheering spectators: an estimated 1 million in total, and hard-working volunteers encouraging and providing sustenance, many persevered despite the prevailing conditions and made their way through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and finally to Central Park and the finish line.

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There was never a doubt that after finishing my shift I was going to be a part of the most amazing cheer crowd the world over. 26.2 miles of spectators lined the streets of New York City, themselves braving the weather to make this race the phenomenal experience it is. It wouldn’t be the same without them and so more than anything, I wanted to be a part of that. I chose to stand close to the finish in Central Park and for four hours, cheered my encouragement and support, along with thousands of others, for runners I had never met but felt such an affinity with. Running, jogging, hopping, walking, crawling they came: an incessant wave from all over the world: young, old and everywhere in between they kept on coming; smiling, crying, in-pain, determined and victorious, to the utter delight of the crowds they came. From as early as 12pm runners were already in Central Park, Wilson Kipsang leading the pack as he cruised to the finish line in a time of 2:10:55 and picked up his first New York Marathon title, $100,000 and an additional $500,000 for going on to win the World Marathon Majors title with his win here in New York. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Kietany won first place in the women’s category with a time of 2:23:10. We clapped, hooted, whistled, rang bells, screamed and cheered for hours for thousands as they made their way home to the finish line, more than 3/4 of which were first time NYC marathon finishers and/ or first time marathoners at that.

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

I finally gave in to the chill and my voicelessness around 6:30pm while runners just kept on coming, no end in sight. In spite of the cold, I walked away with an incredibly inspiring feeling and felt much love, kudos and the deepest admiration for all runners this year. It does a girl’s running heart good to see so much love, support and dedication for her sport of choice. Thank you New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon and the city of New York including all spectators, volunteers and runners for putting on a phenomenal event. See you next year. I will be running!

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