Tag: national fitness day

Head-run versus leg-run, the benefits of physical exercise on mental health: a guest blog by Wyn Jones #HWBAssociateNinja

Head-run versus leg-run, the benefits of physical exercise on mental health: a guest blog by Wyn Jones #HWBAssociateNinja

And the winner is….. me

On the morning of 15th September 2019, I found myself with around 1,450 other people in a field in the middle of Yorkshire about to run a half marathon. Fortunately, it was a beautiful morning, but I would have run even if it was pouring with rain (honest). Many people were running with friends, running club colleagues, or were there with friends and family to cheer them on. Me, I love to run alone, music in my ear and updates from a running app through my earphone; the large crowds and large numbers of runners of the Great North Run are not for me. So why do I run? From about 8 miles onwards, believe me, it was a regular question in my mind.  

My reflections ….. one step at a time

Now having time to reflect, why do I run?  

  • Not for the glory – I am not going to win the race, or my age category.
  • I rarely run official events; I have completed 7 official runs this year out of 125 runs (according to my app)
  • Not for the camaraderie – I prefer running on my own at my own pace and with my own thoughts
  • I enjoy challenging myself 
  • I know it is easier to run when I haven’t gorged on take aways, cake, beer and I am carrying extra weight
  • Exercise helps me control my weight so I can occasionally gorge on take aways, cake, beer
  • Walking my dog is not enough to count as exercise, she stops and sniffs anything and everything
  • I get a sense of achievement from running, not the times, but just actually getting out to run. Therefore, I want to run until my legs, or a doctor, tell me physically I can’t do it anymore

Head runs verses leg runs

And yet, do I primarily run for the physical benefits? If I’m being honest with myself often, I run more often to benefit my mental health – what I call “head runs” rather than “leg runs.”

A “head run” gets me out of myself, gives me a sense of achievement and a level of confidence, even if it is a short, slow run.  Often a short, slow and frankly difficult run can give me a greater sense of achievement than one that is easy and flowing.  I can think about what is troubling me, reflect on my day, remember tasks I need to complete tomorrow all in the context of what I have learnt about resilience and problem solving and plan how to manage the tasks facing me, or just switch off. It helps me break out of the potential monotony of work, home, sleep, repeat. I must commit time to a run, so I have less time to complete other tasks, as a procrastinator, deadlines and time pressure help me get things done. I am possibly more effective with less time. 

Who knew what was possible?

In 2019 I have run four half marathons, one 10 mile and two 10 kilometre (Km) events, with three more 10 Km runs planned, before this year I had never run more than 10 Km. I have no ambition to run more than a half marathon.  I tip my hat to marathon runners; it just isn’t for me.  

Keeping on track

The social media and technology elements can be a force for good.  The app I use provides me with a lot of data which the data geek in me can analyse frequently and often – and I do like receiving and giving kudos for runs as it is great to get feedback.  Facebook alerts me to race opportunity and the social campaign for “this girl can” is a force for good and helps me think “this old bloke can” too.  

In resilience training and mental health support there is advice about noticing what negative triggers are can cause stress.  The reverse is also true, looking for positive triggers that help you physically and mentally. 

Overcoming your own personal resistance 

Now, I know running is not for everyone and I know that 15 years ago I would have totally refused to run unless it was last orders.  So, what are the positive triggers that make you feel good and help your health and wellbeing? It could be meeting with friends and family, reading a good book, listening to music, watching a play or film.  You need to be aware and “catch yourself in” the moment, not catching yourself out.  Then plan how to increase the opportunities for positive triggers. 

If you like the idea of social exercise, then I could not recommend Park Runs enough. They are not just for runners; walkers are very welcome and it’s free.  There should be one near you (in the UK). It is a 5 Km run, jog or walk on a Saturday morning, first timers are always made welcomed.  It can really set you up for the day. Having said I am an unsocial runner I really enjoy Park Run for the social element and camaraderie. 

My HWB cause… amongst many

In November, the Movember campaign will be running again.  This is an international campaign aimed at raising money and awareness for men’s health, including mental health support.  I will pass growing a Mo’ this year as I now have a beard and my wife has already suffered several Mo’s over the years.  I plan, however, to take up the run 60 Km in the month challenge (Google “Movember make your move” to find out more) and I plan to run the Leeds Movember 10 Km at Roundhay Park at the end of the month.

In conclusion find out what helps you and plan your time to invest in your health and wellbeing – because you are worth it. 

P.S. I finished the half marathon in a slower time than I hoped, but I had an enjoyable time, got a T-shirt, a medal, a chocolate bar, a bottle of water and lots of data on my app.  I am easy to please.