How to use Running for Stress Relief this Holiday Season

It’s no secret that the holiday season often brings on a downward spiral of stress and fatigue.  You might notice that you feel exhausted or frazzled as you pass by hundreds of Christmas cards and plastic-wrapped gift sets at the mall, or maybe you find yourself a little more easily angered now that the season of pumpkin spice lattes and beautiful fall colors have passed their prime.  To make matters worse, it’s getting harder and harder to fit in your daily run or workout amidst all the hustle and bustle as the new year approaches.  Regardless of how stress rears its ugly head in your own life, this holiday season is a great time to get back on track with your running program.  It’s not just for weight loss and heart health: running has been shown to be a potent stress-buster and mood-lifter and might be just what you need to keep a level head over the winter and beyond.   Here are a few ways to use running as therapy to decrease stress and keep your mental health in check during the tense holiday season.

Little By Little

You’re probably familiar with “runner’s high”, a term used to describe a euphoric feeling that exercisers often experience during periods of moderate- to high-intensity exercise.  While there are several theories as to which neurotransmitters are actually responsible for creating a “runner’s high”, there’s no question that you’ll feel more powerful, optimistic, and full of energy on the days you choose to go for a run.  Stress can wreak havoc on your energy levels and cognitive function, but research has shown that hitting the pavement for as little as ten minutes can kick stress and moodiness to the curb and boost your energy levels for the rest of the day (Hansen, Stevens, & Coast, 2001).  Even if you think you’d rather stay inside wrapped in a blanket than lace up your sneakers for a quick three-miler, remember how you good always feel once your cool-down starts and it’s time to head home: it’s always worth it.    

Find A Rhythm

Creating a new positive habit or reinforcing an old one can work wonders on your mental health by helping you mark each day as a success.  Making a point of sticking to regularly scheduled runs during your week, even if they’re short, will help you feel a sense of accomplishment as you go to bed each night.  That sense of accomplishment will encourage and motivate you each day and soon you’ll have a healthy habit to keep you on the move and feeling optimistic even through stressful moments this holiday season.  Plus, it’s a few minutes that you can take for yourself, with no phone calls and no emails, during a time usually crammed full of caring for family, friends, and co-workers. Write your scheduled runs in your daybook or calendar so you have a solid reminder to take care of yourself and your needs, and let friends and family know how important it is that you stick to your plan.

Have A Sense Of Purpose

Setting and achieving goals can be therapeutic too.  A good goal doesn’t have to be lofty; its purpose here is to give you a focal point when the season around you seems blurry and unfocused.  Is there an area of town you haven’t explored yet?  Your goal could be to do at least one new running route each week.  Are you skimping out on speed work?  Make a point of scheduling fartlek sessions into your plan.  As you pass these small milestones you’ve made for yourself, your sense of success and accomplishment will soar.    

Sprint To The Finish

If you’re finding it hard to fit your runs into your busy holiday schedule, sprint training might be an option for you.   Adding some high-intensity sprints to your running program allows you to shorten your running time, plus get an added boost in cardiovascular and muscular endurance.  In addition, sprint training has been linked to an increase in memory and cognitive function (Praag, 2008), two qualities that tend to fall by the wayside while juggling the holiday season’s demands.  When you feel pressed for time, try implementing a session of interval, or fartlek, training: periods of light jogging interspersed with short, all-out sprints.  A typical session might consist of two minutes of light jogging with thirty seconds of sprinting and repeating five to ten times.  What used to be a light hour-long run can be easily shortened to 15 or 20 minutes while still keeping your heart and lungs fit and strong and your head clear and focused.  Even adding just one sprint session a week will make you feel like you have more time to accomplish your holiday chores.

Get Some Fresh Air

As the new year approaches, the days get shorter and shorter until it seems like the sun has completely disappeared!  You might find yourself getting a little bummed out from all the darkness, and there’s a reason: no exposure to sunshine means you produce a lot less vitamin D,  a micronutrient that’s been connected to seasonal affective disorder and winter moodiness (Kerr, et al., 2015).  Getting a run in during a sunrise or sunset can boost your vitamin D production and fend off those seasonal mental funks you might find yourself in.  If you’re cooped up in your home or office building all day, getting a blast of fresh air, even if it’s cold, can help you recharge and stay productive through your work day.  If you can fit a run in over your lunch break when the sun is at its highest, you’ll find yourself ready to take on the rest of the day with a whole new outlook.  You might even be able to convince a few co-workers to go for a dash with you for a casual, stress-free social event.

Get A Running Buddy

Ask a friend, family member, or co-worker if they’d like to do a few runs with you.  Our interactions with others during the holiday season tend to be task-oriented and attached to demands or requests.  Getting a running buddy gives you a chance to have some social interaction in a casual, friendly setting while still fitting your run into your day.  Talking together about the things you are looking forward to over the holidays this year can revive your positive mindset, plus the added company gives you some accountability to keep your running habit in high gear when things get stressful.  You might even be able to find a local running club to run with a larger group for the same benefits.

Even though the holidays bring stress and frustration on each year, it’s easy to use your running habit to your advantage as a way to lower your stress levels and elevate your mental health.  Implementing just one of these tips can make drastic changes in your productivity and will add a sense of accomplishment and relief to boost you forward into another successful training season.


References
Hansen, Cheryl J., Larry C. Stevens, and J. Richard Coast. “Exercise Duration and Mood State: How Much Is Enough to Feel Better?” Health Psychology 20.4 (2001): 267-75. Web.
Kerr, David C.r., David T. Zava, Walter T. Piper, Sarina R. Saturn, Balz Frei, and Adrian F. Gombart. “Associations between Vitamin D Levels and Depressive Symptoms in Healthy Young Adult Women.” Psychiatry Research 227.1 (2015): 46-51. Web.

van Praag, H. Neuromol Med (2008) 10: 128. doi:10.1007/s12017-008-8028-z

Lumo Run Success Story: How Lumo Run has helped this user shave 30 seconds off his mile time

Guest post by Lumo Run user Jose S.

I love my new Lumo Run. It is completely unnoticeable attached to the back of my shorts. I wondered about the clip, but I forget it is there – usually until well after the run is over and I’m taking the shorts off. I’ve had zero problems with the app or syncing with my iPhone. The appearance of the app is sharp and easy to navigate. The videos and text on what the data are measuring are clear and easy to understand.

Most important though is the data it provides. I love numbers and collecting data on my runs, so I’ve purchased lots of gadgets searching for that extra bit of data that will help me improve my running. GPS, heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence, etc. With everything else, it was always initially interesting to get the data, but then what do you do with it? How do you use it to get better? This is where the Lumo Run is the best! It coaches you on which measurement needs the most work, and gives you specific drills to improve on that. The drills are short, simple, and the videos in the app make them easy to learn, but the best part is that they actually work! The first measurement it had me work on based upon my own running form was cadence. Using the drills and the voice over coaching I’m definitely getting closer to my goal, sometimes even exceeding it.

Best of all is that it’s not just the measurement that is improving. I really do think my form is improving. It still feels a little uncomfortable to get my cadence up to 180, but as I continue to do so I am seeing various improvements in my running. First off, my pace has increased. On a normal steady-state runs I’ve seen 20-30 second per mile improvement. On speed workouts it has been a little less, but still a definite improvement. In addition, this improvement has come without having to increase my heart rate. Second, I notice that my legs (upper hamstrings) and lower back are no longer sore after my runs. I am guessing that is a result of there being less pounding on the ground as my form improves. Another interesting benefit is that during my runs I seem to notice my fatigue less. I think some of that is psychological as I am not focusing on how I feel at the moment, but rather on getting that fast turnover in my training. I find I really have to concentrate on cadence to increase it, and that takes my mind off of feeling tired. In addition, instead of telling myself to “run faster” which of course you then hear yourself say “I’m going as fast as I can already!” I’m telling myself to speed up my cadence/leg turnover – this seems to be much more easily accepted by my brain at least.

I’ve only been using it for a month, so to see this much improvement already really has me excited. I hope the gains continue, and maybe even less injury as I continue to work on the other aspects of my form.

How to fall in love with running

Guest post from Harry Wilson, the author of GoodHealthPlanning

Running is the easiest and cheapest way to get fit fast and it’s unbelievably therapeutic too! But what if running just isn’t your thing? Growing up I was always much happier playing in a field with a ball or on a court with a racket than going on a run. Until I signed up for my first marathon in 2013, and after that I kept on running. It just clicked and now I can’t stop! Here are my tips on how you too can fall in love with running:

  1. Don’t time yourself or worry about pacing. It’s all well and good if you are a professional runner or training for a specific race, but if you’re spending your run thinking about how far you have still to go or how fast (or slow) you’re going, you won’t be able to enjoy it.
  1. Go somewhere new. 18 months ago I moved to South London to an area I barely knew. The way I got to find all the great places around was by running. Just put your trainers on and go and see where you end up. It’s a great way to explore if you’re on holiday or bored of your usual lap of the park.
  1. Music or silence. It’s one or the other for me. Either you want to be romping along to your favourite tunes (I recommend a classic 90’s girl-power playlist), or in silence, taking in what’s around you. A random shuffle of your iPod won’t do it, you’ll get distracted skipping through all those songs that you’ve heard 1000 times already.
  1. Run in the rain. Trust me on this one. When it’s wet and miserable and you’ve had a disastrous day at work the last thing you want to do is go out into the cold. But instead of stuffing your face and wallowing, force yourself to go out, even if just for 20 minutes! Letting go of all your stress and anxiety and getting soaked with rain and sweat is the best therapy. This is tried and tested, believe me.
  1. Run with other people. As with any experience, it’s all the more fun to share it with other people. Local running clubs, meet-ups or friends. Feed off that group energy and just see how much easier it becomes.

And, finally…

  1. Start calling yourself a runner. Being a ‘runner’ isn’t like calling yourself a Doctor, it’s just a mindset. I run an OK 5k, a sloppy 10k, an average half marathon and I barely made it through my first marathon on two legs! I’m no Paula Radcliffe but I call myself a runner because I love to run. Follow these steps and you might too!

 

Here’s Why Your Arm Swings Matter

In the context of running, much of our attention is put on the lower half of our bodies with respect to what we’re doing with our feet, legs, and hips. But, there are actually some important things happening on our upper bodies that — with a little attention and help — could improve our running economy and enhance performance. In our last post, we discussed running and posture; here, we’ll talk about the importance of arm swings and how it affects our balance and stability. (hint: it actually still has a lot to do with your posture).

6 Must-Do Exercises to Improve Pelvic Stability

In one of our previous blog posts, we talked about the importance of pelvic stability in running form to help you improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. As a refresher, here is a quick recap on the pelvis and it’s importance in our running:

Pelvic movement happens on three different planes: sagittal, coronal and transverse, which correspond to tilt, drop and rotation respectively.

5 Things You Should Know Before Your First Marathon

Last Saturday, five Lumo team members set out for a weekend trip to Napa, California for the annual Napa Valley Marathon on Sunday. The beautiful, relatively flat course starting in Calistoga and ending in Napa was grazed only slightly with occasional showers and made out to be a relatively sunny and temperament day — perfect for a marathon!

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