Battling Running-Induced Stress


Stress is a topic I’m not fond of. For years, running has helped me deal with it during blowups at the office, riffs at home or just plain, rotten days. Hopping on the trail with a friend can ease the pressure with a little sunshine, fresh air and welcome distraction. On the flip side, there are times when a big dollop of cortisol gets tossed at me and causes my running to cease completely. A perfect storm, if you will. As a person who’s not easily overwhelmed, I can honestly say there are times (not many) when stress reduces me down to basic survival mode – it’s all I can do just to eat, sleep and breathe. While I’m no Wonder Woman (a girl can dream) I am the best judge of what my body can or cannot handle, and to determine if a hiatus from running is necessary.

Life Stress

Last month I skipped a few days (four total) of training in one week. My reasoning to my coach was that this was an abnormal situation, being that I had work-related deadlines and it also happened to be the last day of school for my kids. I was also preparing to leave town (for a running-related trip). I’m familiar with this dramatic collision of priorities versus life events because it usually happens during holidays and vacations (the latter in this case). My coach’s arrangement (after informing him of my failed efforts) was for me to just give him 10 minutes each day I decided not to run. Mind you I was also putting my family first because I’d be gone for four days, so 10 minutes was a sizeable chunk in my world. In reality, those 10 minutes would have given me an opportunity to take a step back while trying to operate on all cylinders. The chance to pull my head up from whatever I was doing (because I was trying to do too much) would have benefited me in ways I probably didn’t allow myself to grasp. Taking a few deep breaths would likely have reduced my stress level while also getting me moving (even for just a few minutes).

Relationship Stress

Running makes me a better employee, mother and wife. Unfortunately, being married to a non-runner means the stress of leaving the house for a long run rarely fades. A little devil on my shoulder is always reminding me of my impending absence when the kids wake up to start their day. Other times it’s my better half who’s whining about the fact that I’m leaving the house yet again to go for a run. There will always be guilt that I’m taking time away from my loved ones to get the miles in, especially when I’m gone for hours. But because I’m conscious of balancing the two I make a point to wake up earlier, and turn my lunch breaks into trail runs. So while there’s that little red guy with a tail on one shoulder shaking his finger, there’s an entire boy band on the other telling me to hang tough.

100-Mile Stress

Visualizing a training schedule for a marathon or a 50K in my head is easy, but I’ve recently begun dreaming about running 100 miles. It’s a distance I have yet to attempt, but the thought of just training for it stresses me out. Not to mention the fact that I’ve got to find a team to crew and pace me.  Which is why I’ve decided to take a step back and do it at my own speed. Throughout my history as a runner, I’ve always been conservative and built my confidence by doing so. You’ve got to believe in yourself and while there’s no reason you shouldn’t reach for the stars, don’t let a FOMO (fear of missing out) mentality allow you to jump the gun. Everyone is different, and when I’m ready to take the leap I’ll do it on my own terms. This sport is all about the long haul, and that’s precisely what I’m looking forward to.


About Author

Amy Clark is a freelance writer and runner living in Bend, Oregon. In addition to running marathons and ultra marathons, she has parasailed in Baja, snowboarded in Big Sky and fought wildfires for the U.S. Forest Service. A native of Oregon, Amy is working on her first extreme adventure novel while living (and running) in Bend.

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