Friday, January 20

Beyond the health benefits

"For artists, entrepreneurs, and any other driven creators, exercise is a powerful tool in the quest to help transform the persistent uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that accompanies the quest to create from a source of suffering into something less toxic, then potentially even into fuel." ~Jonathan Fields, Fast Company
Of all the places I would expect to see an article extolling the virtues of exercise, Fast Company magazine would not top my list of likely sources. I'll admit, I read this article months ago, and only now am getting around to sharing it.

I can't say that I've done my own scientific study of the effects of exercise, but I believe strongly that there is a physical fitness / mental health connection. Fortunately the research backs me up on this. Exercise:
"has been shown to lead to reductions of more than 50 percent in the prevalence of the symptoms of anxiety. This supports exercise training as an additional method to reduce chronic anxiety." ~Richard Milani and Carl Lavie, New England Journal of Medicine
Granted, the authors warn, clinical anxiety or depression cannot and should not be treated with exercise alone. But exercise is a helpful addition to a comprehensive treatment program. And for the rest of us, the benefits are clear: less anxiety, less stress, more creativity, more productivity. (In addition to all those other health benefits.)

Why am I finally sharing this article?
Maybe it has something to do with "taper brain."

I woke up this morning anxious about the weather for race-day Sunday, which is forecast to be 70. Humid. With possible thunderstorms. These are not ideal racing conditions. I'd prefer 45 and dry, thankyouverymuch.

Normally when I am anxious about something, I lace up my shoes and run. Some of my most challenging work dilemmas have been solved after I've thrown in the proverbial towel and worked up a good sweat.

Staring down the keyboard doesn't make a solution
appear. But sometimes running down a long road can...
My clearest personal example of the exercise-brain connection occurred a couple of years ago while I was working on statistical/programming problem.

My coworkers and I were walled up in a room for hours trying to hammer out a solution. I got frustrated, broke up the meeting, and went out a 3 mile run through downtown San Diego. One of my project teammates is also a runner. I'm sure he understood. The other two, well, I'm sure they thought I was a quitter...

I beat the pavement in frustration. I hadn't stopped thinking about the problem, but I needed a change of scenery. But here's the interesting thing... as I rounded the last corner back to the office, the solution came to me in a "duh!" moment. I raced back into the office and explained my idea to the project team, sweat still dripping from my ponytail. (Now the other two coworkers also thought I was gross, but who cares!)

After dozens, maybe hundreds, of similar instances I have learned that sometimes going for a run is the best way to relieve stress or bust out of a mental rut. (Obviously my life is not a scientifically designed case-control study, but it works for me, and that's all that matters.)

Which is why it can be so hard to accept rest days.

Thank goodness the race is only two days away.
In the meantime, I'm going for a walk.

How do you deal with stress when you're sidelined from running?

1 comment:

  1. I think we all have those "a ha" moments when we're doing something that's relaxing our brain from all the clutter. Usually if I'm reading a book or relaxing I come up with my solutions very quickly. Great story


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