Exercise for Mental Health

We all have our own reasons for exercising. Most of us want to look better, feel better, boost energy, and become stronger. But what about our mental health? Exercise does wonders for mental health, and I don’t even need scientific studies to prove it.

I lived it.

In my early twenties, my I neglected my health. I went though a bad break up, moved in with my parents after a few years of living on my own, and took up a bar tending job to finish my Psychology degree. I wasn’t exercising or eating healthy. I was just going though the motions until one day I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the reflection.

I blamed everyone else for not telling me what I looked like, although I would have probably bitten their heads off. I started to realize how long it had been since I wore something besides sweat pants and work clothes. I started to realize how crappy I really felt inside. I went to the gym thinking I would jump right back into the same exercises that I did with ease during my high-school lacrosse days and left 5 minutes later with my tail between my legs.

What happens next is most important….

I walked. I put on my favorite music and walked out the front door. I didn’t feel like it and I had every excuse in the world not to, but I did it. It was only for 15 minutes but I did it. And then I went again the next day. And the next. I didn’t drop an ounce at first, but it motivated me to eat a little healthier. So I did. Before you know it, I had a little pep in my step and felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It took time and I had to keep the motivation alive along the way, but the simple act of moving myself from the couch to the street was the beginning of a beautiful journey to health and happiness.

Your Brain On Exercise

Endorphins

Endorphin release creates a feeling of euphoria. Endorphins counteract pain receptors and trigger positive feelings, much in the same way as morphine.

I felt HAPPIER.   When I came home from my walks, I felt more positive. I went from being disappointed that I could only last 15 minutes to excited that I made it 1 mile.

 

Norepinephrine

 An increase in norepinephrine enhances the body’s ability to handle stress, which aids in anxiety and depression.

I felt more RELAXED. I stopped blaming others. I stopped eating or sleeping when I was overwhelmed. Instead, I walked out the door and didn’t look back.

 

Self confidence

I started to feel more COMFORTABLE in my own skin a little more each day. I stopped dodging pictures and family get togethers. I started becoming more social with each day, and it felt good.

 

Sound Sleep

When you exercise, your core temperature rises. As you continue to move around, you stay warm. When you wind down at the end of the day, your core temperature lowers signaling your body that its time to rest.

I didn’t realize how badly I slept until I woke up RESTED.

 

Inspiration

You start to realize that what you are doing is inspiring those around you and that is THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD!

I felt INSPIRED to share my healthy lifestyle with my loved ones which empowered me to keep going.

 

 

Regardless of what “moves” you, you will experience these wonderful things when you begin a healthy exercise regimen. So what are you waiting for? Get up and GO!

 

single step.jpg

 

Running Technique: Be Aware!

People enjoy running for a wide variety of reasons. Whether your reason to lace up is for health or fun, stress relief usually goes hand in hand. However, if you aren’t aware of your running technique things might turn out just the opposite.

Why do you run? Click to find what running means to you.

why run

Start off with some good ol’ people watching. Take a good look at 5-10 people and evaluate their stride. Can you guess what you might notice? Everyone has a very unique way of doing it. You can read articles galore about the “right” way to run, but the truth is that we all have distinctive qualities that set us apart. Some of us have short legs, long legs, flat feel, high arches, small hips, wide hips, my list is endless….but i’m sure you get the picture! What works for someone else may be uncomfortable to you. The key is to know a few simple rules to follow during each run. Complete a body scan every so often during your run to tweak yourself back into alignment.

runingoodform

Work your way from top to bottom:

Head

Be aware of your gaze.

-Don’t ever look down. Some people are very concentrated while running and may let their eyes fall to their feet. This could cause a lot of stress on your neck which leads to tightness and fatigue. Your gaze will guide you naturally, so keep it forward. Look ahead a good 50 feet or so toward the horizen.

-Pretend that you are hanging from an imaginary string from the top of your skull, keeping your head centered between your shoulders. Avoid leaning too much forward (or backward) by being aware of where your chin is pointing.

-Keep your jaw relaxed, don’t clench your teeth. Be aware of your automatic facial strains to avoid tension headaches.

Body

Good posture is key.

-Your shoulders should be low and relaxed. If you feel them raising to your ears and feeling tense, take a few seconds to shake it out. Treat yourself to a few forward shoulder rolls.

-Don’t be slouchy! Again, your your imaginary string to pull you up. Run tall and proud! By doing this, your torso and hips will be in optimal position. If you are hunching or tilting, take a recovery walk and correct it before continuing. Bad posture can lead to lower back issues.

-Engage your abs. Keeping a strong core will also help those pesky lower back twinges.

Stride

Keep it personal.

-You must perfect your stride to where it’s comfortable to YOUR  body and height. Try not to waste your energy by lifting your knees to far off the ground. A low, strong stride is better for running distance (versus sprinting). Keep your knees flexible and unlocked at all times.

-Your arms should be moving naturally. Be sure to keep a loose grip. It may be natural to close your hand, but don’t clench your fists. Lightly touch your middle finger to your palms at most.

-Don’t slam the ground with your feet! Your should land lightly. Briefly touch the ground and powerfully spring into your next step using your calf muscles. You should be landing mid foot and rolling onto your toes. A soft, quiet run is your goal. People should never be able to hear you coming.

 

Your simple checklist:

Looking ahead?                           Check! √

Loose neck/head/shoulders?   Check! √

Engaged abs?                     Check! √

Running tall with posture in alignment?   Check! √

Low strides?                      Check! √

Loose knees/ankles?       Check! √

Staying “sneaky”?   Check! √

chishoes

(is THAT why they call them sneakers?! Tee-hee :))

So there you go! Now you can complete your full body scan throughout your runs for an optimal experience. Keep running enjoyable! Avoid muscle strains, tension, and stress on your body.

And MOST importantly, stretch properly! You can scan yourself a million times, but without stretching you are asking for problems!

Read up on why stretching is so important and what you should be doing religiously.

Stretch (like Armstrong)

Mandatory Runner’s Stretches

Static Stretch Series