Running away from the stress

This time of the year can be stressful as a student. With Christmas past and January exams and deadlines looming, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by it all. Everyone has different ways to deal with anxiety and try to keep a positive state of mind; my favourite one is to lace up my trainers and head out of the door for a run. 

Running provides space, both physical and mental. Whether you’re listening to music, a podcast, or just thinking about how much your legs hurt and when you can next slow down to a walk, the chances are it will give you half an hour away from trying to remember that one fact that just won’t stick. There’s also the benefit of the famous ‘runner’s high’; the endorphin rush after finishing a run that leaves you feeling like you can conquer anything you set your mind to. Not a bad mindset to have when you’re looking for some inspiration for the last section of your assignment.  

There are loads of different ways to get in to running at university, whatever your level. There is a university social running group, as well as weekly 5k and 10k runs organised by the university athletics club. If, like me, you prefer to run alone, try downloading a couch to 5k app and follow the instructions. The dark evenings at this time of year will offer you some privacy if you feel self-conscious; just make sure you’re equipped with some reflective gear, or even some fairy lights! 

One of the best events to attend if you’re new to running (or if you’re an experienced runner looking for a wider community of like-minded people) is parkrun. If you haven’t heard of parkrun, where have you been?! Ok, so maybe parkrun isn’t as famous as it may seem to dedicated participants, but once you try it you’ll probably find yourself singing its praises to pretty much anyone who is patient enough to listen. Parkrun is a free, weekly 5k run at 9am on a Saturday. It’s timed but you’re encouraged to go at your own pace, even if this means walking the whole thing! It takes place in local parks and is entirely run by volunteers. The most local one to student areas of Sheffield is Endcliffe park, but if you live further out then just head on to the parkrun website and find your nearest one.

A benefit of parkrun which is also a wider benefit of running is that it’s totally free! All you need is a good pair of trainers and you’re good to go. Lots of people might avoid signing up for a gym membership this time of year because they know that, after the initial rush of post-Christmas guilt/enthusiasm, they won’t go enough to make it worth the monthly fee. Running has none of this commitment – and, even better, you can do it anywhere and any time.

A common fear that people have when trying running for the first time is that they will be judged by others. Once you start running, though, you realise that actually everyone is too involved in their own lives to care much about what you’re doing. They might look at you for a couple of seconds as you pass but, trust me, that’s all it will be. They’ll quickly be distracted by their phone, children or book and will forget you even passed them. On the other hand, they might have a much more enthusiastic reaction. Now that I run myself, when I see others starting their running journey my reaction is nothing but positive. Generally a thought of ‘good for them!’, probably followed by a reminder that I too need to go for a run later!

So if you’re feeling stressed, or just feel like you want to get more active after a relaxed Christmas, then what are you waiting for? Grab your trainers and get moving. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll lose nothing by having a go, and – take it from me as someone who, a few years ago, couldn’t imagine anything worse than going for a jog – you might even enjoy it. 

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