Running with Anxiety

Running is a powerful tool for maintaining good mental health, but what happens when that mental health is hindering your training?

Because I’m really struggling with this right now.

I have strugged with anxiety since I was in my early twenties. Well, it was diagnosed and medicated in my twenties, when my hair started falling out and I finally asked for help. But I have always been an anxious person.

I haven’t been medicated for years, and I had gotten into a rhythm with my body, where I went about my life and it let me know when I needed to slow down a little, to concentrate on more physical activity, and to take time to re-anchor myself. You can probably map my mental health journey to a log of my gym visits.

With the global pandemic – unsurprisingly – I’ve been struggling with managing my anxiety. It’s one of the reasons I set myself this challenge of running a half-marathon. I’ve been doing my guided meditations, limiting caffeine, and making sure I head to bed at a good time to get my 8 hours of shut eye. Some of my bigger fears have come to pass, and while that has offered some relief, I still have not breathed properly in weeks. Probably 2-3 months, if I’m honest.

Shallow and tight.

And I didn’t realise quite how bad it was until I started running. The first few runs I was really out of breath – of course I was – I’m not a runner and my cardio fitness terrible (for now). But I’ve come to realise that it’s primarily by breathing holding me back on my runs.

While cardio exercise is usually medicine for my mental health woes, it’s not helping now. My anxiety is basically punching me in the stomach as I warm up at the starting line.

My worries aren’t about the run. I actually really enjoy it, when I’m filling my lungs with the air they’re crying out for.

But I’m breathing into my chest, not my abdomen, and I find I’m holding my breath when I’m not actively concentrating on it. Iiiiiiiinnnnnn… ooooouuuutttt…

Have you experienced anything similar?
Any tips?

6 thoughts on “Running with Anxiety

  1. I’ve always found that practicing yoga that is focused on breath can help in breathing. I think you should also make sure you manage expectations too. You’re going to struggle with breath until you get used to running. I was told that it takes 4-6 weeks to get in shape. I say be patient and keep doing what you’re doing.

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  2. find a scenic route to divert your attention with the view. Start with base running try talking when you run when its hard for you to talk adjust your pace. Running is a slow process and takes a lot of patience. Once you get into it its fun and rewarding! All the best with your half marathon 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Week Two – Progress – Chafing Rainbows

  4. Take a long time to stretch and warmup. Go running like it doesn’t matter. If you are running for time, forget the time and just run for distance. Then don’t set a distance. Just take a slow run for the sake of running. Stop if you feel like stopping. Then start again. If you wear earbuds, take them off and listen to nature or the sounds of the city. Sometimes music creates stress. If you want earbuds, listen to a Shakespeare play. One of the old British recordings. You will forget about running and get absorbed in the play. I had a Shakespeare class in college and I was to lazy to read them so I listened to the tapes on my Walkman thing and it was amazingly absorbing.

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