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?