A few weeks ago my 10-year-old daughter came down with a cold. Nothing makes me more stressed out.
And nothing hurts my running performance more than being stressed, losing sleep and getting out of my routine.
There’s been a lot of research over the years about how stress affects our health and mood. I’m convinced it affects my running performance, too. It seems that whenever I’m feeling stressed, my running performance takes a significant drop.
When my daughter caught her cold, I was thrown for a loop.
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I had to run around town buying her medicine to help her feel better. I was up throughout the night when she woke up thirsty or needed a cough drop or some medicine. And, of course, I worried about her.
It’s no wonder I struggled in my workouts those few days.
We all face stress in our busy lives. There’s the pressure of work, school, parenting and more. Even having fun can be stressful ... have you ever been to Disneyland with two kids?
So while I work on my running form, my fitness level and sticking to my training plan as I prepare for my June 1 marathon, I also spend time trying to keep my stress level in check.
Here are a few ways I try:
• Sleep well. This is not rocket science. When you’re tired all the time, things that might not usually make you stressed will make you frustrated and frazzled. When I’m getting a good night’s sleep every night, I have more energy during the day and am in a better mood. This keeps me more equipped to tackle the challenges of everyday life. There are many ways to improve sleep. Try to sleep and wake at regular intervals, keep your bedroom free of distractions like TV or computers, and make sure you have a good bed and pillow.
• Relax. I try to find time every day for relaxation. I try to start my day with about 15 minutes of quiet time, drinking my morning coffee before my kids get up. This allows me time to think about my day and ease me into the active portion of my morning (taking kids to school, working out, going to work). I also sometimes take a hot bath while listening to calming music. If you’re really serious about relaxing, you can try meditation or yoga.
• Exercise. You’d think working out would make you more tired during the day. But it has very much the opposite effect. The endorphin boost I get from completing a good run or workout improves my mood and makes me feel energized. Also, getting in a good workout builds my confidence in the way I look and feel, making it easier to tackle the stress of the day.
• Eat right. Fueling your body well gives you energy, and a lack of energy can add to your frustration and stress levels. When you have good energy, both physically and mentally, you get through the day much easier.
• Get outside. When I feel down, I always try to head outside. I take the dog for a walk, shoot baskets, or just sit on the porch. Sometimes just looking up at the sky at night helps me realize that my problems aren’t so huge and helps me put things in perspective.
• Smile and laugh. Seems silly, but just smiling and laughing can lift your spirits. One way to do this – besides watching old George Carlin videos on YouTube – is to surround yourself with people who are positive, funny and happy. This is one reason I rejoined Team In Training. The people are positive, happy to be out running and raising money for a cause, and I always laugh and smile when I’m with my teammates.
A team for moms
Speaking of Team In Training ... the Northern San Joaquin Valley chapter of TNT is launching a new program for busy moms and others who want to train to walk or run a 5K and, at the same time, raise funds to benefit the nonprofit Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Participants will begin training on March 29 and complete their season on May 17 by running or walking in the Oakdale Chocolate Festival Fun Run.
While this new event is called Moms in Training, it is open to dads, too.
It sounds like a great way to begin or continue your fitness journey while getting your feet wet with a great organization like TNT.