Running Is Good Therapy
Kailani Basuel

You can pretty much ask any runner the reasons why they run, and a lot of them will usually say that they find running to be very therapeutic. Last year as your ambassador, I wrote to you about the positive impacts of running with an emphasis on the physical, mental, and social benefits. This time I’m only focusing on just the therapeutic mental health benefits of it coming from a personal perspective.

2016 was definitely a bittersweet year. It was sweet because I ran a lot of fun races from the SF Giant Half-Marathon, to the Yosemite Half, to the Golden Gate Half, plus more. Not to mention I was also drafted into the first ever Starting Nine Ambassador program with the Giant Race! However, despite all the sweet moments that 2016 brought to me, it was also a tough year. In a way I felt like my life suddenly made a huge left-turn. I came to the realization that life is messy, and unfortunate things will happen to you that is beyond your control. I even got out of a long-term relationship, and I realized that even if you have your life planned out accordingly… life never goes according to plan. Life is just a huge adventurous rollercoaster filled with ups and downs, turns and twists. But with all the chaos of 2016, all the running, training, cycling and hiking that I did (as well as being an ambassador for the coolest race series ever), was all therapeutic to me.

There are numerous studies out there that all say aerobic exercises like running have proven to decrease anxiety, depression, and stress by improving self esteem and cognitive function. According to an article called “Exercise Mental Health” published from the Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, “...Improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain.” Overall the limbic system (in the brain), is stimulated and controls our motivation and mood. It improves our mental stamina and helps keep us focused. When we run, we stimulate the brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins that help make us feel happy and relaxed. But before I get too carried away with the physiologic process of this, the article basically proves that running is a very cost-effective way to improve health and quality of life. That’s why we all say, “running is cheaper than therapy.” With the other beneficial effects of running, it also includes distraction, self-efficacy, and social interaction with other runners. Self-efficacy can play a huge role in how we approach our goals, everyday tasks, and the challenges we all face in life.

Like I mentioned in my last blog post, running makes you feel confident, empowered and strong. When runners cross that finish line, they achieve a sense of accomplishment and a greater sense of self-reliance. Most of the time you will feel a “runner’s high” which is exhilarating. It’s the same type of feeling you get when you’ve reached the mountain peak with a grand view after a long strenuous hike, or when you’ve cycled countless miles and have reached your destination. You literally feel like you can conquer anything. Either way, when it comes to running or any type of aerobic exercise, just keep moving! Your body and mental state will love you for it.

During life’s most painful moments, running has taught me to keep moving forward one step at a time. Running has given me many things. It has given me new friends, a great support system, and people who continue to inspire me. It has also given me the mental capacity that I need to conquer the ups and downs, turns and twists of life and while running.

As the great Charles Jones says, “Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up, so you can be all that you were intended to be.” That’s what running has taught me. To keep moving forward even when you’re in a lot of pain. When I look at all my race medals, all I see is strength and perseverance. Even though there are times where I do feel physically and emotionally drained out, it just gives me more motivation to beat my PR and keep improving one step at a time. So that’s what this journey of running has been all about for me. Moving forward.

- Kailani Basuel , @kaybythebay
The Starting Nine

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