ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON RUNSTREET
By Marnie Kunz
As the pandemic stretches on, I wanted to take some time to weigh in with self-care tips for runners, as many people’s mental health and wellness have taken a beating. In addition to glossing over mental health, runners often neglect physical health in the pursuit of running goals. When I coach runners, oftentimes I have to persuade them to take rest days and to take care of nagging pains and injuries. We runners are a tough, disciplined bunch, which is great, but self-care often gets pushed to the back burner, which can lead to burnout, injuries, and mental health problems.
The good news is there are many self-care tips you can practice to help boost your mental and physical health. Whether it’s taking a rest day or a relaxing bath, just one act of self-care can go a long way towards rejuvenating your body and mind. Try doing at least one self-care tip a week to get started and take at least one rest day a week from running.
I advise my coaching clients to take a rest day each week to give the body a break from training and allow muscle recovery and rebuilding. If you are experiencing ongoing fatigue or pain, take more than one rest day and call your doctor if rest does not improve how you feel. Similarly, if you are experiencing ongoing mood issues, anxiety, or other mental ailments, seek out support from a trained therapist.
Self-care is not a cure for medical conditions or mental illness but is a great complementary practice for everyone and is something you can do for yourself regularly. When was the last time you did something nice for yourself? Let’s change that and get started.????
Here are my top 10 self-care tips for runners:
Self-Care Tip #1: Take a rest day. This is one of the easiest yet hardest things for runners to do- nothing! Take a day off from training and rest, chill, see family and friends. Do not run at all. Make a blanket fort, watch Netflix, do whatever you feel like but do not run. Allow your body to recover from training and your mind to enjoy other things for a day.
Self-Care Tip #2: Run without tracking yourself. It’s easy to get obsessed with numbers during training – times, miles, places, races. This can lead to burnout and measuring all runs by numbers instead of enjoyment and other factors. Give the numbers a rest and go on your next easy run without a watch or running app. Just enjoy the route and appreciate your body for carrying you through so many miles.
Self-Care Tip #3: Go for a hike. It’s no secret that Mother Nature is healing, so get outside and enjoy a hike on the wild side. According to a recent study, spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Being outside in natural beauty helps combat stress, improve mood and boost physical health.
Self-Care Tip #4: Play with pets. Speaking of nature, taking some time out to play with pets is another great way to unwind and de-stress. According to WebMD, pets help lower blood pressure, lessen anxiety and boost our immunity. So grab that squeaky toy and get ready to cuddle and scratch some furry ears.
Self-Care Tip #5: Take a bath. Bathing is the ultimate self-care, cleansing for body, mind, and soul. Turn on some soothing music, light a few candles and melt your troubles away as you sink into a warm bath. For tired runners’ legs, add some Epsom salt to soothe sore muscles.
Self-Care Tip #6: Get a massage. A massage is one of the best gifts you can give yourself as a runner. A good massage will help relax your mind and body and relieve tension in your muscles. In addition, massage increases flexibility and joint range of motion, which will help prevent running injuries. Not to mention you’ll feel renewed and invigorated after your massage.
Self-Care Tip #7: Take a nap. This is a tip from my Akita dog, who is the master of naps and chilling. Turn on some relaxing music, detach yourself from your devices and catch some Zs. An afternoon nap can help you de-stress, unwind and face the rest of the day with renewed energy.
Self-Care Tip #8: Meditate. Meditation offers a simple and fast way to reduce stress and anxiety. You can stop and meditate any time and any place by taking a few deep breaths, closing your eyes, and relaxing the body. For some beginner-friendly meditation exercises, check out the Calm app. If you do it regularly, meditation also offers long-term benefits that can carry over into your life when you’re not meditating, such as improved focus, better sleep, less anxiety, and better moods.
Self-Care Tip #9: Read a book. Reading is a great way to unwind, relax and let your mind explore new ideas, places, and people. For extra relaxation, read from a physical book or a dimly lit e-reader. If you use a tablet, make sure your notifications and other apps are turned off so as not to distract you or pull you into work. Check out my recommendations for the best running books if you’re looking for some running inspo in your next read.
Self-Care Tip #10: Tune in to an inspiring podcast, show, or movie. In today’s world, it’s easy to get bogged down by negativity in the news and on social media. Take a break and remember the great side of human nature by listening to an inspiring podcast or watching an uplifting movie or show. I am a podcast junkie and some of my favorite uplifting podcasts are Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness, and Hidden Brain podcast.
SELF-CARE FOR ALL
The importance of self-care cannot be overstated in today’s world of long work hours, 24/7 news and social media, and thousands of device notifications that we face each day. Practice at least one self-care technique each week and if you can, schedule a whole day for self-care. This will help your mental health and give your body a rest from the toll of stress and training.
Please note self-care is not a replacement for therapy or mental health treatments. Self-care can be a great compliment to mental health care and regular doctors visits. Please seek professional mental help or physical therapy if you are experiencing ongoing mental or physical pain.
Resources: Calm app, Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness, Hidden Brain podcast