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This Wellness Influencer Perfectly Describes the Mental Health Benefits of Running

If you've ever thought "running is my therapy," you're not alone. There's just something about pounding the pavement that puts your mind at ease, making it a great way to take care of both your physical and mental health. That's why when we saw a recent post by wellness influencer Maggie Van de Loo of @coffeeandcardio, it really struck a chord. Maggie's account features tons of healthy food, helpful insights on self-care, and a serious passion for logging miles. Most recently, she shared exactly what it is about running that helps her de-stress.

 

I talk a lot about how much I love running, and exercise in general for assorted health and fitness things. And if I have said it once, I've probably said it a million times, but exercise and in particular running is one of the only times that my mind is quiet. I constantly have a stream of what next; things I need to do, see, finish, remember. Worries and goals and dreams and hurts. And those things can be good, can be motivating. And they can also be so overwhelming. Combined with the never ending stream of information from screens pushes me towards the analysis paralysis kind of anxiety. The worry about what to do so hard you just never do anything but have a stomachache about it kind of stress. Running quiets those thoughts. Reduces my to do list to two things; 1. Left, right, left, right, left, right, left... 2. Don't forget to breathe. As simple as those two things are, and as silly as it sounds, the fact that I spend multiple hours a week running away just to turn around and run back, or doing yoga, or cooking. Doing those things is the reason I can do all the other things I do, because it gave me time to work everything out when it was just me and the road. Just one foot in front of the other. Step by step until you are back where you belong.

A post shared by Maggie (@coffeeandcardio) on

If you consider yourself a runner, her thoughts will probably ring true for you too. "Exercise and in particular, running, is one of the only times that my mind is quiet," she wrote in her caption. "I constantly have a stream of 'what next'; things I need to do, see, finish, remember. Worries and goals and dreams and hurts. And those things can be good, can be motivating. And they can also be so overwhelming," she said. "Running quiets those thoughts. Reduces my to do list to two things; 1. Left, right, left, right, left, right, left... 2. Don't forget to breathe." (Side note: Here are 13 mental health benefits of exercise.)

 

I get a lot of comments and messages when I talk about running that usually say something to the effect of; “that’s so cool that you are a runner. I wish I could run”. And then I am sad, because if you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. There have been days where walking ten minutes was as long as I could manage and there have been days where I could run forever, and everything in between. One of the things that helps me feel like a runner is learning more technical information about my runs. I've mentioned before that my @uarunning Speedform Velociti Record Equipped shoes track runs and sync to @Mapmyrun. The data tracking includes standards like average pace and distance, but also ranks your runs and offers things like cadence analysis based on elevation gain, and workout. Having technology that can track and record all those things while I do what I love (like run along these gorgeous views with some inspirational ladies) helps me enjoy my runs, and reflect on them with some cold hard facts later. Even if it's as simple as noticing that I ran my fastest mile on a day I was super frustrated at work, or that I'm a little slower than average on the days I don't get enough sleep, the more I understand my runs, the more I understand myself, my motivations, my abilities. Ready y’all? Repeat after me; I can. I will. #iwill #championthewe #uarunning @uarunning @underarmour #sp

A post shared by Maggie (@coffeeandcardio) on

Running isn't only about stress relief. Maggie points out that it can actually have other benefits that you'd never expect. "Running with someone can strengthen a relationship like you wouldn't believe," she tells Shape exclusively. "Running with people builds such a special bond and creates a distinct support network that I have been hard-pressed to find anywhere else. From run clubs, to running half marathons with a sorority sister, to friend running dates where we solve all the world's problems, there is nothing like it." Are you convinced you need a run buddy yet?

And if this all sounds really appealing but you firmly believe you're "not a runner," Maggie has a little bit of encouragement. "My favorite thing about running is that if you run, then you *are* a runner. Doesn't matter how far, or how fast you are going," she says. While she does acknowledge that getting to that place where you can zone out on a run (instead of thinking "is this over yet?") takes a bit of work, she says a running app that let her track her progress was motivational for her. (For a little inspiration, see how Anna Victoria learned to become a runner.)

"Running might not be the thing that makes your heart sing and your worries fall away, and that's okay too," she says. "Don't stress yourself out trying to de-stress with a workout that you don't like! Part of my journey with running was wading through all of the workouts that were a great physical workout but didn't actually help me manage stress as well, or the ones that were supposed to be great for 'insert wellness purpose here' but actually didn't resonate with me at all." Eventually, you'll find something that clicks, and your brain *and* body will be better for it.

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