My morning runs aren't always cathartic — in fact, sometimes I arrive home feeling worse than I did before taking off down the sidewalk. Whether I'm feeling sluggish and tired, or my anxiety is getting the best of me, feeling relaxed while running has proved to be challenging — and this experience is definitely more prevalent in the summer while running in intense heat and humidity. But the need to get outside for some alone time, exercise, and a change of scenery motivated me to find a solution to my stressed-out runs, and I got to work on implementing a few tiny tweaks to my running routine.
Ahead, you'll find the five tricks that helped me relax and reap the benefits of a morning run.
Concentrating on My Breath
When I'm in a particularly stressful situation or when my emotions run high, my breathing patterns get fast and shallow. As you can imagine, that makes running in 80-degree heat (which is already hard) all the more difficult.
To avoid getting overheated and overwhelmed, I started setting my alarm for an hour earlier to take advantage of the early morning breeze. Then, I began breathing on a rhythm — inhaling for a certain amount of counts and exhaling for a certain amount of counts. This type of breathing allows me to hyperfocus on every deep inhale and exhale, instead of getting wound up in my thoughts.
Switching Up My Playlist
My high-energy running tracks have grown stale over the past few months. Without music to zone out to, I ruminate over every sore muscle and mile-split. Switching up my workout playlist with suggestions from my friends, family, and fiancé has helped so much.
Hot tip: While fast-paced tunes will get you motivated to move, don't discount slower songs — they can help you chill out and quiet your mind on a long run, too.
Trying Mindful Running Sessions
Mindful running helps me stay in the present while on the pavement. It's another method I use to take my mind off of the temperature outside or feeling fatigued. The guided sessions are also a great tool to turn to while you're still working on forming that new playlist.
Having a Motivational Conversation With Myself
"I can do this!" Sometimes I just need to repeat that to myself over and over and over again. This self-motivating phrase gets me up steep hills and pushes me through those last few yards of my run when all I want to do is stop.
Walking It Out
While I'm a big believer in pushing myself to keep running — one step at a time — I realize it's important to know the difference between what my mind is telling me and what my body is saying. Sometimes I need to break my stride and walk it out for a little bit. After a few minutes, I usually feel rested and confident enough to pick up my pace and start running again. I've also learned there's absolutely nothing wrong with walking in the middle of a run, and I now do so without feeling any unnecessary guilt.