Running With Anxiety
#Truth: pre-race nerves plague many runners. #Truth: running can be an effective antidote to anxiety. Also #truth, yet rarely uttered aloud: there are those of us who run with anxiety.
This type of anxiety is an exercise induced stress. People like me, that are prone to generalized anxiety, can be triggered by intense aerobic exercise because their fight/flight response (erroneously) kicks in. In these cases, running and anxiety can mimic each other physiologically. Both manifest in the body with symptoms including elevated heart rate, sweating, and muscle tension. Some days the feeling of anxiety may persist from the starting line to the finish line. Other days, it may be an anxiety or panic attack before, during, or after the run. But just like that, an easy run can trick my already over-alert anxious mind and body into thinking that it needs to run for its life.
In 2018, after running my first 5K race I published an article in Like The Wind magazine entitled “I Can: How Running and Two Jasons Taught Me to Breathe Again”. It detailed the beginning of my running journey—literally from couch to 5K—during a time in my life when I was dealing with even more challenging anxiety and depression following a devastating relationship ending. I shared many of the ways in which I came to understand similarities between running and relationships. I ended by talking about the success of completing this race by managing my thoughts instead of letting them manage me.
I felt great about that accomplishment. Several months later, I also felt like an impostor. The anxious feelings during my runs persisted. So, I raised the bar. I figured that with more running successes, I would feel less anxious. I ran two 10K races in 2019. I ran a half marathon in 2020. But I still can’t outrun the anxiety and often feel a panic-inducing tightness in my chest or churning in my stomach at some point during my runs.
Continue reading my story here on the AAAD website.