This Runner's Trials

The real every pain reliever

I had my first panic attack in seventh grade. Getting only a 91 on a science project sparked this event.

After a trip to the ER, some drugs and a day off from school to "recover", I still felt like crap. For some reason, I decided to practice sprints (for softball) in my backyard. I just ran and ran and ran as fast as I could for as long as I could.

And guess what? I felt better. This act cleared my head, took a huge weight off of my chest and allowed me to see things more clearly. Running helped me feel like me again.

The anxiety kept coming back though. Lousy grades were replaced by unrequited crushes and untrue rumors in high school, homesickness in college, job hunting in grad school and infertility and infertility-related costs now.

I've been on and off medications and in and out of doctor offices for the past decade or so. But none of those treatments ever worked for me for very long.  (I should note I've never been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder or depression. For managing these clinical conditions, medication is almost always necessary.)

Only one thing has helped me. And I bet you can guess what it is...


Running truly is my drug, my every pain reliever and my refuge.

It's been rough lately.:

  • I keep questioning if I'm doing the right thing by taking a few months off from baby making to run a marathon.
  • I feel so hopeless each morning when I take that evil, little white birth control pill. My doctor assures me it's what's best to help me conceive in the future, but I have my doubts. Lots of them.
  • It pains me so much that we've drained so much of our savings to pay for fertility consultations, treatments and surgery and we're not anywhere to the real infertility expenses like IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization).
  • Etc...

I wanted to run yesterday. I needed to run yesterday. But I couldn't.

It was my day off from running according to my training plan. And I had no time. I had a yoga date with Brittney (that actually never happened... thank you Charlotte traffic for pretening to be Atlanta's).

So I spent yesterday sulking. And eating. A lot.

I went swimming early this morning and it didn't help. The a.m. hours of today closely mirrored yesterday's.

Then during lunch, I ran.

I had a 5 mi run planned with 2 x 1 speedy mile repeats. It was well over 90 degrees at noon and I had no car (Hubby's is in the shop so he has mine) to take me to the gym where the treadmills live in the comofrtable air-conditioning.

So my plan was to run the 1.6 mi to the gym, do my 2 mile repeats on the treadmill, then run the 1.6 mi home. 

I was dreading this all morning. I highly doubted I'd be able to reach and keep my mile repeat pace after running in the heat.

But I did it :) I left Garmin at home so I wouldn't be worried about my pace on my "warm up" and get burnt out. The workout was a huge success: 1.6 mi run warmup, 1 mi @ 7:24, 0.5 mi @ 8:34, 1 mi @ 7:19, 1.6 mi run cooldown.

And my mood instantly lifted. I was insanely productive at work this afternoon, I'm looking forward to catching up with friends tonight and I'm motivated to clean (!). I heart running so much.

Does exercise help you overcome mood funks? What other tactics do you use to ease stress?

Comments (25) Trackbacks (1)
  1. what a healthy way to get you through the tough times! i’m hoping only the best for you. :)

  2. I think it’s great you’ve found a “drug” to help you through rough times! Anytime I’m in a terrible mood, I go for a jog or whip out my yoga mat and feel better right away. Also, I feel you on the Charlotte traffic thing. Soo frustrating sometimes!

  3. There was a time though that any increase in my heart rate actually made me have a panic attack!

    I started having panic attacks in 2004 after a series of ultra stressful events (moving across the country, starting a new job, unexpectedly losing my father, and 2 surgeries).

    If I tried to exercise, the moment I could tell my heart was beating faster, I would freak out and think “oh god, here’s another one”…even though I was purposefully making my heart rate increase with the exercise…it was the most ridiculous thing ever. Took me MONTHS if not an entire year of making myself understand that “not every increase in heart rate means a panic attack Theresa.”

    Thank goodness I got over that! I don’t think I could handle not taking out my frustrations in the form of intense cardio workouts – whether it’s running or spinning or even a Turbo Jam video!

    (Geeze – I’m good at leaving you LONG comments!)

  4. I know exactly how you feel. I LOVE exercising – it makes me feel so amazing. It seriously is a natural drug. Maybe that’s why they call it a “runners high.” : ) If I don’t run or exercise I get cranky and highly irritable, so its better for me and everyone around me that I block out time each day to sweat.

    I’m glad that running has helped you cope with anxiety, it definitely helps me beat work stress!

  5. As an outsider looking in, your decision to run a marathon is absolutely the right thing to do. You need a break from baby making!

    There is nothing I love more than getting out for a run on a busy work day- I don’t always want to to, but at least I always know I’ll feel better.

  6. I am so glad running has helped you lately! Things will get better! Great job on the workout today, you are so speedy!!

  7. I am sorry that you are so stressed out. I am glad that you have such a constructive outlet to help you deal with it.

  8. Running is definitely my outlet! And sometimes on the days that I’m dreading running the most (because I’m super tired or extra stressed, etc), I actually have the best runs. I’m always amazed at its power to lift me out of certain moods. That’s why even when I take a little time off, it’s the one form of exercise that I’ve kept coming back to for years and years.

    Anyway, sorry you’re feeling so stressed out. Obviously I’m just an outside observer you can’t fully understand the situation, but from my perspective, it seems like you’re doing the right thing. I think taking a break and having another goal to focus on for awhile is a really good thing.

    And congrats on the speedy tempo run!

  9. Love this post. Running is all of our drugs. Who needs anti-depressants or anxiety pills when you can just go running? My brother used to be all over the place crazy. Ritalin didn’t work to calm him down so my mom just told him to run and he’d come back so much calmer. Its an amazing remedy and its free! Also, you can totally do your 16 miler on a treadmill- just watch a good tv show or grab some trashy gossip magazines- it will make it fly by!

  10. I totally understand. I tell everyone I would be on Prozac if I didn’t run. My husband and I are in the beginning stages of starting IVF. Meds start next month. My doctor has asked me to stop running for now. It has been hard because that is how I deal with the pressure of everything. Plus watching my husband train for his marathon is brutal. I know it will be worth it in the end but walking just doesn’t do the trick. Plus, trying to keep body temp low is almost impossible. Who knew how much work it could take to have a baby. I know it will all work out in the end. I’ve just had to switch my around my goals. Plus, I found a great baby jogger I have been eyeing:) Good luck.

    • Omg you poor thing! I really hope IVF works for you! I know exactly what you’re talking about. One of the reasons we put off TTC is b/c my husband is training for an Ironman now and it’s extremely hard for me to not train while he’s in the thick of training. Hang in there :) I’m sending positive thoughts your way.

  11. This post strikes such a chord with me. I have a lot of anxiety. I actually just had a serious moment of panic a few days ago, it was quite unpleasant! I definitely think running helps very much. I have not been able to run lately due to illness (yuck) and I can feel the tension building up in my mind and body. I have found other ways of stopping the anxiety though. Pedicures, magazines, talking nicely to myself.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. I definitely can relate to this post. Running helps keep me grounded and I can definitely tell a difference in my feelings and anxiety when I don’t exercise. I believe the world would be a better place if everybody got some exercise. We would all be mentally healthier.

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