I recently shared a post on Twitter and Instagram about different ways that runners can practice self-care when it comes to the sport of running. When we hear “self-care,” we often think of massages and bubble baths, but it doesn’t have to look like that. Of course, if it does look like that, that’s perfectly fine too.
In terms of the sport of running, though, here’s what I came up with for specific ways to practice self-care towards your body.
1. Take Rest Days
Rest days are very important for our overall health and performance in the sport. Rest days give our muscles a chance to recuperate and replenish. You’ve probably heard that when lifting weights, you generally give each muscle group a few days off before working them again.
That’s because they need “rest” time to facilitate repair and strengthening. The same goes with running and performance.
Here’s a great article from Runner’s World on rest days.
Going too long without a rest day also affects sleep and mental health. I’ve written more on overtraining and compulsive exercise here.
2. Don’t Run More To Compensate For Food, or Lack of Movement
Running more miles or more time to compensate for the food you’ve eaten is an eating disorder behavior. When you link your exercise to your eating, and one depends on the other, it’s denoting an unhealthy relationship to food and exercise.
In my experience with clients, running because they think to “have to” rather than because they “want to” also takes away the joy of the pure sport of running.
Therefore, running because you actually enjoy running can be a form of self care. It can be an outlet for you, a way to relieve stress, get in nature, socialize with others, listen to a podcast or book, etc.
But, if you’re doing it to burn more calories or make up for what you ate, it’s not serving you in any form of self care.
3. Remind Yourself You Don’t Have to Train for a Race To Enjoy Running
So often, we get too tied up in goals and training and I think that sometimes this can take us away from the intuitive nature of exercise and exercising just for the “fun” of it.
I truly think exercise can be fun and not be seen as a chore, if you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Running when you feel like it, for however long you feel like it, with or without music or podcasts, can be a huge form of freedom. Of letting your mind wander, but at the same time, connecting to your thoughts.
For some, having a purpose for running is more fulfilling and I get that. But I think there’s also an important balance that comes from enjoying the pure nature of the sport, whether you are or aren’t training for a race.
Here’s an old post I have about the enjoyment of running when you’re not training.
4. Running Doesn’t Have To Be a Way to Change Your Body
Using running as a way to manipulate your weight is taking away so many of the pure benefits that running offers, in my opinion. First off, it’s okay if you don’t like running. We can replace it with any form of exercise you do enjoy.
There are many positive side effects from exercise independent of weight, like:
- Endorphin release
- Stress relief
- Alone time (or social time) depending on how you enjoy exercise time
- Prove to yourself you can reach a goal (time, distance, getting out there, etc)
- A way to be active with your partner and/or kids
- A way to explore new areas and destinations
As I’ve previously written about, I’ve found so much enjoyment and benefit from all different types of exercise during this pregnancy.
5. Your Worth is NOT Dependent on Your Running
Many runners bring a type A, all-or-nothing mentality to running. Remind yourself that you are a person outside of your identity as a “runner.”
Maybe you’re a mother, a friend, a husband or wife, a brother or sister, a daughter or son. Or, maybe you’re a dog or cat mom, hard worker, etc.
When we place all of our worth on being a runner and ONLY being a runner, it’s easy to feel more guilt and shame when running doesn’t go the way we planned.
Sometimes, I have my clients take some purposeful time away from running. Whether it’s because they are experiencing over-exercise or exercise addiction, or because we need to disentangle exercise from food.
Either way, it’s usually a time that’s full of lessons and self-reflection, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable that time may be.
I’m curious to hear from you!
What are your thoughts on self care as a runner? How do you practice it?