When Running is MORE than Running: Running for Stress Relief

Running for Stress Relief


Running is my SANITY


I have taken the first step on many of the runs this winter not just for exercise but for relief. Mounting mental stress crests to the level that it turns into physical anticipation for the movement of running. I must move. I must run. I need freedom. When so overwhelmed and with no other outlet, running becomes my hour of escape.

stress relief through running

I have thought of many other reasons that very well could be the cause for my internal drive to run. And each take their turn to keep me stepping forward. However, these last two months, I have turned to running to escape stress. I know for at least that one hour I can forget problems and annoyances and be productive with accomplishments.

Being able to pick my pace, elevation, end time or distance gives me the freedom that stress won’t. To be swept away into another world, where all I need to do is take another step. And spending time with my running friends and hearing of their days helps me put into perspective my stress load.

All of this combined helps to relax my mind and body. I feel renewed and ready to venture forward into the rest of the day.

brain and running

Running to reduce stress is a real strategy says John J. Ratey author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (a MUST read)

“We can literally run ourselves out of that frenzy. Just as the mind can affect the body, the body can affect the mind.” Spark (p. 63). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Regular aerobic activity calms the body, so that it can handle more stress before the serious response involving heart rate and stress hormones kicks in. It raises the trigger point of the physical reaction. In the brain, the mild stress of exercise fortifies the infrastructure of our nerve cells by activating genes to produce certain proteins that protect the cells against damage and disease.” Spark (p. 71). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

exercise for stress relief

Most likely you are runner who uses the sport in order to relieve stress and refresh yourself. Don’t be afraid to say, “Life is hard and running helps me along the way.”


So lace up those running shoes and hit the road because running can be your stress relief.

Runners Heart Beats

runners heart rate training


My take on heart rates and running training


Since so many training watches are now monitoring our heart rates, I am sure the awareness of your beats have spiked. Here are my quick thoughts on why and what you should pay attention to when it comes to your beats per minute.

RESTING Heart Rate

early morning measurement, before your body stirs and awakes

resting heart rates

Avoid overtraining and get a heads up if your body is fighting a sickness by watching for a spike that lasts more than a day. My other favorite about Resting Heart Rate is the data behind fitness. The more fit I am the lower my resting heart rate.

On a run several years ago with Joan Benoit Samuelson, I got to ask her one question. Mine question was: What is your resting heart rate? Answer: 35! Even in her 60’s she is SUPER FIT!

Last week’s data, the spike was after losing 3 hours of sleep due to an early morning airport drop off

Last week’s data, the spike was after losing 3 hours of sleep due to an early morning airport drop off

Aerobic Threshold Heart Rate

measures the highest beats your body can effectively use and not become overwhelmed by lactate

Last month I had by lactate threshold tested in the St. Cloud Human Performance Lab. It included lactate blood tests and heart rate monitoring while running faster and faster on a treadmill. The heart rate in which my lactate levels spiked paired with my heart rate data gave me my threshold. I use this heart rate number to train my body to endure at a faster pace with out lactate accumulation. Hovering just above 164 beats will improve not only my threshold but also my overall running.

A tempo (just above the aerobic threshold) paced workout can be seen in the Zone 4, orange bar.

A tempo (just above the aerobic threshold) paced workout can be seen in the Zone 4, orange bar.


measures my heart rate throughout the entire run and calculates the average

When reviewing my past run, I grab a quick look at the average beats. This information usually supports my feelings about how hard or easy the run felt. If they don’t line up I know I need to dive into the data a bit more and see if there is a reason. The average heart rate can also tell me if my body is getting the sleep, nutrition, and recovery I need.

Seen below are two averages, easy paced run (left), difficult workout (right), both within a few weeks of each other.

Year to Year Race Comparison

Favorite races often get repeated year after year. Through viewing my average heart rate data for each race I can see how my fitness has progressed or changed. Sometimes the weather and road conditions need to be taken into account when I am deciphering the data.


Count your beats, but don’t let them hold you back!

runners heart rates