Monday, December 31, 2012

Mental Fog

We've all read plenty of articles like this one that exemplify how running can improve mood and even provide a kind of cure for chronic depression. But I've been put in a situation this weekend where my mood has been just...awful. Even when I'm able to think about something besides my grief, my mind feels like it's in some kind of fog. Nothing seems sharp and vital. Everything is dull. And when I finally went out for a run today, it was dull, too, and felt so unimportant and irksome. And while there were many contributing factors - aren't there always? - I had to wonder: does mood affect the quality of the run?

I did some searching on Google, but couldn't come up with an answer. So, completely based on my own experiences, I'm putting forth a hypothesis. I'd love to hear what you think.

Run Quality
Angry or Anxious
I know when I’m feeling angry or jittery, my runs tend to be faster-paced, farther distances, and generally stronger. Maybe because my mind is somewhere else, or because all that extra energy is looking for a way out, the miles fly by.
Happy or Fine
Generally Good/Normal
Most of my runs occur when I’m in a fine, balanced mood, and in general my runs are good. So I have to see a correlation there.
Sad or Upset
For some reason I don’t understand, running when I’m sad doesn’t have the same effect as running when I’m angry. Instead of taking my mind off the issue, it almost magnifies it. Thinking about the problem doesn't make the miles fly by; it instead feels like lead is being poured into every muscle fiber in my body. Being alone with my thoughts is too much mental junk for me when those thoughts are sad, and my runs suffer for it.

Basically what I've found is that if I'm fighting the urge to crawl back into bed, put my head under a pillow, and bawl/sleep in a regular cycle, then I'm not going to be able to complete a run up to the standards I've set. I need to start being more aware of these moods and adjusting my training accordingly. But somehow I always forget that trying to run away my pain, especially when the pain is acute and new and fresh, almost always leads to further disappointment.

I'm glad I went for my run today, but I would feel a lot better about it if I had been honest with where my head was. Instead of trying for 10 miles at midday, I should have set out to do 4. Then I would have reached my goal and felt alright. I need to be more me-focused at this point in my training, because as I'm battling burnout anyway, even the smallest setbacks feel like mountains that need conquering. Right now I'm not even feeling motivated to do my Half in late January. I'm just...fried.

I need a nap.



  1. Okay, so I'm reading blogs at 12;30am on New Years... this comment may not be totally cohesive... that being said.... I think your chart makes total sense. Anger and anxiety is a 'high energy' state. Your heart rate is higher and you are already in a sympathetic nervous system "fight or flight" state. Your body is READY for a fight. Or at least a kick ass run.

    Happy, is just that. A nice happy medium. But then sad/depressed or even introspective time is not a time for expending energy. It is a building and growing time. You body is running slower and trying to protect and heal itself. A hurt animal isn't running around, it's hiding in a hole waiting to regenerate and replenish energy. Ideally, I don't think you would chose to run on introspective or depressed days. I think an extra hour of yoga or meditation- even cooking or reading- would be better to help restore yourself, rather than expend the precious energy your body needs at those times.

    For every thing there is a season. There is a time to run, and a time to rest. I've had a TERRIBLE hard time accepting that the resting is a different side of the same "healthy lifestyle" coin.

    If that makes sense woo hoo! If not- sorry!!

    1. Thank you for this thoughtful response :o) I do need to be more in tune with what I need and how I heal. Some people may be able to run when they're feeling down, but I've found it's just not the case for me, and then a bad run compounds the sadness I'm already feeling.

      I hope you had a lovely new year!