Body and Mind: Running to Stay Happy and Healthy - FITS®

April 03, 2020

Running is my favorite thing in the entire world. One part physical, one part mental, it's my sanctuary from work and life—a brief respite from the madness. When I run, I mull things over or think about absolutely nothing except my immediate surroundings, the cadence of my feet, the crunch of dirt, the smell of the pines, and the sun's warmth on my face.

But right now, I'm stuck in a 425-square-foot apartment in Portland, Oregon, with my girlfriend, four cats, three bikes, and everything else we own. I usually run deep into the mountains and deserts. Now I have the opportunity to explore the hidden nooks and crannies of my urban jungle gym, finding things I never knew existed, all while attaining the same sense of tranquility and freedom the wilds afford.

Many things are as normal and reliable as always. The spring blooms are beautiful, the rain has shifted its spirit from melancholic drizzle to spirited bursts, and a smile still warms the heart. Simple truths like these remain steadfast. While we each adapt to the shifting times, running offers an accessible and effective way to stay healthy and sane.

Here are a few simple tips to get you started.

If you can't run, walk

Walking is even more accessible than running as a means of fitness and stress relief. It's much harder to get hurt walking than running. If running feels like too much right out of the gate, start walking with intention (i.e., faster than normal) and focus on form.

Be safe

Follow the most current guidelines and best practices. Right now in Portland, I can run around streets while maintaining appropriate social distancing, but I've stopped running on trails even early in the morning since I can't maintain the recommended six feet between other trail users. It's not about what I want to do, it's about what's best for us.  

Take care of your feet

Running in an old broken-down pair of shoes is a great way to find yourself injured and in pain fast. Poorly fitting or built socks lead to blistered feet, so wrap them in something nice. FITS are the most comfortable and best-fitting socks I've found over the last 20 years. A lot of small outdoor retailers and running stores are getting creative with curbside pickup and other ways to stay open, so give them a call and start running!

Take a break

Maybe now isn't the best time to dive deep into the news or podcasts when you're out? I know a lot of people who run with headphones, but the only time I do is on a treadmill and those are also off limits right now (thankfully). Use your run or walk as a time to connect with yourself and your surroundings. It's ok to bring your phone, just don't look at it unless you really need to.

Start easy

Your first run in one (or five, or ten) years is not the time to go for your fastest mile. Start with a few runs a week at a mileage you know won't break you, check in with yourself as you progress, and build mileage slowly to avoid injury.

Be consistent

Runners aren't created overnight. It's day-in-day-out consistency that builds a solid foundation, keeping you injury free and running happily for years. Routine might be something you're craving right now, so put your weekly runs in your calendar and set a reminder. 

Aside from the actual run, there's a lot more to consider. Strength and mobility exercises are critical to keeping your machine maintained, so build them into your weekly routine as well. Stretching and deep breathing are two ways to calm the mind and relax, and these activities also benefit the body.

While the gyms are closed and the trails are off limits for most runners, remember that the entire world outside your door is waiting, and that world is beautiful and great. All you have to do is lace up your shoes and go. If you see me out there, feel free to wave. I'll do the same, from at least six feet away.