Running for stress relief

Posted on December 15th, 2012

Running is a great way to relieve stress! For somebody like me that lives a hectic and stressful life running is often my go-to form of stress relief. This past week has been pretty overwhelming due to many business decisions I’m having to make and other things that are in process. Since I have been so busy and have a newborn at home I hadn’t been out for a run in nearly a week, until this morning and I already feel a million times better. Earlier in the week anxiety was starting to overtake me, but all I needed was a run!

Wasatch Mountains Trail Running

Trail running in the Wasatch Mountains.

One of the main reasons running can help to relive stress is the release of endorphins, also known as the “feel-good” hormone. Running, along with any other intense exercise releases this hormone. I’ve found from personal experience the harder I’m running the more I experience this. Even though I will experience loads of stress relief from a long run, I can get the same effect from an intense short run. Running not only helps relieve anxiety and stress, but improves the imune system, relaxes muscles, improves blood flow, and increases overall health.

I actually first started getting into running while training to climb the East face of Longs Peak, but continued my running regime after finishing the climb, and found I was in much better overall health, happier, and had less anxiety. I also used this as a time to meditate, pray, and escape the worries of the day. And, since getting into ultra running, it has proved to be an amazing way to escape my cares and worries, but at the same time solve problems and talk to the Creator as well as build relationships with other runners.

I’ve also heard countless stories of people that have turned their life around, just from running. There are said to be numerous recovering alcoholics in the Ultra Running community, and I know at least one individually personally that is a recovering alcoholic and found solace in running (and has completed numerous marathons). Plus, I can tell you from personal experience you just start feeling good about yourself as your overall health and well-being improves.

Trail running in Austin, where I live!

Trail running, I have found, is an even greater form of stress relief. I typically find I feel better after a long trail run as upposed to a run across town, or through a neighborhood. There is just something about connecting with nature, and being in creation that helps you feel more grounded. Plus, it’s more secluded, which leaves you more time to your thoughts.

So, if you are finding yourself stressed, lace up those running shoes and hit the road, I mean trail! It’s sure to help your worries fade away, and for those lingering anxiety causing problems, running just may be your way to solve them and experience numerous health benefits at the same time.


Running to manage stress

Posted on December 21st, 2010
Forest Gump, a true runner!

Forest Gump, a true runner!

Stress is a common part of everybody’s life. For some, stress seems to be constant, for others it comes in waves. Everybody handles stress differently. In response to the recent question posted on Daily Challenge I decided to write about my favorite activity to help release and mange stress – running!

I used to hate running. I would try to get into it from time to time, but it never really grabbed a hold of me until a year and a half ago when I started running to condition my cardiovascular system for climbing Longs Peak in Colorado. Longs Peak, is one of Colorado’s most magnificent fourteeners, with beautiful 360 degree views from the top, located inside Rocky Mountain National park.

My initial reason for starting to run was not health reasons, it wasn’t even to relieve stress or get in shape, it was simply to train for climbing, my all-time favorite hobby. I have loved climbing ever since I was a kid, and while it’s a great stress reliever in itself, I don’t do it as frequently as running because of how easy running is. It’s not hard to fit into your day because it doesn’t involve having to drive to a gym; you can simple put on a pair of running shoes and head out the front door.

My training started off as just two miles for 20 minutes, then I gradually built up to where I ran 45 minutes at a time. The furthest I ever ran before climbing Longs Peak was 4 miles. Upon returning from the trip I decided I would try and keep the running thing going. I was sharing my new found activity with a guy I know that runs 5 miles a day. He suggest I stop running around the neighborhood and just go out away from it and go as far as I could before turning around.

Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot

Me, running my first race - The Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot in 2009.

One day I decided try this little exercise, and upon returning home I had run just over one hour. After sitting down at the computer I discovered I had run 6 miles. I was shocked. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to run that far. After posting my accomplishment on Facebook I had a friend suggest I run a half marathon with her and another friend. At first I thought she was crazy, but after researching it I discovered I was on pace to train for the half marathon, and my diet was already consistent with what is recommended to train.

It was at this point I began running on a regular basis. It ended up becoming a major source of stress relief too. Something I never expected. At the time I was working a job I was very unhappy with, I faced a long commute to and from work… needless to say, I would come home at the end of the day completely drained. One would think the best thing to do would be to sit on the couch and relax. Well, that isn’t true at all. Exercise is the best source of stress relief.

Exercise in general releases endorphins, which help relieve pain and create a sense of well-being and relaxation. When the body is stressed a chemical change takes place; if a “fight or flight” action is not taken, the byproducts continue to circulate and can cause illness. Exercise is a perfect way to alleviate the stress. For me, that is running, cycling, and climbing.

Lately though, I have sadly not been able to exercise much. I was in a bike accident back in October, and I’m suffering from bone contusions and a torn meniscus. So, I have to settle for the occasional bike ride, an easy walk, or climbing on easy terrain. This dry spell from running has made me miss it immensely. I long to throw on the running shows after a long productive day at work and let my mind go.

When I first started running it not only helped me relieve work related stress, but it helped me dealing with a break up with the woman who is actually now my wife (you can hear more about that, here). I’ve heard countless stories of how running helped people cope with the loss of loved ones, disease, and just general struggles in life. It amazes me how much running can change your state of mind. But I don’t believe it’s a cure; there is more in life, and things bigger than us that are truly helpful for overcoming problems. But I’m a firm believer in using running to reliever stress, it helps us clear our mind so we are able to deal with the real problem.

So, for anybody that suffers from stress, anxiety, frustration, or is struggling with anything in life, I highly suggest you take up running. It really brings about a lot of relief. It makes your mind clearer, and helps you continue to enjoy life when times are tough. I think that is one of the biggest reasons I miss it. It’s not the health benefits that come from it, but how it makes me feel. Right now, I’m really wishing I could throw everything the doctors said out the window, ignore the pain in my knees and go on a run. I look forward to the day I am able to do that again.

Also, don’t forget about the energy bar special I have going on right now for my project on Kickstarter. Donate $5 or more through Christmas and receive an extra energy bar with your pledge. Retail value on the bars will be around $3, so that is a steal, especially at the $5 giving level. Every little bit helps us launch our 100% organic, all-natural energy bars and seasoned nuts.

Nine reasons to go RAW, and simple ways to include raw food into your diet

Posted on December 25th, 2009

Looking for reasons to go raw this New Year? Make your New Years Resolution to, “go raw”. Here are nine good reasons to make this dietary transition. These are all reasons I have learned along the way and have experienced myself first hand. Additionally I would like to note, this is really not a “diet”. It’s a food philosophy. It’s not something temporary as a means to loose weight, this is about how you look at food.

Raw Tacos

Raw BBQ Tacos, my favorite, easy to make raw meal.

  1. Live a more vibrant life. I say this because to say “live longer” conflicts with my religious beliefs that our days are already numbered. But we can take good care of ourselves while we are here and live a healthy enjoyable lifestyle.
  2. Cardiovascular health – Greens contain chlorophyll, which improves oxygen uptake, thus increasing your VO2 Max. This is amazing news to any athlete, as it boosts energy levels, increases endurance and reduces recovery times.
  3. Less sick days – Since going green over a year and a half ago I have only been ill once. Sure there were days I wasn’t feeling great, but I have only had a cold once, and I know exactly how I got it too. Eating green improves your immune system, thus warding off the attacks of virus’.
  4. More energy – Back when I was eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) I would always get really tired and sluggish about an hour after lunch. I would often times have to go for a second round of coffee (which for me was another 3 cups) just to stay awake. Eating green will require less energy to digest your food, thus giving you more energy to go throughout your day and be more productive. In fact, you won’t even need to depend on coffee if you chose to give that up, as your body will naturally be more energized.
  5. Less sleep – Eating a nutrient rich diet will require less sleep. I am fully functional on six hours of sleep. This isn’t much different from when I was not eating raw foods, but the main difference now is I am actually functional and I don’t need coffee to keep myself going.
  6. Reduce Stress – Eating a nutrient rich diet also leads to less stress on the body. It also affects mental stress as well. When the body isn’t adequately nourished it becomes stressed, thus accumulating additional body fat. The less stressed we are the better our bodies and mind can function.
  7. Reduce the risk of cancer – Eating pure, whole foods greatly reduces your risk of cancer. I have read numerous articles about people’s cancer going away through raw foods. Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer is a prime example. Eating raw foods also reduces your chances of diseases in general. Today’s modern diet is a major cause of obesity and chronic disease in our society.  Take diabetes for example: simply changing ones diet will cure one of this disease, but most are unwilling to take on the challenge. They would rather be addicted to medication. (please note I say this knowing that there may be some situations where that is not the case and medications are a must)
  8. Maintain weight – Through eating raw foods it is much easier to maintain a healthy weight. When I first went raw I dropped 10 lbs FAST, but since then  have maintained that weight and have only fluctuated within a couple of pounds. I have yet to drop below 170, and usually stay around 173 – I am 6′ tall.
  9. Eating high amounts of raw food leads to healthier looking skin. That makes perfect sense – cut out greasy foods it’s only natural that your skin will begin to look better. I had some friends from Austin that commented on how great my skin looked after not seeing them for two months, and I had just started introducing raw foods into my diet the last time I had seen them.

Ready to take the plunge yet? Well, it’s easier than you think. You don’t even have to become 100% raw, I’m not. You will get many of these health benefits just from switching to a 50% raw diet. But the more raw foods you include into your diet the better. I always feel better when I am eating more raw foods.

They key to making it work for you is starting simple. I recommend starting with nutritious smoothies every morning, then begin working in fruits and other raw snacks (such as nuts, seeds and flax crackers) throughout your day and eating smaller cooked meals for lunch and dinner. Then, start phasing salads into your diet until you are having a large filling salad every day. At this point you will be eating 66% of your diet raw.

After that you can start phasing in “raw meals” made from cookbooks and the plethora of raw food web sites and blogs on the internet. I tend to have one or two “raw meals” a week, sometimes more. So, about 75% of my diet is raw. 50% is about the lowest it will ever go and that only happens when I forgot my salad for lunch or I go out of town.

Many of the raw cookbooks out there portray “raw gourmet” recipes that are difficult and time consuming to make. There are lots of blogs out there the offer simpler recipes that don’t require lots of prep time. A few of my favorite blogs for simple recipes are RawDawg Rory, Rawmazing, and Julie’s Raw Ambition.

Once you start eating more raw foods I suggest you purchase digestive enzymes to take for those times you do eat cooked foods. It will help you digest your food more easily.  You will quickly begin to notice the difference in how your body digests food. When you eat raw foods you will find yourself feeling much better afterward, as your stomach will not be churning trying to process a bunch of crap.

Also, expect to experience detox symptoms. This can come in a variety of ways, for me, it was strong headaches (but not migraine strength) for nearly a month. My system was getting rid of lots of toxins. I was also giving up coffee cold turkey at the time as well. I have sense then though allowed myself to have coffee a couple times a week. But detox is a good thing. If you are starting to go raw and experience this, just know you are doing something good for your body.