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My 100 Mile March – And all of the Benefits Noticed

At the end of February, I decided to set some pretty aggressive goals for March.  Goals varied in nature, but were linked to areas of personal growth, professional development, and overall improvement of my health. One of my goals was to run 100 miles in March by starting off each day with a jog early in the morning. I’m already a pretty regular runner, but usually had only ever averaged about 2 miles per day (or 60 miles each month) and rarely ever ran more than a few days in a row, so this was upping my normal routine by more than a mile each day and motivating me to avoid skipping any days.

I’ve always known about the mental health benefits that can be achieved by staying active, but never fully put into words how many areas of life can be impacted by consistently starting off each day with some good cardio. Because of this, I decided that at the end of the month I would write about my experience, taking notes as I go along. Because I often suggest health/fitness goals as a part of therapy, I thought it helpful for me to be able to not only share why, but also to show that I do my best to practice the kinds of interventions I suggest for others.

Some days, I felt really ready to get started.  Other days, either my motivation-level  was lower or the way I was feeling physically didn’t allow for my body to fully cooperate with what I knew I needed to get done. Because of this, I took advantage of days that I felt better and had more energy by doing more than what my daily average would require.  Other times, I decided to walk instead of run.  After all, I was going more for consistency and distance than I was for speed.  And although running seems to bring more overall benefits than walking alone, I figured that by walking, I was at least still pushing forward and making progress even if it was slower than I would have liked.

Below are the 8 broad categories of benefits/gains I noticed by setting a fitness-related goal and sticking to it for 31 days.

1 – Increased Concentration, Focus, and Energy – I noticed that in staying consistent with my daily exercise, that I was more consistently focused throughout the day each day. This helped me to be fully present while working or when in session with my clients.  I was more motivated and noticed an increase in overall productivity.

2 – Better mood – The release of endorphins and serotonin that take place during exercise are probably the best explanation for the “runner’s high” some people experience and reasons why exercise can be used as a natural way of decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Even on days when I was struggling to get going, I found that by my second mile or so, I was feeling significantly better and more optimistic about the rest of my run and the day ahead.

3- Better Sleep – To be fair and fully transparent, I’ve always been fortunate enough to get pretty good sleep whether I exercise or not.  I did, however, find a slight improvement in overall quality and ease at which I was able to get up in the morning.  In fact, most days I found myself looking forward to getting up and getting going – more so than when my routine was less consistent.

4 – Decreased Stress – Running (and other forms of exercise) are great ways to deal with stress in a healthy way.  I found that running released tension. The rhythmic flow and pace kept me checked in to the process and allowed me to be more mindful of the present moment and less caught up in other worries or stressors.  This was time set aside each day for myself – a sacred part of my day for ME alone. The chemical release as noted in #2 regarding mood also play a role in how/why exercise is linked to decreased levels of stress.

5 – Better Organized – Feeling more organized was sort of unexpected side-effect of staying consistent with my running routine.  At the end of my runs during the cool-down period, I took time to think about my day ahead and all of the things I wanted or needed to get done.  Feeling more organized gave me a better sense of control over my life.  And since I had more energy to take on my day, I was more effective at getting all of those things done!

6 – Greater Intellectual Fulfillment – Although some of the time I spent running was either in silence or listening to music, other times I used it as an opportunity to listen to podcasts, Spanish lessons, or audio books.  I was able to learn, develop personally and professionally, and listen to stories that keep me engaged and fulfilled, mentally.

7 – I Got in Better Shape – Although I wasn’t highly focused on the fitness aspects, there were clear physical benefits.  I lost a couple of pounds, improved heart function, and was less fatigued doing things than I was at times in my life when I was less active.  Because I didn’t want to be bogged down on my runs and wanted to have the energy and nutrients I needed to have the energy to run, I found that I naturally made some better eating choices.  All that combined, naturally led to me feeling better in general.

8 – Increased Confidence/Self-Esteem – The combined benefits above all led to having a better overall self-image.  By the end of the month, I felt better about how I looked and felt. Additionally, proving to myself I was able to stick to a goal and complete it, increased confidence in my ability to start, work through, and complete any goal that I might set for myself.

As a side-note, an additional benefit came to me in the form of insight gained on how important it is to be clear and measurable when setting goals – and on how much more we might be capable of doing if and when we set goals.  On the morning of March 31st, I finished my final jog at 100.1 total miles for the month. It wasn’t a coincidence that I finished 1 tenth of a mile beyond my 100 mile goal. I completed almost exactly 100 miles because that was the goal I set.  Had I been vague, by setting a goal of running each day, I would not have been accountable to myself or clear on exactly what it was I wanted to do.  It made me wonder what I may have been capable of if the goal I set had been higher.  What if I had set my goal for the month at 150 miles?  Well, I probably would have hit 150.1.

If you’ve made it this far (and if your health allows) I hope you consider setting a goal for the month ahead for yourself.  If you’re not very physically active already, start slow, making sure to set a safe and realistic goal.  Not into running?  Consider walking, swimming, bike-riding, or anything else that will get your heart rate up. If you’re not sure where to start, consider consulting with someone trained to best educate you on how to get started. Oh, and disclaimer: that might not be me! That, however, does not mean that we can’t work together to set some goals and to work through the barriers that might be preventing you from getting started on them.

Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC

If you’re considering starting therapy for personal development and growth – or if you need help getting “unstuck” – send us a message or call/text 727-258-5231.

Float on Counseling is located in the Carrollwood area of Tampa, FL, conveniently located right off of N Dale Mabry Hwy.

 

 

 

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