The Downside of Running
Is it just me, or do you also experience a wide swing of emotions after running? I know many people experience a “runners’ high” – that rush of endorphins that leaves you happy and intensely present – and I do get that, but I also experience the opposite lows. I’m not sure if it’s my body, my personality, or if I’m doing something wrong.
I’ve also been getting sick a lot. I’ve had the flu twice already and are only just now in February. Feeling the affects of running on me physically and emotionally has lead me to wonder if running has added stress to an already stressful life.
Stress is Stress
The body knows no difference between positive stress or negative stress. We’re the ones that label stress as being “good” or, more commonly, “bad”.
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale lists how much stress certain events cause in individuals (there’s a copy of the Scale at end of this post). Various life stage events are rated on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher the score, the more stress-inducing the event – that’s how the theory goes. For example, vacation is listed as 13, an outstanding personal achievement is at 28, and a personal injury or illness is a 53.
While events like vacations can be rife with stressful experiences, the stress can be the same even when we’re having a grand ol’ time. That’s why an outstanding personal achievement is on the list. These events are stressful because new experiences deviate from our everyday lives, causing some amount of stress.
Alone, a vacation, promotion, or even illness won’t have too much of an impact on us. But start adding these stressful experiences on top of one another and you can quickly reach your “stress threshold.” This can lead to negative moods and even illness. Ultimately, if not dealt with, stress can kill.
If you add up all the events on the Stress Scale, you get an idea of how close you are to getting sick. A score of 300 or more means you are at a high risk of becoming sick. Time to cut some stress out of your life and start taking more vitamins!
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale serves to remind us that stressful experiences are cumulative, and that with each stress-causing event we get closer to our stress threshold. Once we go over this stress level, we begin to break down. And remember, as far as the body is concerned, there’s no positive or negative stress. Just stress.
Running Puts Stress on the Body
So what does all this have to do with running?
It can be easy to forget that running, or any other sort of physical exertion, puts a certain amount of stress on the body. Training, after all, is all about breaking muscles down so they will repair stronger.
Perhaps running, while not too stressful on its own – can push us over our stress threshold. Maybe this is why I feel depressed and even get sick after long runs or hard workouts and even get sick. Put another way, maybe running sometimes makes me get sick because I already have too much stress in my life.
My goal with running is to feel better, not worse! It’s time I take a hard look at where the stress is coming from in my life and work to reduce it. At least while I work up to a baseline of physical capability.
What do you think?
- Has running ever raised your stress level, making other activities more difficult to cope with?
- Have you experienced emotional swings after your runs?
I’d love to hear from you!
Take your own stress test in the interactive version here: Link
Photo by MagnusK