by John Stanton
Some runners love to run alone, and will earnestly describe the therapeutic effect it has on them. If you are less familiar with solo running, you may have questions, such as: will the run seem farther? What if I feel lonely? Won’t I get bored? Before you set out on your own, here is a re-cap of the positive things that an independent run can do for you.
Boost your mood.
The euphoric feeling experienced while exercising is usually attributed to endorphins, which mask pain and produce an overall feeling of well-being. Scientists believe that running increases the secretion of neurotransmitters that regulate our emotions and mood. Another bonus is the feeling of mastery that comes from completing the run—it is satisfying to know that you have done something positive for your physical and mental health.
Recharge your batteries.
Even on the days when you have to drag yourself out the door, you will return with renewed enthusiasm and energy. This refreshed feeling can sustain you throughout the day, giving you the ability to stay calm and intelligently assess potentially stressful situations.
A solo run doesn’t have to be about pace or distance—it can simply be a way of caring for yourself and taking a break from your busy day. Treat it as a “moving meditation” session and shift your focus to simply enjoying the moment. This will naturally increase your body temperature and relax your tense muscles. You will also feel an increased sense of control, as you alone get to choose the route, pace and distance.
Clear your mind.
When people are asked what they think about during a solo run, a common answer is: “nothing.” The quiet solitude provides a welcome escape from your hectic routine of work and family responsibilities. The run gives you some much-needed “me time” and temporarily distracts you from the worries of the day. The physical exertion also helps you sleep more soundly, so you’ll be better equipped to face tomorrow’s challenges.
Work through problems.
Aerobic activities (like running) help to fire up the intuitive and creative side of your brain, inspiring innovative thinking and more effective problem-solving. In fact, if your mind gets caught up following a particular train of thought, you may arrive at your destination feeling surprised at how much time has passed or how many kilometres you covered.
Without the usual conversation that running buddies provide, you may find that you take more notice of your surroundings. Enjoy the natural scenery around you. Breathe deeply as you gaze up at the vast blue sky. Take a moment to feel grateful that you are out here, that your body is healthy and strong enough to do this. Remember that there are others who do not have this opportunity. Running alone gives you time to reflect on how lucky you are.
Enjoy high-tech toys.
If the sound of the wind rustling through the trees isn’t your kind of entertainment, pop in your ear buds and press play on a podcast or up-tempo music playlist. This may also be an opportunity to become better acquainted with an electronic training partner: your GPS watch. Tap into its pacing and interval features to receive encouraging beeps along the way.
If you have typically run with a group, open your mind to the new experience of running solo. You may discover that you enjoy it more than you expected.
John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.