Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review: Running is My Therapy

I received a copy of Running is My Therapy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

It's no secret to regular readers of my blog that one of the reasons I run is to control my ever-present anxiety and mild depression. It's not easy being type A++ and after self-medicating through my 20s with alcohol, I knew I had to find a better way to cope. You've probably heard this same story from many other runners, but I kind of fell into running. I was working out at a gym that had an indoor track, and I started running on it. I didn't seek out running as a way to manage my stress but as it turns out, running was the best therapy I could have found. Not only did running provide me with an outlet to release all that negative energy, but through running, I developed self-confidence and self-efficacy. Life doesn't get easier and running is the tool I need to navigate all the ups and downs.



In his new book, Running is My Therapy, author and Runner's World editor Scott Douglas shares a very similar story to mine. He also reviews the physiology of how running helps people who struggle with mental health issues. Most of what he shares is about the mind-body connection. He also talks about how running "makes us smarter", citing plenty of evidence to back that up. I know that on the days I run, I feel much mentally sharper than on the days I don't.

Douglas also cites the growing body of evidence that exercise can be a viable treatment or at least an adjunct to treatment for depression and anxiety. Along with the evidence he presents, he shares his own story. As a teenager, he found sex, drugs, and rock and roll as a way to cope with his depression. During that time, he also started running and found it to provide the same kind of symptom relief as the less healthy pursuits. He also discovered other running-related benefits, like self-confidence and self-efficacy--something he cites often throughout the book. Douglas became a pretty impressive runner, racking up some nice PRs throughout his life. He provides examples of world-class runners who also fight depression and anxiety.
"I've learned that lacing up and hitting the roads is my best way to break free from 'What's the point?' on autorepeat. On a daily basis, running reminds me that I can overcome apapthy and torpor. Seeing that small victory, I can convince myself that progress is possible..." ~ Scott Douglas
and
"The structure of training provides purpose to every day and the promise that tomorrow will be different." ~Scott Douglas
There's plenty of science here for the nerd in all of us. But Douglas breaks it down so that the information is easy to digest. I found this book to be very interesting and not at all complicated or boring. In fact, I felt as if I was reading an extended article from Runner's World. For me, a runner whose mental toughness has been a work in progress for what seems like forever, there wasn't a lot of new information here. But it was really nice to have it all in one place. Douglas really did his homework on this topic and it shows. I feel completely validated in my pursuit of happiness.


What are the best kinds of runs to boost your mood? You know how we say "even a bad run is better than no run"? Well, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. So many runners are goal oriented and driven, and are hard on themselves when a run doesn't go as planned. Guys, guess what? The only thing that matters is that you run. As hard or as slow as you want. When and where you want. Solo or in a group. Listening to music or not.

What is it about running that is so unique in managing the symptoms of depression and anxiety? There are no firm answers, but the evidence is growing. All I can say is that running has worked for me for the last 25+ years. It's better than any pill. Endocannabinoids, anyone?

You just have to go.
"You don't hear about the swimmer's high." ~Scott Douglas 
For more reading on this topic, you can check out these articles:
For Depression and Anxiety, Running is a Unique Therapy
Book review: Scott Douglas: Running is My Therapy
Exercise is as effective as antidepressants for many cases of depression.

Do you run to burn off the crazy? What is your favorite type of run? Have you read the book? Share your thoughts!




Welcome to the book club! Every month, I suggest a running or fitness related book for readers who want to join in. There's no formal meeting and no pressure. If you have a review you want to share, send me the link and I'll add it to the post. All I ask is that you link back to this post. I have a badge you can use too. If you want to look at past selections, please check out the Book Club tab at the top of the post. Thanks for reading!

Next month we are reading North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek. Jurek, a well known and accomplished ultrarunner, set out in 2015 on a new challenge: to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. The trail is 2189 miles, and Jurek shares the details in this book. The book has received high praise and after enjoying his last book, Eat and Run, I'm really looking forward to reading this! The book review will be published July 20.


I'm linking up with the ladies of the Friday Five--Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy!


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32 comments :

  1. I don't know of anything more therapeutic than running. I know so many "addicts" (drugs, alcohol) who do so well with running. It is definitely my "drug" of choice. Um yeah, I'm not holding my breath for a swimmer's high. As if.

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    1. The article in Runner's World paraphrases that statement with "golfer's high". I don't think that's a thing either!

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  2. I started running to lose weight, but being overweight was causing me anxiety and keeping my cycle of depression going. I didn't know it would help me mentally and emotionally but I found out rather quickly that these were the benefits. so, yes, I run to burn off the crazy :) my favorite type of run is the one that is unplanned with no specific amount of mileage and no "have to" 's involved.

    this sounds like a great book - unfortunately I just haven't been able to incorporate reading more into my life. there is only so much time. I love Scott Jurek (as far as your next book goes) - Eat and Run I read in one go on a car journey to Berlin (about 7 hours drive).

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    1. I'm really looking forward to reading Scott Jurek's next book!

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  3. I would suggest there is such a thing as gymnasts high...lol. that was my sport of choice in school. Actually, isn't your son in gymnastics or am I thinking of someone else?

    I am curious if some of this holds true for treadmill running as well or if it's just outside running? I can say without a doubt that running outdoors puts me in a better mood and let's me see things In a new perspective but I wonder if it's just the act of being outside and around nature????

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    1. I have gotten a runner's high from a treadmill run--if it's hard and fast and I feel as if I've crushed it. But those are rare. In the book, Douglas cites the benefits of running in nature. I run outside even in the winter because it makes me feel so good.

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  4. Our daughter dealt with a lot of anxiety this past year, and found her release to be in the weight room. When she approached me about running Dam to Dam, I was so excited to see what running could do for her as well. Running definitely does more for us than just tone our bodies and work our lungs ;-)

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    1. I think any activity can be beneficial but there's something special about running!

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  5. Running definitely helps me burn off stress, and maybe helps me curtail bad habits as I do prioritize morning runs over late-night karaoke on business trips. That said, while I know book covers have to be catchy, this one kind of annoys me because running isn't for everyone and it's not a cure for everything.

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    1. I definitely think this book is geared towards runners! But if it attracts non-runners to our sport, more the better.

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  6. Running has definitely helped with my anxiety! Unfortunately, my palpitations are worse with a low resting heart rate. I have really struggled with that lately but hope to get some answers from a new doc next week. I am looking forward to reading this book!

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    1. It makes sense that your palpitations are worse with a low heart rate because there is more time for those escape beats to get through. I only get palpitations at rest. It's pretty unnerving! I hope you get answers next week!

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  7. I really enjoyed reading this and thank you for sharing my review (you might want to trim the comment bit off the URL as it links to your comment at the moment so people would have to scroll up to read the review - feel free to delete this bit but seemed the quickest way to let you know). I found it well researched, written and explained, and it's nice to have that back-up in a book for when I'm telling people about the mental health benefits of running at run and talk sessions, etc.

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    1. Thanks for the heads up on the url. Oops!

      Yes, this was a great read and just validates what we all know.

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  8. Running and sports has always been a good channel for my stress. Now I do have anxiety, which is something new this year. I'm currently resting from my last race and gum graft, and I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

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    1. I'm grateful for running to help me deal with my stress!

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  9. Running stresses me out! No wait, that's racing. I enjoy running and almost always feel better after I've run, even if I didn't know I wasn't 100% beforehand.

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    1. He addresses that prerace anxiety in the book too.

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  10. "You don't hear about the swimmer's high!" Haha, no you don't! I told my husband this week that I wish I had "discovered" running earlier. I have been amazed by how therapeutic it is and how great I feel afterwards. My cousin said it so beautifully the other day - "running gives you so much clarity. You can process things without getting bogged down in all the emotion that sometimes distracts us." Shathiso at www.thegaboronerunner.com

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    1. I love that quote from your cousin! It's so insightful!

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  11. Yes, running is the best therapy.

    Even better is a race.

    When I thought I was injured, I thought about taking a running break and then I knew that I would go nuts so I ran a race anyway. Luckily I was not injured. But mentally I need to run more than physically.

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  12. HA! I love that "you don't hear of the swimmer's high." Because HOW TRUE is that?!

    Damn do I love running. This sounds like a great book.

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    1. It's just validation of what we already know!

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  13. Running always was a way to destress for me, but I am finding that I can get that in ways that work for my body now. Thankfully! I miss running like I used to though.

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    1. As I'm getting older, I start to think about what will I do when I can't run anymore.

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  14. I am a huge believer in the power of exercise to improve mood and mental clarity. It's been a lifesaver for me. I also get quite a boost from cycling and strength workouts as well. I just need the sweat therapy

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  15. It's so good to hear that there is evidence to support the idea that running can help with mental health. I can definitely say that running helps my mood and has helped me to deal with anxiety. As a mental health therapist and runner, this sounds like an awesome book!

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  16. Oh, this book looks like one I would really enjoy!
    I know that running (and other exercise while I recovered from injury) has helped my anxiety and depression as well!

    My fav kind of run is one where I know I gave it my all!

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  17. I have gone through so many transitions with running in the last few years, but even when it has felt hard, I still try to push on because it does have a positive impact on how i feel about my self.

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  18. That sounds like an interesting book. I agree that running makes you smarter... I seem to come up with some really great ideas while out on a run (of course I forget them the moment I get home).

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  19. I know so many runners who use running as a healthy alternative for their addictive personalities, including my husband and myself. I am thankful that I discovered running therapy when I did.

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