Ask Me: HELP! I’m stressed…

Here’s an excellent question I got from a reader recently. If you’ve got any running related questions for me, feel free to drop me a line:

Q: Hi,

I came upon your page regarding running and could not help but be very impressed. I am a 23 year old dental student in my final year and the stress of exams has got my anxiety to higher than average levels. I am writing to you regarding advice and techniques on how to relieve such stress/anxiety through the sport of running. I previously ran 5km a day, however due to recent time constraints I have been unable to match this goal. What would you suggest in terms of distance to ensure I do not spend too much time on recreational running? What intensity do you recommend I perform? And finally what supplementation would you suggest to help me improve and relieve said anxiety.

Dr. To Be
running motivation art
A: Hi Dr. To be,

Thank you very much for your kind words and I’m happy to hear you’ve enjoyed my site! I’m doubly excited to hear that you’ve experienced just how much of a rush, escape, and release running can be. So much more to running than just the physical benefits it gives us!

Wow, I’m stressed just thinking about all the school and exams you’ve got going over there, congrats on pursuing your degree and making it to the final stretch! Now on to your questions.

It sounds like you were able to become rather consistent and felt comfortable with the 5k a day, but I understand that your schedule is becoming more busy. I’ll offer some tips on ‘finding’ that extra time but in regards to you wondering what the ‘right’ amount of time spent running is, there is not ‘right’ amount for everyone. Running is great because it’s incredibly individual and that means training and racing is all fit to the person, and it’s a matter of discovering what is right for YOU. For some that could be 70 miles per week, for others it’s 20. Always remember that some running is better than no running, so for your situation I’d suggest making a goal to fit in your 5k at least 4-5 times per week. That’s a good amount to make sure you keep your fitness maintained and offer you those times to get ‘out’ of school/stress/work mode and find your escape.

Some tips I have for finding that time:

1) Run first thing in the morning. Sometimes that means waking up a little earlier but it also ensures that no matter what comes up later in the day you’ve got your run done. Take the time the night before to lay out all of your running clothes and shoes so you can roll out of bed and hit the road!

2) Packed and Alarmed. If you can’t run in the morning take a bag packed with all your running gear with you to school and capitalize on ANY free moment you have between classes or find a break. You can also schedule your run time in your day and view it as any other important meeting, it’s YOU time and important.

3) Night Runner. Some people thrive off of running out the stress of the day and like to run at night. If that’s you, instead of Netflix or TV, get some miles.

4) Multitasking. I know runners who do their studying while running, be it flashcards on a treadmill, listening to recordings of lectors or study notes recorded.

Usually there are free minutes in the day, you just have to look for them. 😉

I also wanted to let you know that the endorphins released from running actually improve creative thinking and problem-solving. Actually taking a break to run when you’re stuck with a problem or project you can’t solve will help your work. When you come back you’ll be more productive and re-energized. So you shouldn’t feel like your running time is ‘wasted’ time that you ‘should’ have been spent studying.

For workouts, if you’d like to push yourself then start by adding some pick-ups, or fartleks, into two of your weekly runs. Make sure you have at least one easy run between them. For some fun workouts, do 1 mile easy, then alternate running 1 minute harder and 1 minute easy. Come back next time and do 2 minutes hard/easy…the combinations for fartleks are endless. I have more workout suggestions HERE.

Lastly, stress management and anxiety. A really powerful tool is visualization, which I wrote about HERE, and you can apply that tactic to all other areas of life. If you’re stressed about exams, then close your eyes and picture yourself arriving to the test area calm, relaxed, and confident. You ultimately want to get in the habit of being able to put yourself into a relaxed state, with steady breathes, and then when the actual event is happening you’re able to recall that feeling of being calm. It take practice and time, but with practice you’ll become better and better at it…just as with running!

Running offers you a unique mind-space; the chemical release of endorphins plus the feeling of freedom, lays the foundation for a happier, more productive mood overall. You may find that some of your best ideas come on the run, that is the case for me! You may also find that over time, and when you’ve got more time in your schedule, you’d like to push yourself by adding more miles and different workouts. As, I hope the relationship you’ve got with running turns into one that is lifelong.

Thank you for writing and happy studying AND running! 🙂


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4 thoughts on “Ask Me: HELP! I’m stressed…

  1. Ugh! My comment didn’t show up!
    This is really great advice Cait! A little bit is better than none for sure, and there is proof that short breaks in study time to do something active can help us to retain information. Plus there’s nothing that busts exam (or life) stress faster or better than a quick run.
    Good luck future dentist!

    • oh gosh, I’m sorry…i HATE when cyberspace eats up comments/emails after i’ve spent time writing them! thank you for following back up and i think your advice is also great for our future dentist! 🙂

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