The sobriety journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s all about settling into the new pace of your sober life and staying the course. And like an actual marathon, there are going to be difficult moments; times when you have to summon your willpower to forge ahead and continue down your sober path.
Any endeavor that adds stability to your life at this time is generally a good thing. And running might be one such hobby to explore — or to revisit again if you ran in the past. One of the many beautiful things about running is that it’s an equal opportunity pursuit.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership, a specialized trainer, a coaching session, or a specific regimen. You merely need a semi-functioning pair of tennis shoes (ideally, they’ll be fully-functioning, but that’s not a requirement), and you need to decide to get off your couch and turn off Netflix (that one, unfortunately, is a requirement). All in all, the bar is low, and that is a great thing. A low bar with no barrier to entry is what brought me to running, and I’m so thankful it did.
Running is beneficial to the sobriety journey, and here are five ways it enhances that journey.
1. Endorphin Rush = A Perfect Substitute
Endorphins are the body’s “feel-good” chemicals, and they’re released when you — among other things — run and break a sweat. This endorphin-infused rushed of joy is an excellent substitute for former activities that might have given you the same feeling, like jumping around in a crowded bar.
There are many benefits to endorphins, and you can bet on receiving them when you lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement or treadmill. Endorphins relieve depression, they reduce stress and anxiety, they help alleviate pain, and they also boost your self-esteem. How’s that for win-on-win-on-win?
(If the colder months of the year have you wanting to stay inside, though, fear not. Endorphins can be accessed in many ways, including laughing, dancing, getting a massage, meditating, painting/creating art, and even eating dark chocolate!)
2. Running Helps You Get Better Sleep
On the sobriety journey, sleep can sometimes be elusive. If you’re prone to nighttime ruminating or anxious thoughts, running will help wind you down. Sleep is even spoken of as a “recovery technique” for elite athletes. Your body repairs itself during sleep.
And the more you exercise, the better quality of your sleep. The better quality of your sleep, the more ready your body is for exercise.
3. You’ll Find Support from a Welcoming Community
Runners are lovably intense — and I say this as one myself. Running communities digitally, in-person, and on apps are very active, and a great way to meet like-minded folks. Running groups are a very big thing for many, especially if you’re on the race circuit and wanting a community as you head towards a big, future goal like running a marathon or a half-marathon.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to mass marathon cancellations, some running groups still meet safely in parks from a distance to run near each other. This can be a helpful form of community and support (without the drink).
4. Running Boosts Your Immune System
Speaking of the pandemic, keeping your immune system in tip-top shape during this time is a good idea. (Doctors also recommend, with new emphasis, getting your flu shot in 2020.) You can keep your immune system in great shape with immunity-boosting measures like plenty of sleep, eating whole foods, drinking orange juice (also you can try acai berry, yogurt, spinach, green tea, sweet potato, broccoli, almonds, and more), and also by — you guessed it — running.
The go-to publication for runners, Runner’s World, spoke with an immunobiology specialist, Dr. James Turner, who said this about running and the immune system: “Within seconds of starting to exercise, your immune cells increase, double, triple, and some even increase tenfold.” He added, “long-term exercise and training encourage a healthy, anti-inflammatory environment [in the body].”
5. Running Reduces Anxiety
Recovery can be an anxiety-inducing period for some, while others used to drink in order to calm their anxieties and now need something else. That’s one way in which running can totally help. The benefits of running are so vast, and one of the best of them is that it’s a natural, effective anti-anxiety treatment. Running outside also offers added physiological and mental health benefits.
So, no matter where you are, and how hard things may feel sometimes, know that if lace up your sneakers and push yourself out the door — you can choose to take action to help you feel better. Keep the bar low, and give yourself lots of grace as you travel down your path as your sober self.
When running the parthenon of sobriety, it’s important to keep your sobriety toolbox full with things like running, as well as journaling, eating nourishing food, and forming a strong support system. Thankfully, you’ll have the support and cheers from loved ones along this marathon — and we know you can do it. As I tell myself when I’m nearing any race finish line: Just keep going!