Stress: Helpful or harmful to running?

Stress helpful or harmful to running

Do you run when you are stressed? Personally, I run 6 days out of the week so chances are I will run when I am stressed. However, depending on the current stressor in your life or the stress level it could have a negative influence on your run.

I recently read an article in my Runner’s World magazine that explained how stress can be harmful to your run. I have mixed feelings about this because I often run when I am stressed in order to calm down, and find that if I don’t run I often get more stressed. Vicious cycle.

I like this reason –> According to the research in Runner’s World, running a small distance (4-6 miles) held keep granule neurons in your brain from firing, making you better able to deal with anger, anxiety, and grief; the negative emotions referred to as stress.

I completely agree with this statement! If I am feeling stressed out or angry, usually a good run will help me either lower my stress, or allow me to think about it while running and how I can make the situation better.

On the other extreme, research suggests that running during an especially rough patch in your life can make you more susceptible to stress and even injury. Essentially, the research explains that it depends on the level of stress you have and if it is high enough it may have negative affects on your running.

I can understand that. I’ve gone for a run before when I’ve been extremely stressed and I tend to run faster and pay less attention to my surroundings which can lead to injury. You may also not be paying as much attention to how your body is feeling during that run and you may run through pain because you are too preoccupied with your stress.

Excess cortisol can have harmful effects on bone density and can make you tense up (not good during a run!). Running while tense and stiff increase the chance of straining or pulling a muscle. Stress can alter your mood and you may not pay as much attention, and like I said earlier, it could affect your ability to pay attention to things such as curbs, gravel in the road, and potholes.

Another major thing to watch for is excessive running while stressed. Yes, I run a lot but I have learned when my body has had too much and I need to either slow down, cut back on mileage, or take a rest day. Often times, when people become consumed with stress they are not paying much attention to their body and can increase chance of injury by not listening to an ache or previous injury.

Do you ever get stressed while running?

I do. Today for example I ran 15 miles this morning and started off great. However 5 miles into the run I was angry and wanted to go back home to my air conditioned home. It was about 80 degrees and 93% humidity when I left my door at 7 am. It continued to get hotter throughout my run. I was stressed because I was hot, tired, sweaty, and the humidity was not allowing the sweat to evaporate from my body.

I had to stop more frequently to drink water and Nuun because of it and continued to stress out about that.

In all honesty, I stress over stupid things. I should have gotten up at 5, which is what I normally do. Instead I slept in and suffered from it.

It was a minor thing to get stressed about, but it happens. Now this type of stress is nothing that would harm my run. I was very aware of the heat and knew I had to slow my pace down a lot in order to be safe.

Remember that during the summer you will slow down. It is completely normal and only makes you stronger for fall racing (that is what I told myself for 2 hours this morning so I wouldn’t go crazy).


It feels good to post again! I am now back in my routine since summer is over and the first week of school has passed. 🙂

Who else is ready for fall? Fall is by far my favorite season to run. Love love love love.

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