The zen of running

Yesterday was National Stress Awareness Day.  I’m afraid it passed me by because I was too stressed to check out the website.

My days are mostly spent in a frenzy of activity.  You can scoff, but being a voiceover is pretty taxing.  Yesterday was mental.  The phone never stopped, emails were pinging in all the time, I was in the studio with a new client every fifteen minutes, scripts were late arriving…  By the end of the day I was a flaccid mess. My throat was sore and I’d been so used to reading fast scripts all day the pace of my everyday speech made me sound as if I’d taken an illegal substance.

I’m really rubbish at relaxing.  I always have been.  I think it’s part of a Victorian work ethic programmed deep into my DNA.  I feel guilty if I’m sitting around doing nothing.  But a while ago it dawned on me that I don’t have to do nothing in order to relax.  I need to do more.  (Zen, eh?)

So what do I do?  I run.  I’m very bad at it, and please don’t think I’m some lithe and lissom gazelle-like creature sprinting around the suburbs of Cheshire – far from it.  Mostly I’m a purple-faced, wheezing, sweaty mass of flesh, lumbering around the park.  But at least I’m keen!   And I can honestly say running is the best stress buster I know.  I’m not sure if it’s the endorphins, or the boost to my self-esteem to think that I can actually stagger through 5k but at the end of a run I (mostly) feel great.  At the start of a run I’m (mostly) dreading it.  Will I be rubbish?  Will passers by point and laugh?  And for the first half of it, I struggle.  I’ve even considered having a T-shirt made that says ‘When I put my trainers on, this seemed like a good idea.’  But once I’ve done about 2.5k I feel fab.  My breathing gets easier, my head gets ‘in the zone,‘ and I enter a sort of meditative state.  I actually get a lot of thinking done when I run.  It’s become a really important part of my life and something I’d grieve for if I couldn’t do it any more.  So while I can, and my body’s working properly, I celebrate my able-bodied good fortune and run, literally, for my life.

Last year, a friend of mine recommended Haruki Murakami’s brilliant book, ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’and at the risk of sounding like a tosser, it changed my life.  While I’m no marathon runner, he was saying the things I think about when I’m running, or thinking about running, or dreading my run.  What I found compelling was that Murakami feels that running is a crucial part of his creative life; it helps him think about what he’s going to write.  And while I’m no Murakami either, it helps me too.

It’s fair to say that my trainer (God love him and his dumb-bells) and my NikePlus help me a lot too.  As does my iPod .  But really, all you need is motivation and staying power.  Oh, and a good pair of trainers.  There are loads of great running sites too, packed with advice for runners of all abilities.

So my best tip to beat stress?  RUN!  Even if, like me, you have horrible asthma, it’s no reason not to do it. People who are unfortunate enough to see me on my thrice weekly outings might worry if I’m about to have an embolism.  But trust me: when I’m running, in my head, I’m a Kenyan.

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Emma Clarke

Emma is an award-winning voiceover, broadcaster and writer. Want to find out more about Emma?
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