7 Reasons to Make Time for Running (or Exercise) During Stressful Times

I have always heard people saying that running was their stress relief.

Usually it was mother runners who had young children at home, but it seemed like stress relief was one of the main reasons people run. It was their “me” time, their time to process all the stresses in their lives.

I had experienced snippets of this.

Where I had a problem, and by the time I came back from my run, I had figured out a plan, but this past week, it really started to make sense.

It works.

I was close to my Nanny Jolly, and I wanted to be home for my mum and the rest of my family. That is why I flew home.

My running was pushed down on the priority list, my running will ALWAYS come behind my family.

Yes, I will ask them to move things around a little for me, stand out in the cold to hand me bottles of water as I fly by on my repeats, and deal with the emotional ups and downs that running brings me, but at the end of the day, if I had to give up running for my family (as if there would be a situation like that!!), I would.

This week, I did everything I needed to do, I got all my runs in. I rolled, I did my strength training, I took my EnduroPacks, and actually think I ended up getting 8 hours of sleep most nights.

tina roll england

But one thing I did do, was pushed my training around based on what was going on that day.

I had no idea just how much there was to do after a death.

It is absolutely mind blowing how many things you have to consider, and this is all while my family are grieving. A very difficult thing to work through when you are trying to grieve over your loved one, but have a lot to arrange, especially for the funeral.

This week, I put my family first, and myself second.

Which made me realize, actually, the way I live my life is quite selfish.

Yes, to be an elite athlete, to be at the top of your game, and set yourself apart, you kind of have to be.

You have to put your running first, and allow it to dictate your life a little. You would never reach the very top without being a little bit selfish…..that is what gives us that determination to overcome the little voice that says “nah, I am too busy today, I will do it tomorrow”.

Being an elite doesn’t really work like that, and many runners are paid to follow that lifestyle.

My family will alway be more important than my training.

It did get me thinking about the future. When I have children, they will become the focus. Running will always be there for me, but I have learned this week that I am going to HAVE to let up on some of my control issues. I am going to HAVE to learn to be a bit more flexible moving forward, not just for family reasons, but because life throws curveballs at us all, and we have to be able to react and adapt.

So, where am I going with this post.

Well, the original direction I wanted to go with this post, was 7 reasons you should still exercise, even during periods of stress.

I still would like to do that, so here is why:

Time to yourself

During stressful times, the chances are, you are surrounded by people constantly.

It doesn’t matter if it is children chattering, tantrums, or just being kids, or whether you are surrounded by adults, trying to organize and work, you are still communicating.

We know one of the main reasons people use yoga is to quiet the mind, but exercise, in any form, will help us to just be quiet, alone with our thoughts, and just have some time to ourselves.

This is very therapeutic and only a short amount of time (even like 20 minutes) can be enough to give you the strength to face the world again.

Time to think things through

When there is lots of noise, and you barely have a moment to yourself to think, it is difficult to get a clear mind to know what you need to do.

Exercise gives you the time to think about different scenarios, think about the day ahead, and what you have to accomplish, or think about what has happened that day, and how you are going to approach the future.

This time to think things through gives you so much clarity.

I find that I often come back from a run feeling as though I have processed my thoughts, and have things in a little more order.

Kind of like before a run, all the paperwork in my mind is just scattered across my (mental) desk, creasing at the edges, you have no idea where anything is. When you get back from a run, that is your (mental) desk being organized.

Still a lot to do and a lot to tackle, but you have put it into piles in order of priority and you know what you are going to work on next.

Time to get an endorphin rush

We all know that exercise, and especially running leaves us with a rush of feel good endorphins post run. That runners high we experience as we slow to a walk and feel accomplished for getting it in.

I am telling you now (from experience) that the feeling is intensified when there is sadness or frustration going on in your life.

You are given the unique opportunity to spin your perspective and have a positive outlook on the rest of the day (and coming days).

Time to find normality

Exercise gives us some time to forget that it is a stressful time.

We all crave our routines, and I don’t know about you, but I find that I miss just being in my own little comfort zone and knowing what is coming.

By going out on my run each day, it gives me time to feel like I am just in a normal day. It brings a sense of peace as you are able to just do something simple and normal that your body is used to.

It allows us to switch off, and just be in a rhythm, which is very comforting.

The other day, I said on my instagram that I understood why people always said that they wanted to “get a lift in” for stress relief.

That day, after a lot of emotional drain, I spent an hour going back and forth as to whether I should do my strength training at 8pm, or whether I should just wait till the morning.

In all reality, the 12 hours difference wasnt really going to matter, but I was so glad I went to the gym, as it allowed me to take myself out of the current situation and just focus on something I could control; each exercise within my lifting routine.

It felt good.

Time to take stress out

I have never truly understood what that meant until now, but it is true.

Running allows you to channel your feelings into the movement you are doing.

I know we have all done it, taken our anger out on our runs, and yes, this can be dangerous for me to tell you this, especially as I spend most of the time telling you to slooooooowwww down, but once in a while, we all need that run where we just pound, and feel SO much better afterwards…..kind of like how you have a HUGE argument with a loved one, but then everything is out in the open and you end up closer than ever afterwards.

It is therapeutic. It is calming.

And sometimes, it is needed!

Time to be with nature

Getting out in nature allows you to get a mini reality check.

You realize just how small we are in this world, and how the world just keeps on turning.

We will all have ups and downs in our lives, but being out in nature just gives you the opportunity to breathe , to just focus on being for a little while, rather than doing.

I am the queen of trying to do too much, so I am talking to myself here too!

Time to focus on the future

In times of uncertainty or times where we are wondering just where we are going with our lives, exercise allow us to do something today that will help our future selves. We are looking after our future health by making it stronger and giving it alllllll those benefits (both physical and mental) that running brings us.

Yes, it can feel like we are being selfish, and we should focus on the moment and being there for those we love, but at the same time, those who love you want you to be happy, and if getting some exercise in helps you to find clarity, to be healthy, and most of all, be happy, then they will want you to get out there and do it.

It can be VERY easy to lose motivation during a stressful time, to think that you will “get back to it” once things calm down, but I promise you, you will not regret getting out there and doing it….even if it is just for 20 minutes.

You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain 🙂


Do you find exercise helps you handle stressful times?

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  • I could not agree more! In fact, I find my runs easiest when I’m most stressed. It does all of the things you mentioned and, I only wish I was a runner when my mom passed away, many years ago. It would have given me such an incredible outlet for my grief. Sending you love xoxoxo

    Also VERY excited to listent to Matt Long on the podcast! I read his book years ago and “inspiring” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  • This is important Tina. I think getting out of the door allows you to let go of stress or worries, even just for a little while. Great post.

  • Running and exercise gives me structure and rhythm during chaotic times. I’m so sorry about you Nanny Jolly. I know she meant the world to you.

  • Exercise is a must for me every day no matter what I’m going through….stressful times, happy times, etc.

  • Great points – I agree with all of them! There’s something so therapeutic about running and nature – it release emotions that we’d otherwise keep bottled up. And during times of grief I think those runs full of tears and sweat work are incredibly cathartic.

  • Allison McArthur
    August 3, 2016 3:52 pm

    Great post Tina. I know both my husband and I have used running to help us through stressful times and bereavements, so everything you say makes absolute sense. Having a routine and a sense of normality really helps.

  • Michelle@Running with Attitude
    August 3, 2016 7:53 pm

    All great points! During times of stress running is truly a life line for me. I am so sorry about your Nanny Jolly.

  • I completely agree that running helps you handle stressful times. It helped me through a bad breakup, emotional issues, and a bunch of stressful jobs/life periods. There’s nothing better than hearing the rhythmic breathing and your own footfalls on the trail. My condolences about your Nanny Jolly.

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