How running through lockdown helped my mental health

Today, Monday 19th July 2021, is the day that society begins the return to ‘normal’, whatever that might look like. I don’t believe that things will ever be the same; the pandemic has changed our lives so much, both positively and negatively. However there are definitely some elements that I want to hang onto, including the appreciation for running and how it has saved my mental health over the last 18 months.

With the gyms being shut for a lot of 2020, many more people turned to outdoor exercise in order to keep active but for me, running has been about a lot more than just the physical benefits. My experience of the pandemic and the numerous lockdowns we struggled through hasn’t been particularly extreme – the most challenging thing I’ve dealt with is postponing our wedding (three times), compared to the thousands who’ve lost family, friends, businesses, homes and so much more.

Selfie of woman wearing grey running kit with a green field behind her

Even so, I’ve felt a range of emotions that I’m sure aren’t unique – the fear of becoming ill myself or any of my family/friends catching the virus, the anxiety about going out to crowded places, the loss of control and constant uncertainty from the changing situation, the sadness at missing birthdays/Christmas and all the special social occasions, and a sense of overwhelm about how to plan a wedding when who knows what we might be allowed to do!

When those feelings threatened to take over my head, I found that going out for a run really helped. The rhythm of just putting one foot in front of the other is a great distraction, your brain can switch off and just focus on the music in your ears or the pace of the run. It enabled me to clear my mind, work through any concerns and generally deal with the stress – I would return home feeling calmer, more positive and mentally stronger so I could keep going, and tackle whatever was around the corner (hello lockdown day 5,000!).

Not being allowed to travel further than our local area meant that running was one of the only ways to explore and see different places too. Getting out of the house – escaping those same four walls – to run new routes and new trails really provided a sense of adventure and discovery, especially when the days started to blur together, weekdays into weekends, and months feeling endless…

We all know the benefits of spending time in nature for boosting our mental wellbeing, so wherever possible I tried to run through fields, along the canal or generally anywhere I could see green! I do use Strava to log my runs, but the goal wasn’t racking up the miles, or hitting a particular pace. There were no races to train for last year (boo!) so I really took the pressure off myself, and just ran as far or as fast as I felt like, with plenty of opportunities to stop for a photo, admire the scenery or just to breathe. After the last year, I am so grateful to have the health and fitness that enables me to go for a run – even a slow 15 minute plod – I will never take that for granted.

The last year has given me plenty of opportunities to test out new running kit as well, so I wanted to give a shout out to some of my favourite pieces that I’ve tried.

Lockdown Running Kit

MyProtein Velocity 2.0 Running Kit

The new Velocity 2.0 running collection from MyProtein features a range of items that use high performance sweat-wicking fabrics and mesh ventilation to keep you cool and dry, as well as reflective detailing to ensure maximum visibility on darker runs. I was a particular fan of the Womens 1/4 Zip Top* which has a mesh panel on the back and under the arms, as well as thumbholes and a hidden key pocket in the sleeve. It’s really comfortable to run in and a great option for layering in the spring. It’s a shame it only comes in black and light blue, I’d love some more vibrant colours. The leggings I’m wearing in the below photo are the Women’s Velocity Leggings in Claret* – really great to run in because they don’t move at all, but a bit too shiny for my taste – a top in that colour would be great though!

NOTE: MyProtein clothing sizing runs small so I ordered a Large in both of these pieces.

Woman in red running leggings and black top kneels to tie her shoelaces on canal towpath next to the canal (seen behind her)

Dare2b Activewear

I already had a few pieces of Dare2b cycling kit but hadn’t tried any of their running clothing before so was keen to test it out, especially the gorgeous designs from the Laura Whitmore collection. I have to say, it was a bit hit and miss – the leggings, although a beautiful pattern and comfortable to run in, were completely see-through! Perhaps a darker colour would be better but that was a bit of a shame. However, I do absolutely love the Modernise II Vest* and the Resilient Lightweight Windshell Jacket*. Both pieces are made of a super thin and light-as-a-cloud fabric that is really comfortable to wear, especially in the warmer weather we’ve been having over the last few days (and back in June). They have antibacterial odour control and dry super quickly too. The jacket I think will be useful for both running and cycling as it packs down small and can easily be squeezed into a jersey pocket in case of cooler temperatures.

NOTE: I sized up in the vest and jacket as I don’t like tight clothing on my upper body, so I got a 14 in these pieces and a 12 in the leggings. Also unfortunately none of the Dare2b clothing has pockets which is an essential for me when running, not only to carry my phone and keys, but also my inhaler if I’m going out for a longer session.

Selfie of woman in grey running vest and sunglasses, with green field behind her

Sweaty Betty

My new favourite shorts for running are actually the Power 9″ Cycling Shorts from Sweaty Betty (size Medium). They are the most comfortable shorts I’ve ever run in, because they are the perfect length (mid-thigh) and have an adjustable drawcord so they don’t move or rub when you’re running. They also have a zip pocket at the back and a pocket on the leg! I love all the designs as well – I have the Green Leopard Print but could easily be tempted by others. Apparently they have ‘bum-sculpting technology’, although I’m not sure whether that benefits me or the person running behind me… Still, I feel good when I’m wearing them!

I will continue to run for mindfulness over the next few months, using it as a tool to help me get some headspace as well as benefit my physical fitness. I may even sign up to some races now that they’re allowed again – I’ve missed the medals and atmosphere of running with other people so I just need to psych myself up for being in a crowd!

How are you feeling about a return to normality? Has running helped you over the last year?

Beki x

*Gifted. As always, all opinions are my own.

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