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Running, the stress reliever!

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Annika Eberle recently completed her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington and is currently working as a Graduate Intern in strategic energy analysis with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Boulder, CO.

 

Running is a great sport for many reasons: you can do it anywhere, it doesn’t require specialized equipment, you can do it on your own or with your friends, and it can be as competitive as you want it to be.  For me though, one of the greatest benefits of running is stress relief.

Graduate school was one of the first places that I really learned to appreciate the stress relieving benefits of running.  I had moments (really days, weeks, months, and years) in graduate school when I thought I was never going be able to finish my degree.  There was too much to be done and not enough time to accomplish it.  When I started to feel overwhelmed like this, I didn’t have much motivation to run.  Still, on these days, I would often challenge myself to a more difficult running route.  It would take a lot of energy for me to get out the door, but once I was out running I found that all of my worries would start to melt away.  And then, once I was able to finish the run that I had set out for myself that day, I felt like I could tackle any problem and I knew that eventually I would complete my degree.

For me, running works as a stress reliever because it makes me to focus on the moment.  When I’m out running on the trails, I am forced to pay attention to what’s right in front of me so I don’t trip on a rock or a root.  But, even when I’m running on smooth, paved roads, I find that the rhythm of running causes me to let go of the past and concentrate on the present.  I am more mindful of my surroundings when I am running and this allows me to be at peace with my thoughts and responsibilities.

I’ve found running is even more stress relieving when the weather is terrible.  When I’m out running in freezing rain, it really causes me to reflect on how lucky I am to be able to be out running.  The same is true, albeit for different reasons, when I’m out running in beautiful terrain and I reach the top of a hill and a view of the mountains or the city stretches out in front of me.  These moments of contemplation allow me to look at things from a different perspective and force me to let go of any stress I’m carrying with me that day.

Maintaining the stress relieving benefits of running can be challenging, particularly when my stress level is really high.   However, as I learned in graduate school, these are the most important times for me to keep running.  So, no matter how stressed out I am, I force myself to get out the door and run.  Some days it’s tough, but it’s always worth it.

 

-By Annika Eberle