Running and mental health: Hello lovely people... - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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Running and mental health


Hello lovely people - I’m back after a long break. I suffer from sporadic depression, which running really helps with. If I’m going through a bad patch though, I tend to disassociate and find running impossible. Does anyone have any tips for this, or suffer with this feeling? I’m feeling a bit better and managed a run this morning for the first time in months and it of course helped. D made me kick myself for not getting back to it sooner. Anyway, after reading through some posts here, I’m back on week one, run one and looking forward to the next run. Thanks to you all for making such a supportive forum x

34 Replies

Well done for restarting - that takes determination. Not sure if this will be helpful but here goes - my daughter suffers with SAD which really impacts on her throughout autumn and winter (anxiety, lack of drive of any sort, difficulty sleeping then difficulty waking .....the list goes on). She takes medication and has a sunrise/sunset alarm which means that she is not jolted awake by a noise but is gradually awoken as her room gets lighter. Conversely, the lamp gradually dims when she wants to get to sleep and simulates a sunset. This has helped her to a degree.

She has also used a journal to plan and track tasks and activities so that she has a visual reminder of what she wanted to do at the time she made the journal entry. She has definitely found this helpful.

Apologies if these suggestions sound trite or are really unhelpful but speaking as a witness to her distress I can say that both things helped to some extent - she still procrastinates and avoids tasks she has set herself on occasions but this is happening less and less often.

Best of luck on your running journey and, most importantly- be kind to yourself ❤️

Oh, thanks so much for the beautiful, kind reply. Those suggestions are great. I do try to journal but when I feel low, it’s hard to have any drive - just like you say with your daughter. It’s a paradox because you know it will make you feel better. I guess I just have to push through. Thanks again ❤️❤️❤️

JetsNannaGraduate in reply to Oliverunner

You are so very welcome. It’s not a struggle that I face but it is a struggle that I watch every day so I appreciate how hard it is. This forum will be a godsend if you keep reaching out. The support on here is endless, heartfelt and invaluable x


I've suffered with anxiety in the past, which I appreciate isn't the same as depression but it has also caused me to not feel like doing things etc. I always used to force myself out for a walk on my worst days as at least it felt like I'd accomplished something and gotten out of the house, so maybe settle for a walk on the days you don't want to run? Not sure if that's at all helpful - but know that there will always be people supporting you on here!! :)

It is so helpful, thank you. Anxiety is diabolical - I totally understand. Yes, getting out is key because once you’re out, the battle is won. I just have to fight these demons to get out of the door ❤️


I suffer with depression and anxiety. I’ve found that even if I don’t want to go, I force myself to go out and run. On my worse days, when I’ve had little sleep, I get out of bed when the alarm goes off before my brain has a chance to persuade me that I don’t want to go.

I have something else that I do which helps me. My secret weapon! I say to myself “I only need to run for ‘up to’ half an hour”. Then I can’t fail! Of course, I always run for half an hour once I’m out there; then I get back, post my run report on here and onto Strava and the running and communication with my forum ‘buddies’ never fails to lift my mood.

Running helps me more than not running 😀

Ah, so many of us suffering with this horrid thing. Yes, maybe I can trick myself into doing it when I’m not feeling the vibes. The community helps so much - I had no idea what a supportive network like this could do. Thanks for replying and I hope your running goes from strength to strength ❤️


Welcome back Oliverunner! I don’t think I can help with tips on how to cope when you’re going through a rough patch except to say what others have said - that although it’s hard to actually do, they know that getting out for a run really helps clear their head. Which of course is what you already know! But whatever you do, you know that people here on the forum are right with you willing you onwards! Good luck with your C25K runs!

I’m actually getting a bit tearful reading these amazing responses. I can’t wait for the chance to reciprocate. Thank you ❤️


I find the dissociative phase the hardest to deal with and, after 30+ years, I've had plenty of practice. Oddly, because, for me, running is such a solitary and slightly meditative thing, I actually find that the dissociation doesn't actually interfere (if anything, it kinds of helps me get into my zone quicker). The running, once I am actually up and out, does do wonders though. Because I'm the contrary git that I am, I decided that After 15+ years of having been constantly on medication, the middle of a global pandemic would be the sensible time to wean myself off. Bizarrely, so far so good and only a couple of short, albeit sharp, episodes since June.

Clearly, I'm in no way suggesting you follow my lead on this, but it is amazing the positive effect that introducing running into my life last year has made, both physically and mentally.

Oh wow - this is so helpful. Tell me, when you have a dissacociative phase, how can you get out running? I find it robs of me the motivation to do almost anything. It’s awful. Maybe coming off the medication in the pandemic was a stroke of genius. I dare not try even though I wonder how much it helps. I 100% agree on the running benefits although it’s not instant for me but accumulative. While you’re actually running there is relief, but I’d love to extend the feeling. Sadly I’m not fit enough yet to run enough to heal my mind. But I know (as we all do) what the answer is. Thanks again ❤️

So glad you’re feeling better off the medication x

sTrongFuseGraduate in reply to Oliverunner

I think, in my case, it's sheer bloody-mindedness that makes me do it. It's all too easy to "wallow" in the depths of dissociation. I don't like the term "wallow" - sounds dismissive, but I can't think of a better term. I've been there and done that too often (although, perversely, sometimes that's just what you have to do to get through the worst bouts; you just need to allow yourself to have that downtime and then tell yourself that you are doing it consciously to allow yourself to discharge - it may not be true the first few time, but eventually you start tricking your mind and, eventually, with luck, it becomes truth ) .

I think sometimes it's really just accepting that there are times you can fight it, and other times you just have to ride it out. For me, I think all that is really happened is that I've got better at noticing its onset, and so can divert it a bit before it hits me full on.

I'd been on constant medication since September 2004 (with a few short-term prescriptions before that). I've been running since March 2019 and, in a way, it has become my new "drug". Started the C25K plan in March last year, kept building after graduation. 3 weeks ago, a day after my 50th birthday, I ran my 6th half-marathon distance. With the exception of parkrun (which hasn't been available since March) and my Sunday running group (which I only joined in August), all my running is solitary and the improved sense of feeling well (as opposed to wellness) is immeasurable. Running may not have saved my life, but it has definitely changed it for the better.

Thanks for all this - yes, diversion is key but now and then it can sneak up on you. You’ve done so well, it’s really inspiring me. Half marathon? That’s amazing x

sTrongFuseGraduate in reply to Oliverunner

If HM is something you want to do, once you're at the 10k point, set yourself the "halfway" marker of 10 miles and just build gradually to that distance adding maybe 500m each week to your long run. Once you've done a couple of 10 mile runs to build your confidence, use the same build (by this stage you may feel confident to do 1k increments) until you get to HM.

I've made it sound easy, but if you want to do it, you probably can if you're prepared to be patient and just build steadily.

I will say that getting to the point where I can run that far has done wonders for my 5k times, but really, for me it's just about getting out there and going for as long as feels right, distance and speed are less important than just enjoying it and the benefits it gives you.


I find the running helps greatly, even on terrible days when I don't want to face the world I've found that if I actually do face it, get out there and have a run or a walk or a bike ride, I feel so much better! I sometimes do this in the middle of the night or really early morning just so I don't have to deal with actual people 🤣 but I find the fresh air and exercise works way better than any pills I've been prescribed over the years. I wish I'd decided to try this exercise thing 20 years earlier!

Really? How long do think it took before you felt a significant difference? You’ve summed up exactly how it feels - not wanting to face the world. Also though, it’s not wanting to be in touch with my own body - isn’t that weird? Thanks so much for replying - it’s very comforting to know I’m not alone ❤️

Jericho2332Graduate in reply to Oliverunner

Il be honest I didn't handle it well for a lot of years, the thought of going outside when I was low was terrifying, I hid away to keep myself "safe" I suppose. Its not the right way but I likely wouldn't have believed that at the time. I promise you though try to do a little each day, either alone or with a trusted friend or family member, and you will feel better. Running, walking, riding anything to get out in nature, even when the weather is shitty this country can be pretty amazing! Walk in the woods or on the coast or up on the moors. There's a lot to see out there and it helps so much! Regular exercise, fresh air and a routine works wonders 👍🏻 good luck with the programme and keep reading these boards, the people here are pretty inspiring.

Thank you. You’re right, getting out is key. I’m in London but I love the streets and green spaces aren’t too hard to find. Glad you’ve found a way to feel better xx

sTrongFuseGraduate in reply to Jericho2332

Are you sure we aren't the same person? I pretty much could have given the same answer word for word. Although, in fairness, no power on earth will ever turn me into an early morning runner (or early morning anything) so you've got that over me...

sTrongFuseGraduate in reply to Jericho2332

Pretty much with you on that front. The hardest bit is getting yourself out. Once you are out there, everything just kind of clicks into place and I'll just spend the next hour or so just letting my feet do the hard work and the only thing my mind has to worry about is working out my route.


I'm not sure I can offer any helpful advice but I just wanted to say how lovely it is to see you coming back after your break from running and that I wish you all the very best. The people on this forum are the best and will be there to will you on every step of the way, particularly if the way happens to be a bit bumpy from time to time 🙂

Oliverunner in reply to Pnegirl

Oh, thank you, my love. It’s true about this forum - it truly is an absolute support and so full of good will. I feel very welcomed ❤️❤️

Hello and welcome back. Have you tried therapy?

Also mindfulness and meditation can be extremely helpful in dealing with episodic mental health problems. It allows you to focus only on the pain of the moment rather than being overwhelmed with memories of past pain and the anticipation of future pain.

If you can't run , try to walk and if that is too much; just sit outside, feel the rain or the sunshine and smell the Autumn, Take joy in small moments and accept that as humans, pain is part of our lives. Without it there can be no joy.

Take it easy and be kind to yourself :)

Hi there - thanks for the kind response. I am actually looking at mindfulness stuff at the moment - I go too fast sometimes and hopefully this will help me slow down and acknowledge my feelings. I did do therapy for a while after the sudden death of a family member (which kicked it all off). I feel very self indulgent with all these responses - thank you ❤️


I'm new to running but will tell you my ironing story (it is relevant, bear with me). Whenever I feel low, I think to myself well I'm feeling miserable anyway, I might as well do some ironing because I probably won't feel much worse. Then, doing the ironing makes me focus on something other than how I'm feeling and then when I've done the ironing I get a boost from the fact that I've achieved something whilst feeling low and that the thing I've achieved is the horrible ironing which I dread! Substitute 'running' in the above for 'ironing' and maybe that will help? If not, you can have a giggle at how daft I am!! xx

Oliverunner in reply to Cherie65

Hehe - I love this. Thanks so much. I think even running when feeling grim is better than ironing for me, so this might work. If not, at least I’ll have some crisp shirts and snazzy collars to feel low in ❤️❤️❤️

Elfe5Graduate in reply to Cherie65

This is so simple & clever Cherie65 - a technique that every single one of us could apply to the jobs we put off, regardless of whether we suffer from depression and anxiety. 😄


Hi oliverunner, have read alot of the replys to your post, this forum will help you, i'm sure. I to have suffered alot of recent, family berevements, both my sisters, and my wife, all having had cancer! About a year ago, i decided to join a gym, lose some weight, stopped smoking, swam alot, but only started the running, 8 weeks ago, outside, as not ready to go back to gym yet, anyway, it's really helped me, both physicaly, and probably more mentally, still alot of obstacles to get over, 3 kids, 22+23, to sort out, and caring for my 91 year old mum, who we live with now, anyway, sorry to have gone on a bit here, hope you find some help on here.

Oliverunner in reply to Peter44

Oh Peter - you poor thing. I’m so, so sorry for your losses. I cannot imagine how awful it must be, so thanks so much for replying. I hope you also get support here, and I’m blown away by your strength. It’s hard being a caregiver, even without personal tragedy weighing you down. Keep going - you’re an inspiration ❤️❤️❤️


It’s not quite the same... but menopause causes mood swings for me and periods of being down and unmotivated to run.... I struggle to get out. But lately have found that if I talk to my mood (I use the fat gremlin/thin gremlin imagery) it helps. I tell them that they can be as miserable as they like and we will talk about it on the run. I wonder if you take your depression on the run with you, it can protest all it likes but you will listen 100% on the run .

Now I’ve written this it sounds odd I know but it does work for me.

Hope you find your mojo again soon and things progress for you. 💕good luck let us know how you go

I literally just tried this - I’ve heard before about making room for your depression - but I’d totally forgotten about it. It’s such a strain trying to banish it al the time. I love your thin gremlin fat gremlin images - made me laugh. Thank you so much ❤️❤️❤️

I’m not sure if all of you sweethearts who replied to me yesterday will see this automatically but here goes. I’m so touched by the generous spirit here, and practical tips - I’ve actually never experienced anything like this. I went for a run today and felt like you all had my back, pushing me on. This sounds so corny but it’s true. Thank you all. I’m there for each and every one of you too ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Yorki_GirlGraduate in reply to Oliverunner

Fabulous news. I hope you took your demons with you and tired them out. Keep posting. We are all here for u 😊

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