By Elinor Fish
On yesterday’s run along a snow-covered trail winding through stubby pinion tress and scruffy sage bushes, the sound of icy snow crunching under my feet soothed my scattered mind.
With the volume turned down on the usual chatter that fills my head, one dominant idea came to the forefront: running strengthens our voices as well as our muscles.
The idea carried such magnitude because it’s never been as important as it is now that we use our voices to speak up and stand up for the issues that matter to us most. Running helps us do that.
Sure, it can be scary to say what you really think. As women, we’re usually shut down when we speak out against what we think is wrong.
And this is no exaggeration; just ask Senator Elizabeth Warren, who, last week, was silenced by her male peers in the most condescending and unacceptable way.
But one of running’s greatest benefits is the strength, courage, energy and opportunity to speak up, be seen and be heard despite our fear.
And the way running does this isn’t just anecdotal; it’s biology. Running actually changes our physiology in ways that strengthens our voices much like it strengthens our muscles. Here’s how:
– Good running posture involves standing tall, with the spine straight and the shoulders back. This expands the chest cavity, creating space around the lungs that not only helps you breathe more deeply, but also causes hormonal shifts in the brain that raises your confidence and sense of personal power.
– Running encourages long, deep inhalations, which is known to have a calming effect on the nervous system. When your breath is steady and controlled, you’re better able to draw the air in the lower lobes of the lungs, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps you feel more relaxed, self-assured and courageous.
– Running also oxygenates the brain, making it easier for you cut through the endless chatter rambling in your subconscious (often comprised of negative thoughts) and create the space for your most creative, original and powerful ideas to rise to the surface. This clarity allows you to really engage the parts of the brain associated with “executive-level” decision making and problem-solving.
– And of course, running elevates your overall vitality, giving you the energy and endurance to show up and take advantage of opportunities to share your opinions, get involved and speak up for what you believe in.
I realize that most of the time, we have enough on our plates just keeping up with everyday life, nevermind getting involved in bigger issues. But that’s why we run. Running isn’t a selfish act; considering the powerful ways that running helps us show up in the world, running is in fact one of the most selfless things we do each and every day.
Your family needs you, your organizations need you, your community needs you, your country needs you. We need your brilliance more than ever.
***If you are interesting supporting the cause, purchase a t-shirt I designed and have made available for sale (proceeds all going to charity, of course). Click here!
About the Author
Elinor Fish is a trail runner, writer, speaker and educator who is passionate about helping people reduce stress and live a healthier life through mindful running. During her 25-year running career, Elinor has competed in events ranging from 800 meters on the track to 100 miles on mountain trails. She’s lived in four countries and run in many of the world’s best trail-running destinations.
She spent four years as the managing editor of Trail Runner magazine and is presently the CEO of Run Wild Wellness, which helps people cultivate more energy and better health so they can live a fulfilling and active lifestyle. Elinor leads running retreats in North America, Europe and Iceland, writes books, articles and offers online coaching using the Mindful Running Training System.