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Trail Running and Mental Health

Harrier Content Creator, Lyndsey Killian, shares her thoughts on trail running and mental health.

I'm OK! It's a phrase we ask and answer so often but one that's often masked over with the truth. There have been many times when I've been asked "how are you?" and answered with, "I'm fine thanks!" when the reality has been very different.
At times I've felt so low but "I'm fine" has seemed easier to answer than actually "No, I'm not OK". I've learnt that talking is a great tool to process how you're feeling and having a support network to lean upon during dark times is invaluable.

Running has been a lifeline for me, it is a positive tool to help me cope with my anxiety and the times where life has not been kind. I've run through happy days and sad days. It's driven me on days where life seemed without purpose and focus on days where life was overwhelming.

Positive Steps

Lacing up my trainers, even when mustering up the energy to move outside that door seems like the hardest thing, always helps. Being outdoors in the trees, the trails, the mountains, running, hiking, stopping to stare at the views carries me through the lows and helps me find the highs of life again.
Falling in love with being on the trails and the benefits it has made to my mental wellbeing prompted me to set up Positive Steps, a moving mental health group, aiming to be inclusive to all regardless of whether you walk or run.
Positive Steps is accessible regardless of pace, with regular walk breaks and encouraging time to chat about mental health in a peer supported environment. We host a weekly 5km run at Cannock Chase forest and monthly hikes on location. Giving opportunity to bring people to the trails in a safe and guided environment, a chance to explore and gain confidence on the trails whilst having a safe space to talk about how you are really feeling. Sometimes a run can seem overwhelming, so we always say let's start with a walk and see how we get on.

Escape To Nature

Running through the trees is a great way to relax and unwind from the stresses of life, feeling the cathartic effects of the forest. Our group offers contact for those experiencing loneliness, and support through health issues. Talking about anxieties people have faced in their personal life, through lockdown, relationship breakdowns, managing businesses and balancing life, dealing with grief, coming back from injury and comparing our performances to our past selves or others. We run, we talk, we listen, we support. We practice mindfulness and listening to the grounding sounds of the forest. Our hikes on location give people a chance to explore new places, outdoor therapy, and achieve personal challenges. 
Mental health is a subject that I'm passionate about. Helping to raise awareness, and breaking down stigmas. I hope being open and honest with my struggles provides comfort that if you are struggling you are not alone. We will all experience series of rising and falling throughout our life, some falls hurt harder than others, you often get tired of dusting yourself off and climbing up again. Life can be ugly, mundane and hurtful, but it gives meaning and contrast to the beautiful moments, and value to the times that make us smile.
I hope that the trails bring peace to as many people as possible. Running - whether it's training for a race, a PB or just for the endorphin rush on a bad day - gives people a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement and a way to navigate their way through this great adventure called life. 

1 comment

  • John Gray

    I loved reading your article.Its great to know that there is support out there.
    Some days it’s hard to lift my head from the pillow let alone go for a run! But when I finally lace my shoes and step out the door. My hole outlook changes and sets me up for the rest of the day.😎
    I hope that everyone who reads you articles stays safe and has a good day.👍

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