Monday, July 8, 2013

Thoughts While Running in Nature

Last week I read an article about the mental benefits of running.  Exercise boosts serotonin in the brain which creates a more positive mood and releases endorphins, which are supposed to have a "pain-easing" effect.  "Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy." (Name that movie.) For me, running doesn't always make me feel better.  I find that it's a lot of alone time to over-think things that are bothering me or stress me out.  As I read the article further, it said that these positive effects depend on WHERE you run.  A study found that people who ran in nature had brain activity similar to that seen during meditation, whereas people who ran on city streets experienced frustration.  I almost always run on the city streets.  Maybe that is my problem.

So, last Monday I decided to run to the lake front path and have a "peaceful" run.  I didn't bring my music, but I did bring the Garmin since I am still trying it out.  I told myself I'd only look at it every mile when it beeped and I did a decent job at that.  I finished the 7 miles in 56:30 at just over 8 minute pace and my mile splits were consistent with which direction I was traveling along the lake path - with the wind as I headed south and against the wind as I ran north.  Something I learned from Coach Brendan is to not always worry about what your watch says because of changes in conditions along each mile of a run, whether it is due to wind, a random hill (or more like a bump since we don't have real hills here), etc.  He said to focus on always giving consistent effort, not necessarily consistent mile splits and I felt like I was doing exactly that on this run.  As far as peacefulness goes, I think it was nice to run without my iPod and I'm thinking I'll do some of my normal runs without a watch at all and just trust I'm doing what I need to.  I've ran enough miles around 8 minute pace that I know if I'm at least in the general range.

(This picture is obviously not from today...I need to be better at taking pictures, but peaceful run = no iPod.  I just thought this was a cool nature pic from a hike in Iowa!)'s run.  It is funny how certain sights will automatically trigger a memory.  Today I went to the Elk Grove Forest Preserve.  The loop is 7.7 miles (I believe I said it was 8.3 in yesterday's post, but apparently I didn't remember correctly).  I could not remember the last time I ran on this trail, but I knew it was sometime in 2011.  Then, all of the sudden, I was running along and saw the "Mile 1" marker on the path (the point where I parked my car and got on the trail is almost at the 3 mile mark, so the 1 mile mark is about 6 miles into the run) and knew exactly when the last time I ran on this trail was!  It was my birthday weekend and Angela came to visit.  I had been drinking during the day at a work function before she arrived and then we went out in the city and I'm fairly confident tequila shots were involved.  But we can't visit each other and NOT go for a Saturday morning run, duh.  When I saw that "Mile 1" mark on the path, I remembered I'm pretty sure we stopped right there and took a walking break.  Here's a picture from that weekend:
birthday weekend 2011 022

Anyways, back to today's run.  I did the loop in 59:10, I'm going to go with 7.5 miles because I did walk a short distance after I stopped at one of the water fountains.  I had decided to wear a watch since I hadn't ran this trail in awhile and was curious how long it would take.  Here's some thoughts I had while running/after the run.  I have to say that running without an iPod means you will have in your head whatever song was last on the radio.  Today, that was Blurred Lines.  So every one of these thoughts was followed with "hey hey hey."

  • This actually is very peaceful.  I have no reason to stop since there are no stop lights, so I'm going to be running continuously for an hour.

  • Anyone could be hiding in the trees waiting for a little girl in a sports bra to come running by alone and make me into a real-life SVU story.

  • This guy could hop off his bike and make me into a real-life SVU story.

  • The sign said the speed limit on a bike is 8mph.  You are clearly going way faster than that, dude.  Heck, I could go faster than that if I really wanted to right now so how do they expect bikers to go that slow?

  • I feel like I'm running in an oven.  At least this will help my tan.

  • That girl has roller blades.  I wish I had roller blades.

  • Nature reminds me of Pennellwood.  We would be going to Pennellwood next week.

  • I wish I would've brought a towel to sit on in my car.  Now my seat is going to get sweaty.  I also wish I had brought more Gatorade.  My thirst needs to be quenched.

Overall it was a quality run and nice to go somewhere that was not one of my usual routes through the city or even just the usual north/south on the lakefront path.  I think I'll try to change up where I do my runs more often.  And the running in nature was pretty cool too - maybe it'd be better not at 4pm when it feels like 90 degrees though.  I got home and used my new foam roller.  Since I didn't officially register for yesterday's race and saved the $35, I bought myself a foam roller as I had been thinking about doing for a few weeks now.  It's pink and matches my shoes and socks nicely in this picture.  And yes, my sports bra was pink and my shorts had pink accents.  It's not even Wednesday. (Another movie reference.)
iphone 7_8 051

Do you like running in nature?  Or without an iPod/watch?

What song has been in your head?


  1. I usually just run through the neighborhoods here during the week, but I like doing the North Branch Bike Path or Des Plaines River Trail on the weekends. I don’t like stopping to wait at lights forever and ever, and when I run in the city (and not on the lake), you are dealing with stupid pedestrians who don’t move and dangerous bikers.

    I never run with an iPod so I always have songs stuck in my head. It’s the worst when you can’t remember all the words to the song. This morning for instance “Pieces of my heart, pieces of my soul, da-na-na-nah (forgot the lyrics ), I don’t even know” Yup, that was pretty annoying to think on repeat for a 7.5 mile split tempo run hahaha.

    PS – love that “bumps” got a shout-out. My marathon course is pretty hilly so I will be doing some of my longer long runs out in STC to prepare. They don’t have bumps out there (because it’s not in Chicago…ask Matt where is he from someday, and then make sure you tell him it’s not Chicago). But yea, I don’t like hills.

  2. I don't know what the rest of the words to that song are either! I didn't realize your marathon was going to be hilly, but that's a good idea to practice on them then. I don't like them either.

  3. Catherine, I will never understand how you can run sans iPod. That's what I (used to, when I was able to) love about running. The music!