To run or not to run

It is very rare these days to meet someone who has not experienced some form of mental health difficulty.  Working in the industry also means that the Expert in Mind team are reading about mental health issues on a daily basis.  So is it true that exercise really helps? Answer – yes!

Zofia after completing the London Landmarks Half Marathon in August 2021

I have always hated running, since my school days.  But one day I saw an awful photo of myself and decided to download the couch to 5k app and give it a go.  This is a great app that tells you when to walk and when to run and very gradually builds up the running time over the weeks and months.  When I started, I couldn’t run for a solid minute.  But, determined to give it a chance I carried on and was over the moon when I managed to run a whole 5k.  This made me want to challenge myself even more and I have now completed several 10k runs and two half marathons. (I fully admit to getting addicated to the medals!) I cannot profess to ever finding running easy.  In fact, most runs are difficult and I could easily talk myself out of going – too windy, too hot, too cold, too tired – the list goes on. BUT, whenever I do run I feel absolutely great afterwards.  My mind is clear, I feel so happy, I feel energised and the sense of achievement is immense.

Aside from the physical health benefits, from a mental health perspective, running can help you recover from mental health issues, improve sleep, reduce stress, improve memory and focus, improve brain health and boost your mood.


Dr Laura Pipon-Young after completing the London Landmarks Half Marathon – April 2023

One of our top Experts, Dr Laura Pipon- Young, Clinical Psychologist, has recently taken up running.  Fresh from completing the London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday in a spectacular time of 2 hours and 6 minutes, here’s what she says about running:

I’ve never been particularly sporty or found it particularly easy to exercise. Then in 2020, during the pandemic a neighbour asked me if I would like to run with her as it was something we could do outside.  I did somewhat reluctantly as I wasn’t fit at all but we started off very slowly and soon it became a time I looked forward to. It was our chance to put the world to rights and slowly but surely, we were going further and further.  Then in 2021, I was persuaded, perhaps rashly, to take on my first half marathon… the London Landmarks in April 2022.  I loved it!  The atmosphere, the chance to see all the sights and the achievement at the end.  I signed up again in April 2023, this time taking 8 minutes off my previous time! I was amazed and again thoroughly enjoyed it.  What I have learnt during this running journey is to prioritise my fitness and self-care as I would the many other commitments in my life.   Another game changer for me was to decide to run according to how I feel; getting out is the aim not how far or how fast.  It also helps that I have some fantastic running buddies, both human and canine – oh and we invariably finish at our local coffee shop, good old positive reinforcement comes into it too!  I would say that running really is great for mental health and keeping those stress levels in check: I promise it can also be fun and if I can do it, I genuinely believe anyone can.  Next step: the Great North Run 2023! ” – Dr Laura Pipon-Young, Clinical Psychologist

Several members of the Expert in Mind team have also become runners and here’s what they say about it:

Leigh after completing the Battle 10k – September 2022

It’s been nearly a year since I started my running journey, because of our very convincing CEO, who encouraged us to sign up for a 10k for fun! Having not run for over a decade, I struggled to run for even a minute at a time. But with the support of my colleagues and a push of determination I completed my first 10k in September 2022, as well as completing the London Winter Run 10k in February this year. I must say that I am still waiting to enjoy running.. But what I do enjoy is the feeling of accomplishment when I have made it over the finishing line! Even more so because I don’t find it easy! So when I cross that line and have got through it, it feels great. Such an immense feeling of achievement that washes over you. Running has helped me to start getting back in shape and has helped in giving me more energy. There is something about sticking your headphones in and setting out on that run that gives you a pocket of time where you can switch off and wipe away the day. It’s also great to have running buddies who can hold you accountable and make sure you are getting out on those planned runs! Your mind can be your biggest challenge to get past. Telling yourself you can do it and to not give up is something that I have tried to carry through into the rest of my life and running when I don’t find it easy has helped me to have confidence that I can achieve things that are outside of my comfort zone. If you are in any doubt, give running a try. Even if, like me, you start with not being able to run for a minute; just know that over time you will do better and you too could be collecting medals, medals and more medals (it’s not about the medals, honest!)”Leigh Hammond, Case Manager

Nattasha after the Hastings Half Marathon (known for its killer hills!)- March 2023 with a spectacular time of 2 hours 12 minutes.

I started running two years ago and couldn’t even run for 10 minutes straight. I went on to complete my first 10k race in September 2021 and Half Marathon in April 2022. And I can well and truly say I caught the running bug. It became my very own free therapy session. It allows for a little bit of me time to process my thoughts or completely ignore them and zone out. I have achieved goals I never thought were possible and am very excited to see what’s next on my running journey…I can hear the London Marathon calling my name very faintly in the background. Who knows!!!  The benefits of running are endless, not only does it boost your physical and mental health but the people you meet and community you become apart of is amazing.”Nattasha Byrne, Case Manager 

Shyann after the Hastings Half Marathon – March 2022

“I started running in 2021 purely to take part in the Cancer Research 10k Summer Run with zero intentions this would become something.  But the sense of achievement when you see the finish line, is something I have never experienced along with how the community comes together to cheer people on that they do not know just out of the kindness of their hearts – this is what encouraged me to take keep going and entre many other 10k races and two half marathons. 

As someone who has always been into sport and is quite athletic, long distant running was never my thing and I never thought I would be able to run longer than 10 minutes. At the beginning it was so difficult and I never thought I would  make it around the course let alone achieve what I have,but with determination and my competitive spirit, you really can achieve anything you set your mind on.  There were times when doing training runs felt like a chore, but when you get home, check your running tracker, and see you have knocked a couple of seconds of your time, its just euphoric! After each race I completed, I just wanted more and still want more. Running allows you to be free and gives you a great mental space, you can organise your life, plan your next move all whilst moving your body – which I consider a Bonus!

I would say to anyone, if you are unsure of a hobby to get into enter a race, give yourself a goal and go for it. Your life will be changed! –  Shyann Weekes, Office Manager 

So, its a resounding yes! Running does help your mental health, as well as your physical health.  If you are in the vicous circle where don’t have the motivation to move or go out, but would feel better if you did, give it one try.  You won’t regret it!