We all know that getting out and exercising can make us feel better, giving us that sense of achievement and making our mood improve. But what is the science behind the mood-boost? We chatted to Sport & Fitness Gym Instructor Peter Antonio, who is also a Sport Nutritionist, about the link between mental health and exercise.
It may come as no surprise that moving those different (but wonderful) shaped bodies of ours has many positive effects on our overall wellbeing.
Getting active, raising our heart rate, and putting some force through our muscles are all tried and tested methods of being a sure-fire way of releasing some good old endorphins. These hormones, aside from making us feel great, can aid in reducing pain, increase our self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance our immune system. Incidentally, eating chocolate is also a way to unlock the internal happy hormone safe!
We are not designed to be still for long periods of time. Our eyes are made to continually alter the distance of our focus. Blood can pool in our lower legs if we remain standing or sitting for too long. When we don’t move for long periods of time, we can feel even more tired than before we sat down. By not moving, we are telling our bodies that we’re ready for bed. The same is true for not blinking for long periods of time, when reading a book or looking at one of our many screens. This is why, when in situations of long periods of sitting (at work sitting down, travelling or commuting), getting up every now and then to move around and get your blood flowing can be extremely beneficial – reminding your body that it still needs to be active.
Exercise can also put us in the blissful state of flow. A flow state is where we are intensely focused on the task in hand, and therefore all other thoughts and emotions are not at the forefront of our minds. We can experience, if only for a moment, psychological freedom from all the to do lists, internal chatter, or one of the many existential crises we may be going through in our lives.
If you’re worried about leaving it too late to start training, or simply have concerns about committing to your first ever long-distance run in front of a crowd, this blog should dispel some of those fears, and help you to separate fact from fiction when it comes to running events.
I DON’T KNOW IF I HAVE THE MOTIVATION FOR IT
We often talk about being physically fit, but your mental fitness and wellbeing is just as important when it comes to training for a 10k or further. Before we tackle how you’re going to run the distance, it’s important to firstly decide why you’re considering doing it, so let’s break it down.
First and foremost, it’s important that you’re joining us for the Great Birmingham Run for you and only you. In other words let’s not get caught up with trying to beat the personal best of a friend, or taking up running because our colleagues run home from work. There are several reasons for taking up running and setting yourself a 10k challenge, but the most important one is that you’re doing it because you really want to – and will be your best source of motivation too.
IT’S BEEN TOO COLD AND WET TO START TRAINING
Granted the recent weather has been particularly grey and gloomy – but for some people, these are their perfect running conditions. On those wet and miserable mornings or cold dark evenings, you need to ask yourself what your main motivation is for joining #TeamUoB for the 10k and keep reminding yourself of it.
Whether you’re trying to become a healthier version of yourself, want to eventually run a marathon, or are just hoping to get back into running after a prolonged period of time, this must be at the forefront of your mind when you’re finding training tough.
Every trainer will also tell you that a treat every now and again won’t do you any harm, so if you have to reward yourself with a sweet treat after particularly cold runs – do it!
WHAT IF I GET A BAD FINISHING TIME
This is where we should say it’s the taking part that counts, but we know how important finishing times are to any runner. One thing we will say however to anyone reading this who hasn’t signed up for the Great Birmingham Run because they think they’ll be too slow, is just be honest with yourself and you can’t go wrong.
Each one of us is capable of running a 10k, whatever your age or ability. That doesn’t mean that we’ll all be running it in the same timeframe – which is perfectly fine. The best way to complete the course is to set yourself a realistic target, especially if you’re just setting out, and then you can improve on this week on week.
If you initially plan your training sessions to build up your running programme gradually, you’ll find it much easier to notice the improvements you’re making. This will also help you to not put too much strain on your body, and prevent you from any pre-race injuries. Pacing yourself doesn’t mean finishing the 10k in a longer time, it just means you won’t burn out before the finishing line. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t run the full distance either. There will be plenty of participants walking (or skipping) too.
I’VE NEVER RUN IN FRONT OF A CROWD BEFORE
Any long-distance runner will be able to recall a time they’ve completely forgotten there’s a crowd there. Huge cheering crowds can be brilliant for your motivation, as they’re genuinely there to support you around the course, and the elated atmosphere really helps too, but the most important people are those who you’re running with.
That’s why #TeamUoB is such an encouraging network of individuals. There’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line as part of a team in a sea of matching t-shirts, but having a whole community there for you before the run itself is really helpful. Particularly if you’re new to a 10k, other members can offer friendly advice from how often to train per week and how far, to what to eat on the day and which trainers will be kinder to your feet!
It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks along with prayer time, so we hope to be able to advise in any way we can about the best ways to exercise. Although Ramadan may not be a time to push your limits or set personal records, there are definitely still ways to maintain a training regime ahead of running a 10k.
We chatted to our Personal Trainers at Sport & Fitness, to find out a bit more about sports nutrition during Ramadan, what they recommend doing, and when. You can find out what they had to say here.
We hope this has helped you to make up your mind about joining us at the Great Birmingham Run, but you can always visit our webpage for more details about #TeamUoB, including how to sign up.
Muslims who choose to fast during Ramadan will abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset each day for one month.
It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks along with prayer time, but should this schedule and the limitations on consumption mean that you can’t keep exercising during this period?
Although Ramadan may not be a time to push your limits or set personal records, there are definitely still ways to maintain your workouts and schedules. As it’s a time for worship, self-reflection and an opportunity to become a better person, Muslims across the world use this holy month of fasting and prayer to restore not only their relationship with God but their relationship with themselves. One of the main aspects of preparing for Ramadan is to figure out ways to better yourself and implement them during the holy month.
We chatted to our Personal Trainers at Sport & Fitness, to find out a bit more about sports nutrition during Ramadan, what they recommend doing, and when.
Sessions undertaken in the morning after sunrise
Not only does this get the workout done early when you might feel your most energetic, but you’ll have a good amount of fuel to go on.
Pros: You will benefit from eating and drinking from the previous evening and before dawn
Cons: There’s little opportunity to refuel, rehydrate, and recover after these sessions
Suhour (the last meal before the beginning of the day’s fast) should be eaten as close as possible to sunrise and athletes should choose foods that contribute to sport nutrition needs for the day. Low GI carbohydrate choices are recommended to allow slow release of glucose.
Higher sodium foods at Suhour may be beneficial to promote fluid retention and aid hydration.
Eating some slow-digesting casein protein (eg. Cottage cheese, greek yoghurt, other dairy products) immediately before sunrise will provide your body with a continuous source of amino acids for the hours to come.
Consumption of ‘‘slow’’ proteins at meals consumed before dawn to help with protein balance over the day is advised. Sufficient fluids and electrolytes (especially sodium) should be consumed after sunset and before sunrise to ensure full replacement of sweat losses and to prevent progressive dehydration.
Sessions undertaken in the evening, scheduled to finish just before Iftar
Potentially the best time for Muslims to exercise during Ramadan is right before sunset when they will have the opportunity to refuel and recover straight away afterwards.
Pros: You’ll benefit from the ability to eat for recovery at Iftar (breaking fast) and during the rest of the evening
Cons: These sessions are undertaken with minimal pre-exercise nutritional support
When training or competition are scheduled late in the day, athletes should be careful to limit glycogen depletion and sweat losses by restricting activity levels and exposure to warm environments during the day.
Carbohydrate-rich foods should be consumed at the break of fast.
Athletes should try to consume at least 20 g of rapidly digested and absorbed high-quality protein soon after exercise whenever possible, as well as high-quality protein-rich foods at each meal opportunity during the evening and before dawn.
Sessions undertaken in the evening after breaking fast
A good option for those with less free time, working out after eating can be beneficial.
Pros: 2 – 3 hours after the break of the fast gives the best opportunities to fuel and hydrate before, during, and after
Cons: It must be balanced against the importance of sleep!
Strength training is best performed later in the day to ensure protein can be consumed soon after exercise in order to maximise training adaptations.
Consume small amounts of carbohydrate during exercise undertaken after the fast is broken, even if there is little need for additional fuel.
Finding an exercise routine that fits around this time can be difficult, and should only be taken on by people who are used to exercise. If you’re continuing to work out during Ramadan, cardio and heavy weights are not recommended – your body isn’t functioning on its usual fuel, and exercise could be dangerous if taken too far. If you’d like to chat with one of our Personal Trainers regarding training that works around your lifestyle, email the Gym team today. And remember, if you’re feeling unwell due to illness or fasting, please do not take part in exercise until you feel fully well and able!