Unless you lived without access to a television, computer, newspaper or radio you could not have missed hearing of the miraculous rescue of the 33 Chilean miners two weeks ago. These men were trapped for well over two months over a half mile below the Earth's surface. How they survived this harrowing ordeal with great tenacity was truly a miracle. What a joy it was to see the miners, one by one, being raised to the surface only to be reunited with family and friends.
Earlier this week I came across an inspiring blog posted on the Runner's World website regarding the trapped Chilean miner Edison Pena. You may be asking yourself what in the world does this miraculous story have to do with running. If you continue reading, you may just find yourself ready to lace up your shoes and hit the ground running.
In the 69 days that the miners were trapped, Edison Pena did what many runners do in times of stress and great anxiety--he ran. Running anywhere from three to six miles daily in a dark, warm underground tunnel all of a ½ mile in length, helped ease the stress and anxiety of being trapped. His running not only kept his mental acuity, but it also kept him fit, therefore earning him the title as the Fittest Miner.
According to the American Council on Exercise aerobic activity is a great stress reliever. It has been shown to reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing the feel good endorphins known to many runners as the ‘runner’s high’. Exercise has also been shown to elevate our mood, increase confidence and allow for greater relaxation.
So with all the benefits mentioned above, isn’t it is ironic that many of us find ourselves avoiding or disdaining daily activity? Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of daily exercise can do wonders in changing not only our physical appearance and health, but our mood as well. And the more we exercise, the more resilient we are to the daily stress in our lives.
Last spring when I was under an extraordinary amount of stress, I did what so many people tend to do during times like this and that was to cut back on my running and cross training activity. It took about a month for me to realize that my decrease in running and exercise was actually causing me to be more anxious and more depressed. So on April 1st, I found a race to train for, laced up my running shoes and started running consistently 3-4 days a week. I am proud to say I have been running and cross training ever since and I have never felt better. There is still stress in my life, but I am managing life so much easier running than I ever did without it.
Taking a lesson from Edison Pena—there is little in my life that I control. Just like he could not control the time it took the rescue workers to free him and his fellow miners, he was able to make the most of the resources he had. And in response to his amazing running feat, the New York Road Runners Club has invited Mr. Pena as a guest or runner for the ING New York City Marathon to be held on Sunday, November 7th.
How do you deal with the stress in your life? Have you made exercise a part of your stress relieving routine?
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