Running for Mental Health

Image shows a woodland path

Written by Victoria Ellen

It was May 2018, I was stood in a car park surrounded by a ton of other people, questioning what was I doing here. Lets rewind for a moment. My mother had decided to secretly sign me up for a Couch to 5K running class with a local running club. I was furious, but I went along to see what it was all about.

Honestly, over the years my mental health hasn’t been great. I’ve had both depression and anxiety, which has been heightened my Autistic traits. But honestly, this experience changed my life. I’ve become much more confident with who I am and I’m now able to use running as a strength, its become more than an interest for me, its become a passion.

I hated running to begin with, it hurt, and I was too slow to keep up, it made me moody and not want to attend the sessions, but I was determined to keep it up. Little did I know I’d end up enjoying it. I made friends and started to see the benefits.

Running affected both my physical and mental health, I was in a downward spiral and getting outside to meet friends and participate in exercise made such a positive impact. I have also found since this that for me running is a type of stimming, because I can feel the hard ground under my feet as I move, and running allows my body to release any tension and move freely.

That first experience in the car park, although scary changed my perspective on not only exercise but my life. At the end of the course I signed up to join the Middleton Harriers Running Club, and I’ve been there ever since. I even undertook a qualification to become a level one coach in running fitness. My club thought I should undertake this training, which gave me faith in myself and showed how valued I am, something I never thought I would be. And now I’m able to share my passion with others, motivating and supporting all those who are new to running, which for me is incredibly rewarding.

Running three times a week with my friends keeps me topped up, when I’m feeling low I just lace up my trainers and head outside. I forget about what’s going on and just run, focusing on my breath and my surroundings and not my worries. It gives me a different perspective and clarity on my life.

I’m now able to reflect upon my life, and see how much running has made an impact, and I’m so grateful to both the Middleton Harriers and all the friends I’ve made for supporting me on this journey. As an Autistic person I can be quite shy, and often need extra processing time, but my club are incredibly understanding and they support me in all I do. Last year in 2019 I was awarded a trophy for ‘Club Lady of the Year’, I was told this is because of how motivating I am, and how I support our beginners. I want to use my experiences to help others, it drives me forward.

I know how much of an impact it has had on my own mental health, I want to open that door for others.

Since I started running my anxiety levels have dropped and my depression has become more levelled out and more manageable. Honestly, just being able to go outside and run has changed my life.

My name is Victoria, and I run Actually Aspling, I’m a social media blogger. I’m also an avid psychology fan, having graduated with both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree. I set up my social media brand following my late Autism diagnosis in 2017 at age 25. I am also Dyslexic, Dyspraxic and Epileptic.

Instagram: @actuallyaspling

Published by florence neville (she/her)

PhD student

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