Well-Being//

Ditching My Running App Was the Best Decision for My Mental Health

Now, I look forward to my runs.

Viktoria Gavrilina / Shutterstock
Viktoria Gavrilina / Shutterstock

After a couple of years of running 5Ks, 10ks and a half-marathon, I grew pretty attached to my running app. I became obsessed with my trusty “coach” who would tell me how fast (or slow) I was going and how far I’d run. She helped push me when I knew I could push myself to go faster or run further. With my running app, it helped me set goals and achieve them.

At the time, I depended on her — maybe too much. So, as I distanced myself from running competitively, those apps, quite frankly, began to make me feel like shit.

You see, over the past year or so, I’ve put competitive running on-hold. I still run to stay in shape, but I no longer feel the need to beat the clock. So the constant reminder from the app of how slow I’d become made me reluctant to hit the trails all together. Eventually, I let the stupid technology get to me and failed to lace up my shoes at all.

I didn’t hit the pavement or even my favorite trails for about four months. Not only was the lack of cardio rough on my fitness routine (and my heart and body), but my spirits as well. Without the fresh air and post-run endorphins, my mental health was not where it needed to be. I missed and craved that after-run euphoric state, but could I still attain that without my app?

Turns out I could. I didn’t realize it before but, for me, running wasn’t strictly about goal-setting and crushing times. It was about freeing my mind and inhaling the fresh air —calming my spirit entirely.

So, finally, I knew what I had to do. I decided to delete my running app all together. At first, it felt odd to run with just silence or music — no coach letting me know my pace or how far I’d run. My first couple of runs, I felt weak. Not my body, but my mind. I considered myself an athlete, after all. I thought, I should push myself to accomplish something — even if it was much slower than before. But I kept running without my app. I just knew my mind and body needed to.

I began to enjoy it. I’d run for as little or long as I wanted to — just going at my own crawl-like pace. If I felt like picking it up, I would. Or I would continue trotting along, just taking it all in. I observed things I never did before: the colors of the leaves changing, the wagging tails of dogs on their leashes, and even the sound of the wind. Most importantly, I just let my mind wander.

Over time (and I know this sounds cheesy), I realized what this was doing for my soul. My mind was settled. I could forget about my busy schedule and to-do list. “Being present” is a giant buzz word and I’ve learned that this can even apply to our workouts. Sure, it’s great and all to challenge your body and set goals. But, in our fast-paced culture, it’s not a bad idea to slow down and even savor them.

Now, I look forward to my runs. I don’t beat myself up if I feel slow or didn’t run very long. I glide through my favorite trail, breathe in the fresh air, and feel content when I’m done. Since I’ve dropped my running app, I run for pure enjoyment — the reason I began running in the first place. I no longer have to race against myself and it’s made my runs feel much better, dare I say, therapeutic. 

Originally published on SheKnows.

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