March to DeMar: Focusing on mental wellness

Sep. 3—As race day inches closer, I was surprised that I didn't get nervous about what this endeavor truly entailed until a few weeks ago.

It started with the simple questions. What am I going to be wearing for race day? What's my plan for breakfast? What's going on my race-day playlist?

Then it started to spiral.

What happens if I get hurt on race day? If a past injury suddenly flares back up and then I have to call it quits?

Usually, my go-to method of stress relief has always been to go for a run. But when the thing that's causing me stress is what usually gives me solace, what do I do then?

This week, I'm sharing a few things I took in stride to try and shake off the pre-race day nerves and help improve my mental health.

Since running has been my predominant method of self-care, I knew physical activity would still be helpful for me. At its core, it really linked back to my love for the outdoors. I also was starting to feel the isolation that comes with long-term training. I was missing out on mid-week outings and events because of post-work runs. My Saturdays used to be my long-run days, and that was often leaving me a bit too tired to do anything in the evening after doing some household chores and errands for the day.

So, I switched my long-run days to Sundays so that I could set up group hikes with friends on Saturdays. That way, not only was I still getting my cross-training in — hiking is a great way to still keep moving during the week and strengthen the muscles that are repeatedly impacted by running — but I was able to spend at least four hours a week chatting with my peers and getting outside.

When it wasn't possible to hike on a certain weekend, or if I was just feeling really exhausted after a long day at work and didn't have the energy to go on a five-mile run, I resorted to walking around Keene instead. And for me, no walk or run is complete without the music to go with it.

I usually listen to music with a faster tempo — think hard rock, metal, and sometimes I throw a random electronic dance music track into the mix — when I go on my runs. It keeps me motivated by tuning out from the world. For my walks I created a few playlists that were on the opposite end of the spectrum. It varies in length, but the main genres are usually classical and folk/americana.

To keep me tuned into the world, I sent a call-out text to a few friends this past week and asked for music recommendations. That resulted in an eclectic mix of rap, hip-hop and country.

And lastly, when there were days where it really felt too hard to do much of anything, I had to remind myself that it's okay to just take a break.

Some days it's much better to be sitting with my cat on the porch than making myself feel miserable. I will always love running, and I'm truly excited for the DeMar this month. But it's also okay to take a step back from the training when I need it. I want to be in the best shape I can be — both physically and mentally — on race day.