How Running Builds My Resilience at Work

From a mental health perspective, the last 5 years have been some of the worst of my life.

I’ve tried lots of things to make improvements, including diet, exercise, counselling, therapy, and medication.

They’ve all had some kind of positive impact.

But one thing I did not expect, was to find a correlation between continuous running for longer time – 40 to 60 minutes – and my resilience at work. 

This is different to exercising for 40 to 60 minutes at a gym. Or even different to playing a game of football (soccer), where I play two 45 minute halves. 

For me, it is the endurance part that builds resilience. Running for between 40 and 60 minutes. Now, to be clear, running for an hour maybe easy for some, and impossible for others. You’ll need to find what endurance is for you. But if you want a definition, then Wikipedia says 3km or more. For me, continuous running for 40 – 60 minutes is the important part. And not run-walk-run either. All running. There’s nothing wrong with run-walk-run, I use it but the continuous bit is important for building my resilience. 

I’m not sure why endurance-distance running builds my resilience. But there are anecdotal, and published links between running very long distances (ultra-marathons) and various psychological measures of resilience. I can definitely relate to aspects of these anecdotal reports. The idea of reaching and pushing through physical barriers. Barriers of pain or exhaustion. Barriers of distance or time. Barriers of motivation or inspiration. These concepts all resonate with me and how endurance running builds my resilience. 

At times when my mental health has been low, an endurance run has been able show me how strong I am.


At times when my mental health has been low, an endurance run has been able to show me I can get on and do something from a standing start

I didn’t always make these connections. In fact, I only made the connection in the last few months. But as I reflect on my past when I have been endurance running my resilience has been better. 

And now, I use endurance running as a preventive health measure. Once a week to:

  • Reaffirm my mental strength. That I can push through barriers of physical, and mental pain.
  • Provide a sense of accomplishment. I did something tough today/this week and I got through it.
  • Demonstrate being in the mood is irrelevant to making a start. Demonstrating that action comes BEFORE motivation.
  • Overcome adversity. Whether it is rain, heat, on-road, off-road, kids, pets – making the run happen in spite of these odds gives me a sense of overcoming adversity. 

And all of this has been extremely useful in work environment. If I get a rejection, I can remind myself of my mental strength when running. If progress on an activity is slow, I can remind myself I accomplished my run this week. If I don’t feel like working, I can remind myself that my mood beforehand is irrelevant and that if I can run when not in the mood I surely can work when not in the mood. 

So, if you’re looking at different things you can do to increase your resilience, taking up endurance running might be a good first step! As usual, let me know how you go.

Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers, and established academics build their careers. He has provided strategic advice on partnering with industry, growing a career building new centres and institutes as well as establishing new programs. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality.

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