5 Ways Running Tells You That You Might Be Depressed

Friday 5Yes, you’re right. Justin Bieber is just begging for the Friday 5 treatment. However, this week the Friday 5 takes a serious turn. ย Earlier this week word got out that University of Pennsylvania runner Madison Holleran took her own life. It was devastating news. It hit close to home for me. As many of you know, Cinnamon and I are a suicide survivors, losing our dad when we were children. As an adult, I’ve struggled with depression from time to time and like many of you with similar struggles, running has helped me battle this disorder and to mostly keep it at bay.

But running can do more than alleviate depression’s symptoms or keep it from creeping back. Our running can tell us if we might be suffering from depression and give us clues that it’s time to get some help to heal. Today’s Friday 5 is here to help you know when your running is telling you it’s time to seek help for depression.

Ankle Weights
Running with depression can feel like you’re wearing these, even when you’re not. (Photo credit: DennisSylvesterHurd)

1. You feel unmotivated to run. Normally you can’t wait to get your run on! But when you’re depressed, it can be hard to get excited about even your most favoritest activities.

2. ย You feel more achey than usual. Depression not only hurts in the brain, but it drains your body and can leave you feeling sore and achey in weird places. I often feel tight and sore in my neck and shoulders when I’m depressed and this affects my gait. I experience more side stitches when running when I’m depressed, probably because I’m tense and my gait is off from the tight neck and shoulders.

3. It’s harder to focus and you notice more negative self-talk than usual.ย Often when we’re depressed we get caught up in negative thought loops. It’s hard to concentrate when we’re depressed and we feel very pessimistic. We might see a slightly slow pace and throw in the towel on the workout when normally we wouldn’t sweat one slow split.

4. You can’t hit your usual training paces. Depression takes a toll on your body and can impact your body’s ability to recover. We often feel exhausted all the time even if we sleep more than usual. This physical toll can make running feel harder than we think it should.

5. Your running goals seem pointless or inconsequential.ย Normally you’re a big dreamer and feel excited to train and chase down the dream, but if you’re depressed these goals might start to feel completely out of your grasp or pointless.

If you think you might be depressed, please seek help. It’s really no different than suffering from the flu – you need to get better and you will with the right treatment. A good place to start is to see your primary care physician who can send you in the right direction for treatment, either medical or talk therapy. And if you feel really bad and think you’re in danger of harming yourself, please please please immediately get help. Go to an E.R. or call a suicide prevention line (The U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK). You are not alone, never ever alone.

Have you ever run through a depression? Did you notice any differences in yourself as a depressed runner versus your usual runner self?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

Leave a Reply

1 comment

  1. I can agree that depression really affects your running.

    When I’m depressed, I need a friend to come over and take me out for a run: all motivation is gone.

    The run also needs to be more therapeutic than challenging: it becomes a social run where completing a certain amount of time running is more important than pace or distance. I’m more prone to injury as well (due to more of a head-down posture? due to having a more sloppy gait because I’m distracted? Not sure) and I need more recovery ( epsom salt baths, RMT, healthy eating).

    That said, when my friend comes over and we go out for that run, I always feel a bit better when it’s over. It’s not a cure, but it can help me get through some very dark days.