The worse you feel, the more you need to run

Think you just can’t run? Try putting one foot in front of the other and just going for a walk for starters

Run no matter what you are feeling . . . because life is always going to keep coming at us. Photograph: Thinkstock

Run no matter what you are feeling . . . because life is always going to keep coming at us. Photograph: Thinkstock

Fri, May 30, 2014, 13:18

Q After a really tough five months, my beloved dad died last Monday. I’m trying to hold everything together for my family, look after my mum and my daughter, and just be strong.

I’m going to say goodbye to him this afternoon and the funeral is tomorrow. I have an exam in two weeks; it’s my exam for the end of second year. Revision hasn’t happened, my mind is blank and I don’t see how I’m ever going to retain any information.

My 10km is in six weeks. I’ve wanted to run this week (I’m still at only 4km) but I’ve never been so exhausted in all my life. Just getting to the end of the day wipes me out.

I’m scared. So, so scared that it’s going to hit me after the funeral and I won’t be able to cope; that I’ll fail my exam and not be able to complete my 10km.

My sh!t is most certainly not together and I don’t know what to do. I feel lost, scared and, even though I’m one of six children with a wonderful partner and daughter, I feel so alone.

Do you have any tips, ideas or words of wisdom to help me to help myself not to fall apart?

Laura B

A Hi Laura. I am so sorry your father has died. My thoughts and prayers are very much with you and your family. It must be completely exhausting just thinking about the funeral, let alone the exam and the 10km. In my experience, there is nothing more poleaxing than grief.

Yet, when we are at our most exhausted and feel least able to do anything constructive to help ourselves, paradoxically, that is the critical time to take action.

I don’t mean by taking on too much and running around like a headless chicken trying, but failing, to see anything through to completion.

What you already know from Get Your Sh!t Together is that the key is identifying the metaphorical “shelf” in both your projects – 10km and exams – and tackling them. I know it feels overwhelming and impossible right now but you can do this. And you will. Here’s how.

The morning after the funeral, get dressed in your running gear and resolve to create an opportunity to leave your home and go for a long walk.

Say to yourself you are just going for a walk to clear your head, but once you have walked quickly for 10 minutes, see if you are able to break, quite naturally, into a slow jog. My bet is that you will.

But by telling yourself that you are just going for a walk, it will require much less motivation to go. And the key here is finding a way out of the deadlock.

Getting headspace

Just carving out some headspace for yourself and freedom from all your domestic responsibilities for an hour will feel incredibly liberating.

That is your first shelf: get outside, the day after the funeral, for a long walk. And as “shelves” go, it doesn’t get much more efficient than this because not only is it the first shelf in “project 10km”, it is also the first shelf in “project revision” because getting back on track with the running will have a cascade effect on everything else.

On day two, take another walk with more jogging ideally – refer to 10km plans in Run, Fat B!tch, Run or at – and while you’re out on this second walk/run, think about what you are going to work on, revision-wise, and sit down immediately when you return for 20 minutes of this pre-planned revision.

Before you shower, eat or do anything, just come straight in the door, have a glass of water and sit down to work. Just do 20 minutes of revision, and don’t go making a revision timetable; that’s simply an exercise in procrastination at this stage.

If you need to, timetable your revision in your head during one of your run/walks. Use your run – every day – to think, plan and steel yourself for those exams. Double bubble, no less.

I guarantee you that running will provide the antidote to your revision inertia, but I do appreciate how impossible it feels when you feel stuck in such a paralysing catch-22. Too tired to run, too tired to revise, too tired to think, too tired to get your sh!t together at all. Which is why you must run.

Run, no matter what you are feeling, and revise, no matter what sadness befalls you, because life is always going to keep coming at us. Our circumstances are always going to change and we will always remain powerless over them. Which is why we must be ruthless about what we can do and what we can change, and running is a great tool at your disposal to help with whatever else is going on in your life, particularly when things are tough.

I run especially when I am feeling sad, angry or depressed, because those are the times when running’s healing powers work their most potent magic.

The point is to set yourself something that you can and will achieve, both running-wise and revision-wise, every day, and to piggyback on your success for the next day to do a longer jog and more revision.


So your medicine is run, think, revise – in that order, every day. I know that you can do this. You know you can do this, and doing this is going to save you. But the only person or thing that can get you to take those first steps outside again is you.

So take a deep breath and just go. After all, it’s only a walk. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

Sticking to your running plan will have you sticking to your revision plan, and everything will improve with the healing, uplifting power of all those endorphins fizzing around your body. If necessary, get your partner to be your backup grit doctor to encourage you to go for your jog every day. Because once you get out the front door, he won’t need to get in your face to do the revision when you get back, or anything else for that matter.

The Grit Doctor says: The running will take care of the revision. You are far from falling apart, Laura. You are running yourself whole.

Ruth Field is the author of Run, Fat B!tch, Run and Get Your Sh!t Together

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