MOJEH spoke to regional running expert and Lululemon run ambassador, Omar Abu Omar, to discuss the mind-clearing magic of a run. An invaluable channel to release stress and negative thoughts, Omar explains how running can benefit our mental health especially in such uncertain times.
Words by Omar Abu Omar
I started jogging casually when I was young as a way to explore the neighbourhood my family lived in and to attempt to get fit. I wouldn’t have considered myself a runner back then, or even a fit person, but the hobby stuck and in time it became a major part of my life. Running instantly helped me take my mind off things and I used it as a distraction — although the stress and struggles of a teenager are pale in comparison to adulthood woes, those runs gave me a valuable tool to deal with ‘adulting’.
I soon learnt that running has countless benefits that go beyond keeping fit; the hormones your body produces during and after a good run can be quite exhilarating, the comradery of going on a run with friends to catch up is priceless, the sense of pride you get when you set a new personal best in a race or in a solo run and the achievement you feel when you cover a race distance you never thought you’d be able to complete.
Running is also an escape. On rough days, sometimes the best thing to do is to go for a jog without a phone, with no distractions you’re able to go on ‘autopilot mode’ where you do not pay much attention to your surroundings and your pace, and simply immerse yourself in the run. There’s a common piece of advice that tells you to sleep on something before making a decision, and for runners, it’s recommended to go for on a jog before tackling a difficult dilemma.
A change of scenery can alter your mood if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed — it can kick start creativity, help you feel more energised and refresh both the body and the mind. It has helped me personally overcome dark times; be it losing a job, a death in the family and uncertain times like the global pandemic we’re currently facing. In fact, some of my longest runs were at times of high stress, with my longest ever just before heavy restrictions on movement were introduced in the UAE.
Sometimes all you need to clear your mind and lift the fog, is a good stretch of road, running gear and some spare time.