Strong legs, strong lungs, stronger mind. Running for health and wellbeing.
By Richard Fisher, Chemistry Teacher and Science Coordinator at Abingdon School.
The health benefits of running are obvious and well documented. Increasingly with the realisation and acceptance that mental wellbeing is as important as maintaining a healthy body the other benefits of running are clear. The purity of running as an activity means that apart from a decent pair of trainers, all you need is the relatively positive mindset that gives you the will to get out in the fresh air and start your adventure. In doing so you are certainly taking steps to improving your mental wellbeing.
As an Other Half activity, cross-country running covers a fair few bases. The squad runners focus on speed and endurance, whilst a few boys opt for cross-country in the Michaelmas term to build up their fitness prior to the hockey or football seasons. For others who may not be into team sports, the recreational aspect of running suits them just fine. Whether running alone or in a small group, you have time to get away from the other aspects of school life and the pressures that they may bring. Quality time to think, maybe to plan your next few days, your next steps in life (A Levels, university, gap year) or how to tackle a looming assignment that requires some mental planning. Time to talk too. Conversations between boys, conversations between staff and boys, conversations between staff. Being on neutral territory with a common goal to reach a given destination provides opportunities to discuss things that would otherwise perhaps disappear into the abyss consumed by busy everyday school life. Boys often use this as an opportunity to talk about their studies (present and future) or to discuss other topics that may not normally be possible in the standard school day.
When running in a group at a shared pace, all participants take part on an equal footing. Everyone is on the same journey and the distance to be covered is everyone’s target. For some it might be a standard 10km route, covered many times before whilst for others it might be their first 10km. That shared goal enables a positive mindset and for those new to the distance (possibly not sure if they can really make it) this is also a growth mindset; surely a good thing. Accompanying runners when they complete their first milestones, 5km or 10km, (their new Personal Best!) can be as satisfying as beating your own PB in a particular race or route. The joy of running is certainly much more than setting a new fastest time and sometimes just ignoring your km splits and focusing on enjoying the route is the way to go.
We are blessed in South Oxfordshire with some great places to run and it only takes a few minutes from leaving the school site before you can be enjoying the Thames Path, local farm tracks or the challenge of some gradient towards Boars Hill. The benefit of fresh air and scenic running routes cannot be overemphasised, especially when in the company of like-minded individuals.