Do more successful people run? (Or does running make you more successful?)

Getting a new perspective

I’m fascinated by the other people out running in the early morning, and the commonalities that have us setting our alarm clocks an hour early, pulling our running clothes on and heading out into a dark, chilly morning.

Without any hard evidence (as yet!), I’m sure that as a group we achieve more, create more, solve more problems and demand more of ourselves.

The inventor, James Dyson told the FT’s weekend magazine recently that he’d “think nothing of a six-mile run before breakfast”.

There is plenty of medical research to be found on the benefits of running on energy levels, mental alertness and positivity, and all of these factors surely contribute to higher productivity.

I also think running, and particularly early morning running, encourages three more subtle success habits:

  1. The habit of starting something: getting up and getting going.  Creating or inventing or pioneering requires taking a step on a new path, departing from the usual, breaking the mould, starting something brand new.  Sometimes it’s difficult to get going on a new idea, but it’s only once you get started that the next steps present themselves.  Thus I think the practice of starting your day by shaking yourself out of the “normal” routine, getting up and getting going, inspires a more active and creative mind.
  2. The habit of being open. I think our tendency is to be closed; head down, under pressure, rushing, stressed, stubborn and frustrated.  Getting out in the open air and space and breathing in a new day is an excellent counter to modern life.
  3. The habit of being uncluttered.  Wherever possible, I don’t take anything with me but my keys.  If I’m going to run at dawn, I need to lay out my running clothes the night before and streamline a morning routine that would otherwise certainly tend towards cluttered!  I think it’s good practice.  Free yourself and your mind, and see what comes in!

A morning run on World Mental Health Day

A moment of calm

When I stopped here on my sunrise jog this morning, I didn’t know that today is World Mental Health Day.  I stood to take this photo thinking that it hadn’t been a daft idea after all to set up this blog (this is only Day 2!) because this was a moment worth sharing.

My snapshot is a very poor substitute for the reality of being outside in the freshness of dawn and being present to witness a moment that only a few others will see today.
 
I’m fortunate not to currently be one of the 25% of people (at a minimum) who are struggling with mental health issues, however I know I’ve benefitted enormously from a habit of morning running.  I’ve been running only for a couple of years, and I haven’t always managed to stick to my routine, but the difference to my outlook and energy is immeasurable.
 
There is no shortage of evidence on the benefits of running on mental health.  This document from the Mental Health Foundation answers some useful questions: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/up_running.pdf.  And a quick search will turn up lots of examples of people who credit running with having helped them through a period of depression.
 
I think there is a particular benefit to getting out and running in the morning.  It takes a while to get accustomed to early morning exercise (I always forget how wiped out I’ll feel to begin with!) but once I do, I find I’m brighter and more energetic during the day, and I sleep better at night.  There’s no time to lie awake worrying about what might happen today.
 
Routine is key, and I also think it’s much easier to stick to a morning routine.  Your time first thing is more likely to be yours, before anything else can stake a claim on it.
 
It’s hard but it’s worth it, and you won’t be alone!