It’s not too hard to see why running should be a great stress reliever, especially when you’re trading a treadmill for the great outdoors and time in nature. Aerobic exercise has long been hailed as just as effective as anti-depressants when it comes to treating mild to moderate depression. So, when you’re running during times of high-stress, it’s not unheard of to confront some of your own demons out there on the road or trail, and the good thing is that running allows you to do so safely as you continue to push past them.
Still, why exactly do we end up crying on the run? And not say, when we get home and have the privacy of bathroom? As sports psychologist Megan Cannon, Ph.D., explains, during steady-state endurance activity, your body is almost on autopilot and it allows your mind to wander. That said, there’s still a strong mind-body connection taking place, and as Cannon suggests, “Your body is releasing a lot of hormones, and your mind is picking up on that and going to experience a release as well.”
Basically, your brain is given the permission to let go and as your body gets tired, so does your brain. It can mean that keeping certain feelings at bay is more difficult than at other times in the day - like at the office - where you would have it all together. As Hillary Cauthen, Psy.D., executive board member for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology describes, this can actually be incredibly liberating and in this physical state, you can really go through some deep emotions. “Flow doesn’t have to be this happy, euphoric, positive feeling,” says Cauthen. “It’s just about being highly connected to your activity, and then allowing your emotions to come forward.”
Though it’s great if you can understand or put a label on why you’re crying during the run, it’s equally about just accepting the feeling or emotion you went through at the time and moving forward. As Cannon explains, “It’s all in the way you frame it. Instead of worrying about why you’re crying, think ‘wow, I’m getting such a great workout that my body is tired enough, it’s allowing me to have this release.”