Tag Archives: motivation

Women, Running and Stress Management

Sharyn O’Halloran

In a previous post, I discussed the statistics on Why Women Run?  The key finding was that women run to stay fit and healthy just like men.   Unlike their male counterparts, however, women also see running as a way to reduce stress. These findings reflect changing demographics as well as how women experience the physical symptoms of stress.

Typically, women runners are around 40.  Sixty percent are married and 77.8 percent are college educated.  Moreover, they are affluent; 70.8 percent earn a household income over $75,000.  Many of these women have come late to running, usually starting in their 30s, and have run for an average of 9.6 years.  Female runners participate in about 7 races per year with about half completing a marathon at least once in their lifetime.

Indeed, the number of women who finish events has risen from a little over a million in 1990 to over 8.6 million female participants in 2012.

FinishersGraph_1990to2012-2Women now represent 56 percent of all running event finishers, a two-fold increase over the last two decades.

This rise in women’s participation in competitive running events has coincided with rising stress levels among women, especially married women, who struggle to balance both work and family.  For instance, in a recent study, women were more likely than men (28 percent vs. 20 percent) to report having a great deal of stress (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale).  Almost half of all women (49 percent) surveyed said their stress has increased over the past five years,


compared to four in 10 (39 percent) men.  Women are more likely to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress than men, such as having had a headache (41 percent vs. 30 percent), having felt as though they could cry (44 percent vs. 15 percent), or having had an upset stomach or indigestion (32 percent vs. 21 percent) in the past month.  Married women report higher levels of stress than single women, with one-third (33 percent) reporting that they have experienced a great deal of stress in the past month.

Clearly, running can be an important tool to manage stress.  It can also help alleviate many of the physical and emotional symptoms of stress.  A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience , showed that  gene markers associated with anxiousness increased noticeably in mice that didn’t run, while mice that were forced to run before being exposed to stress, a dunk in cold water, failed to show a significant uptick of those same gene markers.

So even if your not forced to take a cold-water plunge, go for a run.  You will feel and look better.



Click to access gender-stress.pdf



Copyright © 2014 womenontherunblog.com. All rights reserved.

New York Road Runners Fosters Commitment to Running

Sharyn O’Halloran

Last week’s post on How to Stay Motivated to Run, discussed the importance of joining a local running club to maintain a consistent training schedule. Here is a closers look at both the individual and social benefits to getting involved.

Established more than half a century ago, the Road Runners Club of America provides an outlet for individuals to embrace the sport of running and motivation to individuals to get them running and keep them running as they develop a lifelong commitment to better health. The club hosts numerous races throughout the nation, ranging from 5K fun runs to marathons and even ultra-marathons. The New York Road Runners, to which I belong, boast thousands of members participating annually in world-class events such as the TCS New York City Marathon. The 2013 NYC marathon was the largest ever, with some 55,000 runners from all other the world.

The nonprofit Road Runners combines donations from individuals and corporations with the income from its events to promote the advancement of running. The club works to inspire people of all ages to run but places special emphasis on youth programs. The New York Road Runners club sponsors numerous educational programs and activities that serves more than 200,000 children throughout New York City, as well as nationally and internationally.

I have trained with the NYRR for a number of marathons and ultimately ran my first 60K (37.28 mile) race with the club in 2013. My participation in these events has also raised money for a number of charitable organizations, including the Legal Aid Society and Community Impact at Columbia University.

Helping yourself stay fit can also help others.

Copyright © 2014 womenontherunblog.com. All rights reserved.

How to Stay Motivated to Run

Sharyn O’Halloran

Staying motivated to run long distances while juggling constant demands from work and family is very hard. Here are a few tricks that I have found along the way.

1) Compete in Local Races— Join a running club that sponsors local events. I belong to the New York Road Runners, which hosts racing events almost every weekend throughout the year. Competing in a race forces me to stay on my training program.

2) Virtual Coach— When I am training for a long distance event, and even if I am not, I always sign up with a Virtual Coach. Each night I get an email telling me what my workout program is for the next day. I don’t have to think about it. I just do what the coach says (more or less).

3) Cross-Training— Running high volume miles consistently week-after-week can take its toll and, frankly, it can get boring. To mix it up, I weight train, ride bike and participate in body sculpting classes for core strengthening. Over the course of a week, I complete my long runs, while getting a full-body workout.

4) Stretching and Yoga—One of the best ways to ward off injury is to incorporate a stretching routine into your daily workout. This could be done in the morning or night. I usually go through a set of classic runners stretches for hip flexors, hamstring and quads. I also like to include some basic yoga poses to both stretch and strengthen core muscles.

5) Virtual Training Partner—I find it impossible to coordinate my training sessions with another equally busy person. Instead, as a commitment device, I have a friend that I email before and after my long runs and before and after racing events. Being answerable to another human being, even if virtually, pushes me to complete the task, especially when I am tired and hurting.

Copyright © 2014 womenontherunblog.com. All rights reserved.

Why Do Women Run?

Sharyn O’Halloran

The answer to this question is different for every woman you ask. Some run to stay fit. Some run to look good. Some run for personal accomplishment.

A 2013 survey of 30,425 core runners nationwide (56.4% women and 43.6% men) provides some insight. Core runners train year-round, running an average of 208 days a year and logging nearly 1,165 miles per year. On average, core women runners are 40 years old, 60% are married and 77.8% are college educated.

The primary reasons women start running include exercise (23.1%), weight concerns (17.1%), or family/friend encouragement (7.6%). Women’s motivation to keep running centers on how it makes them feel, with staying in shape (79.0%) and staying healthy (78.4%) as the most commonly mentioned drivers. Equally important, however, over two-thirds of the women surveyed ran to reduce stress (76.8%). Men also ran to stay in shape (76.8%) and stay healthy (76.8%). But men saw running as recreation, with 60.9% of men saying they ran for fun.

For me, running is a way to step outside of myself and only think about completing the task at hand. It is something I control. It is something I decide to do. It removes me from the demands of work and family. I get to focus on strengthening my body and at the same time toughening my mind. The result is serenity and a sense of balance that is usually beyond my grasp.

Why I run extreme endurance events is another thing altogether…


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