How Outdoor Running Became My Salvation

How to fight stress by running

How Outdoor Running Became My Salvation

Learning to enjoy running outdoors from a now-former gym rat

I’ll admit it. I was a gym rat. Going to the gym was my daily dose of endorphins and I enjoyed every second of it. I had a favorite treadmill, my spot near the dumbbells and my routine down. It had proven to be a reliable way to get rid of stress and anxiety. Whatever the day threw at me, it didn't matter because I'd get in there, run a few miles, lift some weights and everything was better.

The gym was a strange place the week before it shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but not as strange as when it went dark and officially closed. What was I going to do? I live in a small one-bedroom with a significant other and a rambunctious puppy. The gym was my place to clear my head and just like that ... it was gone. There's a freaking pandemic going on, my work environment had flipped on its head and I wasn't even sure if I was essential enough to keep my job. I was pretty shaken up for the first few days.

So I did the only thing I could do. I had to pivot. I had to figure out how to work out the mounting stress that I could feel piling up on my shoulders. It meant redefining how I was going to exercise. I'd just have to be adaptable and flexible with the space I had access to, and how to use said space that's currently being restricted by literal orders from the government.

Let me set the record straight here. I've run outside before, but it just never clicked with me to do it on a daily basis. I always enjoyed being able to control my variables on the treadmill. Though, with a marathon that's still happening this October (fingers crossed), I needed to press on and learn to love running outside.


How to fight stress by running

I'll be honest, the first few runs were dreadful. I didn't dress appropriately for the weather, chose a route littered with people and didn't go at a pace that was good for me. It was a struggle but even experiencing the worst social distancing run ever, I was optimistic that I could figure it out. Hell, I got out the door, moved and made it back home. That was an accomplishment in and of itself.

But around the start of the third week of running outside, everything clicked. It was just around 7 am, I wasn't exactly sure what mile I was on, but it hadn't been more than a mile or two. The sun started peaking up over a few buildings. I could still see my breath but I wasn't too cold, tired or even that sore. I was just putting one foot in front of the other, completely clearing my head and suddenly every bit of stress felt like it was just dripping off my shoulders. I'd never experienced anything like it—not even in my beloved gym.

I'd found my new routine. I found what would help me manage the stress and anxiety that was overwhelming me. Who would've thought that could be accomplished during a global pandemic?

My Go-To Gear

Rhone El Cap Running Hat

A white or reflective hat keeps you visible during the early morning and after dusk.

El Cap running hat,
$28 by Rhone

Under Armour Rush Seamless Fitted Shirt

Rush seamless fitted shirt,
$60 by Under Armour

It's still a bit chilly in the morning, so a lightweight top layer is crucial. My absolute favorite part of these is the waist synch so you don't have too much excess fabric.

TT Half-zip,
$88 by Janji

Janji TT Liner-Less Shorts

TT liner-less shorts,
$72 by Janji

Wolaco North Moore Shorts

I've yet to find a compression short that matches the quality, durability and storage capability of these. Stash your phone, keys, cards and even a wireless earbuds case ... all comfortably.

North Moore shorts,
$50 by Wolaco

Bombas Performance Calf Socks

Performance calf socks,
$48 by Bombas

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 Sneakers

Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 sneakers,
$180 / $143 by Nike

Strava App

You can find pre-loaded routes based on settings you choose, such as distance or destination, and it'll even load the GPS guidance into your smartwatch.

Strava app,
free for iOS and Android by Strava

Anker Soundcore Wireless Earbuds

The best buds for your buck ... I got these for under forty dollars and they've lasted more than a year.

Soundcore wireless earbuds,
$39.99 by Anker

Running While Social Distancing

While I'm a novice in some areas, and definitely not a health expert, I've found these to be the best ways to still exercise outdoors without putting yourself or others at risk. Please refer to the CDC guidelines for any questions.


Choose off-times to go running. Before 7 in the morning or after 7 in the evening, ideally.


Increase your distance from six feet to a few feet farther. Sweat hasn't been disproved as a method to transfer, so why chance it?


If you have any inkling that multiple people will be on your route, wear a mask.


Your city's popular trails or parks will likely be closed (or busy). Try to find new parts of town to run in. Suddenly vacant streets can be a good place, just be safe.


Pick different routes for each run. Don't get into a rut running the same two or three loops.


Be realistic with your first couple of runs. Nothing worse than burning early and turning a fifteen-minute run into a thirty-minute crawl home.

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