When I decided I was going to get back into running, I was transitioning from working full-time as a teacher to working remotely as a writer/editor. I wasn’t unemployed, but I did have less income and was working fewer hours than usual.
Running made all the difference during that time. And I’m sure it will be the same for you. If you’re unemployed or underemployed and are searching for a job, running is one of the best decisions you can make.
In this article, we’ll cover some reasons why running may help you deal with everything you’re facing with unemployment and come out stronger in the end. By the end, maybe you’ll be motivated to put on your shoes and go for a run!
1. Helps You Stay Positive
Change is hard. I dealt with a lot of insecurities when I made the transition to working remotely. Was it the right decision? Was I ever going to earn a normal income again? What was I thinking in the first place?
You might be facing similar questions. Why did this happen to me? Is life ever going to get back to normal? When is this all going to pass? And it’s easy to ruminate on such questions. However, negative thinking can get you in a bad spiral.
But running can help take you out of that negative spiral by helping you stay positive. When you go for a run—even if it’s as short as a mile—it’s an accomplishment. It can make you feel good about yourself.
I always feel a huge sense of pride whenever I complete a run, especially when I know I put my all into it. Not necessarily in terms of hard effort, but just doing my best. I might start a run with lots of negative thoughts, but by the end, I am much more positive.
On a related note, going for a run gives you something in your life that you can control. You might not know exactly when you’ll land that new job, but you can schedule a run any time.
Having something I knew I could control made me feel more grounded. This helped when I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get new clients or what my income for the month was going to be.
2. Stress Relief
If you’re stressed out, the best thing you can do is get some exercise. We all know that physical exercise helps to reduce your body’s stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, so going for a run will make you feel a lot less stressed.
This is especially true for hard runs because you have to push through the stress and anything else negative that you might be thinking to keep yourself going through the run.
Plus, I always feel less stressed when I’m outside and getting to enjoy nature. Ideally, you could go and run in a scenic location like a trail or a beach if you’re fortunate enough to live close to one. But even getting outside in your neighborhood subdivision is a great start!
3. Gives You Energy
When you’re job searching, it’s easy to put all of your energy into it, to the exclusion of everything else. That’s exactly why you need to go running. The endorphin boost you’ll get from physical activity will make you feel energized.
Unless you are ill or extremely exhausted, it’s much better to go for a run than to sit on the couch and say that you’ll run tomorrow when you feel more awake and refreshed. The refreshment you’re looking for will come from a run, not Netflix or Disney+ (as great as those services are).
4. Helps You Sleep Better at Night
The stress and uncertainty of a job search can lead to poor sleep. You might find yourself ruminating (or worse, job searching) in bed as you try to fall asleep.
If you’ve gone for a run that day, your body is more likely to be physically tired, and it will be easier to fall asleep. This means that you’ll spend less time on unproductive thoughts in the evening and be better-rested for tomorrow.
5. Improves Concentration
I was slowly piecing together clients to get back to a full-time income. Then, I got a huge assignment from a new client that I didn’t know how to tackle. I was trying to figure it out and how I was going to meet the deadlines, and I was at the end of my rope.
I decided to go for a run. It became clear about two miles into my run how I needed to handle the project. Staring at a problem longer isn’t the best way to improve concentration. Instead, go for a run. It can clear your head and give you a chance to think freely.
6. Makes You More Creative
When you’re at home unemployed, you’re probably spending your time looking for jobs or doing any household chores that need to be done. You’ve probably been fairly fixated on landing a job and likely haven’t spent too much time on creative endeavors.
However, creativity is where we all really shine. It helps get us into a state of flow that is great for our mental well-being. Going for a run will help improve your creativity. It gives your mind an opportunity to wander.
Who knows? You might come up with the next great invention on a run. At the very least, you’ll take yourself out of the stressful routine of searching for jobs online and following up with people and get to do something different with your mind.
7. Provides a Daily Routine
Human beings love routines. It can be hard not to waste time if you don’t have to be at work every day at 8 am. Running, however, can give you a daily routine to provide some structure to your day.
This is where it pays to have a training plan (and ideally a race) in mind. My training plan was printed out on a calendar, and I scheduled in runs every day as if they were work meetings.
I still slept in a little bit later than I might have. But running gave me a reason to get up in the mornings, and gave me something to do. I was training for a half marathon, and I couldn’t “sneak” in a 1+ hour run without planning it ahead of time. I needed a routine.
8. Helps You Focus on a Non-Job Related Goal
On a related note, being unemployed or working fewer hours than usual is the best time to train for a longer race. It becomes much easier to get in longer runs during the week. You don’t have to figure out how to get a run in before or after work.
Additionally, having a goal race (even if it’s a shorter race!) can help take your mind off job hunting. Focus instead on an ambition that has no connection to a job. I found that it was extremely helpful to have a life/a goal completely unrelated to my search for new clients.
Plus, it gives you something to talk about at parties when you inevitably get asked, “What do you do?” Now you can say, “Well, I’m job searching right now, but I’m also a runner training for a race.” And then you can change the focus away from your unemployment and toward your accomplishments as a runner.
9. Doesn’t Have to Cost Much Money
When you’re unemployed or working fewer hours, the last thing you need is a hobby that makes you spend more money. Fortunately, with running, all you need is a pair of shoes! You don’t even have to join a gym. You can run outside, which is nicer anyway.
As someone who definitely was keeping a tight budget, I appreciated that I still could run outside cost-free. It gave me something to do without any financial impact.
10. Gives You an Opportunity to Socialize
Finally, the best thing you can do when you’re in the middle of job searching is to get out of the house and meet up with people. It’s good to get out of the house! This was especially true for me. People aren’t meant to be alone all the time.
Running makes it easier to socialize. You can join a running club or group run without knowing anyone. It’s a great way to meet and get to know people. Or you can meet up with friends for a run without having to worry about spending money.
Honestly, one of my favorite things to do is going for a run with friends. I’m getting physical exercise and getting to hang out with my peeps. Win win!
Unexpected changes like unemployment, reduced hours, or job transition are challenging, and it’s helpful to find ways to succeed during hard times. Running definitely did that for me—it helped me become more confident and happier, and it gave me something to do.
So, if you’re job searching and you don’t know when you’ll be able to go back to work, try running. It will help you deal with all the stress and uncertainty of times like these and put you in a better position for the future.