In this post, we chat with certified UESCA Running Coach, Anna Henning. Anna is an Air Force veteran who turned to running to deal with an unfathomable event in her life.
You have a very impactful story as to how running has helped you. Could you tell us a bit about your story?
I’d be happy to. In 2005, I was serving in the Air Force and deployed to Iraq. I was 20 years old at the time, fearless and invincible. Then the unthinkable happened. My best friend A1C Elizabeth Jacobson was killed by a roadside bomb on September 28th, 2005 and the entire world came crashing down on me. I could barely function after hearing the news but managed to pull myself together enough to escort her remains home, with 5 others killed in action. It’s hard to explain the emotions that come with a responsibility like that. I sat in the belly of that plane with the American flag draped caskets and I talked to each one, even though I didn’t know who they were. I prayed for their friends and families and I cried hysterically over Liz’s. I told her how sorry I was, and how much I loved her. We promised to come home together no matter what, but this was unfathomable.
I will always have these images in my head. The events that took place in Iraq led me to the darkest years of my life. I felt like I was drowning and there was no escape. I suffered in silence for more than 10 years before running changed so much for me.
For you personally, what do you think makes running so therapeutic?
Anxiety is a huge problem for me, I live with it every-day. I took medication for years, but it never really helped. I felt numb and clouded. Running helps. The only time I can clear my mind is when I’m running. I love that it’s just me and the road. If I’m anxious, angry or sad, I run to release that energy. If I’m happy, I use that emotion to fuel my run. I also feel better connected to myself-mind and body.
Running has made me want to be the best version of myself. Its helped to push me outside of my comfort zones, eat healthier, want to inspire others and has even helped me figure out what I really want to do in life. Running has led me to getting certified in Personal Training from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and now a UESCA certified Running Coach.
So often, running is primarily thought of from a physical point of view. Would you say that for you, the mental benefits of running outweigh the physical aspects?
While there are excellent physical benefits, I would say that yes, the mental benefits outweigh the physical. I initially started running to lose baby weight, and it was hard. It felt like a chore. Then one day, I felt enlightened. I realized how much better I was doing mentally because of running. Releasing those endorphins has been the best form of “medication” for me. Running days are always my happiest.
Do you have running partners that you run with or do you prefer to run solo?
I have made some amazing lasting friendships within the running community and I do occasionally run with others. I mostly run with my greyhound Stella or solo. I am limited on running with others because of where I live. However, I live across the street from a State Park around a huge reservoir which is the best of road and trail running. Which is really a blessing! I don’t think I would have appreciated this park the way I do now if I hadn’t become a runner.
Was part of the catalyst of becoming a UESCA certified running coach to work with other to overcome trauma that they might be dealing with?
Dealing with trauma is so hard and you feel so alone. I know many people who are struggling with trauma and a lot of times they turn to medication, drugs and alcohol. Its easier to mask it than to deal with it. I get that, and sometimes medication is necessary, but I would love the opportunity to teach people the power of self-healing through running. It can be a journey about self-discovery.
I am not saying running is a cure all, but it has helped to reduce my anxiety and depression, improve my sleep patterns and has given me a new appreciation for myself and life in general. It’s given me a confidence that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I want people who are affected by trauma to know they aren’t alone and maybe give running a chance. Who knows, it could save your life like it’s saved mine. Running has taught me so much about my mental strength capabilities. Everyone has them, and once you learn to tap into that, it’s really amazing what you can accomplish.
– Anna, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and I’m sure that I can speak on behalf of all of the UESCA coaches in saying how glad we are that you found running and how much it helped you in your recovery process.
To learn more about our Running Coach Certification and to get a code for $50 off, click here!