Hitting the Trails, Healing the Brain

By: Annalise Chapdelaine

As a lifelong runner and cross country enthusiast, I’ve always felt most at home on well-worn dirt trails, sidestepping roots and keeping an eye out for stray rocks. The feeling is one that I can trace back to my early childhood, running through the woods at home and feeling like I was part of a world that was entirely mine. I quit cold-turkey last summer, nervous about the stressful transition into college and preoccupied with classes and making friends during the pandemic. Although running has been a constant in my life for the last decade, I was too busy to miss it until this semester.

I recently walked across Miami’s campus, , the snow melting and sun shining, watching Miami students slowly swap their boots for tennis shoes, and I realized that I missed running more than I knew. It wasn’t necessarily the feeling of hitting my goal pace or stretching after a long run that I wanted to experience again, but it was the time spent on the trails by my house that I missed most.

Miami’s 17 miles of trails offered the perfect solution -away from the (relative) hustle and bustle of campus and Uptown.The peace and quiet is more restorative than any study room in your residence hall or quad on campus, even if they are more convenient. Nature is scientifically proven to reduce stress, and even going for a short stroll can help you detach from Zoom classes and Tiktok. If you’ve never gone before, I would suggest bringing your phone, a water bottle, and a backpack for miscellaneous items (a hammock, Band-Aids, etc). If you’re feeling extra contemplative, bring along a book and a journal, find a secluded spot by the Four Mile Creek, and spend some time with your thoughts. If you’re looking for a good sweat, lace up your tennis shoes and just explore — pay attention to the flora and fauna that you see as well!

Today, I had three classes and could feel my brain start to cramp by the time I had logged off my second Zoom. By the end of the third, the clear blue sky and crisp air were calling my name, so I answered by texting a few of my friends after my last class. An hour later, we were entering the trail by the Equestrian Center, running and talking, classes and homework forgotten. Nature might not be the same as actual therapy, but for me, it’s the next best thing — and here at Miami, there’s a lot of it.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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