Should You Go for a Rage Run?
We asked experts what to consider before you hit the pavement
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It’s one of those days. The customer standing in front of you at the coffee shop can’t seem to make up their mind, causing you to be late to work. And, in the rush to get out the door, you spill that hard-won latte. Then, as you head into the office, your supervisor ambushes you with a request to look over the report you’ve revised three times. It’s only 9 A.M., and it already feels like everyone is testing your patience. You’re frustrated, irritated, exhausted, and perhaps, even angry.
There’s no avoiding it: anger is one of our core emotions. However, it requires a thoughtful and intentional response. When we don’t have safe ways to express our frustration, we can engage in destructive behaviors like yelling, swearing, or maybe even throwing things. (Clearly, not ideal.) Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these emotions that draw on activities you’re already doing. Welcome to the “rage run.”
What Is a Rage Run?
It functions as it sounds: a high-intensity run designed to release anger and frustration. You can run a few miles until you feel less angry or simply go faster than your usual speed for 10 to 15 minutes. For example, if your usual jogging pace hovers around 9:00, you may consider increasing your speed for a few minutes (or the entire run) to an 8:30 or 8:00 pace.
Hanging onto a quick pace can be, well, challenging. But instead of screaming expletives in your head, try repeating some affirming mantras instead. You may even find that the words make those strides feel a little bit easier. If it helps, listen to music to pick up your cadence—and potentially lip sync out your annoyance.
It should come as no surprise that research suggests that exercising regularly and working up a sweat can help you manage anger more effectively, as opposed to engaging in physical or verbal aggression. But is heading out on a rage run always a good idea? We spoke to experts about the benefits—and pitfalls—of this type of exercise.
The Benefits of a Rage Run
Intense emotions like anger activate your nervous system. As you go into a fight-or-flight response, your body releases biochemicals including adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine which can make you feel more energized and alert, says Elizabeth Fedrick, a licensed professional counselor and professor of psychology at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. “Going on a run (i.e., flight), which your body is already prepared for in a moment of anger, is a healthy way to release these biochemicals.”
Whether it’s due to the glass you just dropped on the floor or the fight you picked with your partner, when you’re really angry, your thoughts move a million miles a minute. In response, you may berate yourself—or want to yell at those around you. We’ve all been there.
But rather than lashing out at someone or blaming yourself, try temporarily distancing yourself emotionally—and potentially physically—from what’s causing you distress. Going on a rage run can help shift the focus to your physical body rather than your emotional state, enabling you to slow down those whirling thoughts, says Tonya Lester, a psychotherapist. “Once you feel grounded, you can re-engage with the problem more flexibly.”
A good run may also bring you some much-needed joy. “Running can help you feel calm and clear your mind,” Fedrick says. Whether it’s a light jog or a rage run, the production of endorphins (aka the “runner’s high”) helps relieve pain and boosts your mood, reducing feelings of anger or resentment.
What to Do After Your Rage Run
Recovery is key, even when it comes to a rage run. When you’re feeling angry, your breath quickens and your heart rate increases. Soothing practices, like breathwork or meditation, help slow down those inhales and exhales—and allow you to feel a sense of safety by counteracting the fight-or-flight response, Fedrick says. You can also elect to splash some cold water on your face post-run, cooling yourself off physically and emotionally. Like deep breathing, cold-water immersion forces you to be more aware of and intentional in your efforts to slow your breathing and allow your body to regulate itself, she says.
By ending your rage run with these types of calming practices, you can feel more control over your emotions and reduce the chance of anger harming your relationships, she says. Sometimes, taking a deep breath really does work.
When a Rage Run May Actually Be Unhelpful
Like any habit we rely on to soothe ourselves, a rage run isn’t a magic bullet—and it may not always be the most effective strategy for dealing with your emotions. A run, after all, is only a short-term solution. For the long term, communication is key. If you don’t find that cathartic relief you’re craving after a few miles, it might be time to ditch the sneakers and call up a friend or a therapist. “Unfortunately, anger can make it difficult to express what you really need, and to be assertive, but not aggressive, in your requests,” Lienna Wilson, a licensed psychologist, says. Therapy can help you process what’s behind your anger response and help you learn effective communication skills.
The truth is, feelings require work. Unfortunately, your emotions won’t change and resolve on their own, Wilson says. Instead, they must be processed or released. Angry outbursts are more likely to happen when you try to suppress your emotions. So, instead of letting those emotions bottle up until you just have to explode, opt instead to put on your headphones and hit the pavement, or call up a friend and rant for a bit—or both. Either way, it’s time to blow off some steam.