How professional runner Grayson Murphy uses her platform to advocate for mental health and environmental awareness.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with professional runner and entrepreneur, Grayson Murphy, who uses her platform to advocate for causes near to her heart from thriving with anxiety to climate change awareness. You may recognize Grayson from running headlines or as one of the faces from our most recent photoshoot in downtown Salt Lake City. Being a former soccer player and fellow runner myself I’m drawn to Grayson’s story and have loved learning from her open and authentic approach to topics ranging from mental health to changing careers.
For those who may not know you, tell us a little about yourself?
“I’m a native Utahan and professional athlete who runs for Saucony. I actually went to UC Santa Clara for 2 years for engineering and to play soccer, but ended up falling in love with running and switched to the University of Utah to pursue running opportunities. I graduated in 2018 with a degree in civil engineering and decided to continue running at the professional level. I also created a daily planner that was born from my own journaling needs that I’ve now sold out of 2 years in a row.”
Grayson has gone on to win the 2019 World Mountain Running Championship and the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship while embracing a refreshingly balanced perspective. It took some trial and error before finding a happier path in professional running and ultimately choosing to move back to Utah. Grayson has been open about navigating life as an elite athlete with generalized anxiety disorder, helping to break down the stigma around mental health and share her experiences in a compassionate and genuine way.
What does your morning routine look like?
“I am a morning person so I make a point to appreciate them. I usually take between an hour to 90 minutes to have coffee, enjoy some oatmeal with berries and peanut butter, then I go for a run. I follow that up with avocado toast, I’m a routine person.”
What does your evening routine look like?
“I usually read after dinner, I’ve been trying to read a book a week and I’ll have some tea. I don’t have trouble sleeping anymore, it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time working through. I try not to look at my screen for too long before bed.”
What else has been helpful for you in getting better sleep?
“It’s really important to have a good winding down routine. I give myself 2 hours before bed to help me prepare for sleep. I’ve done a lot of work around mindfulness and when my brain starts going at night I interrupt it with my go-to phrase, ‘now is not the time to think’, I tell myself that we can resume this tomorrow, but not right now. I also make a lot of lists to get things out of my mind and onto paper, which is why I eventually developed my planner.”
How do you factor stress into your training and life? What does stress management look like for you?
“The biggest thing I remind myself of is ‘stress is stress’, regardless if it’s from a workout or from life your body perceives stress in the same way. It’s a different kind of fatigue, but if I’m mentally drained or have been running around non-stop, I have to take that into account with my training.
When I can be mindful of and get a handle on my anxiety, it lowers all the other stress levels. Some of the ways I do this is through medication, seeing a professional, and watching for signs of mental burnout. Having a holistic view of stress is what enables me to stay healthy.”
You’ve been gracious enough to share your experiences of navigating life with anxiety. What are some of the ‘signs or symptoms’ that you observed that people should be more tuned into?
“Here are a few that are known and some less common: having a panic attack, racing thoughts, laying in bed with the inability to stop thinking, feeling like you can’t slow down, having a lowered immunity, or getting sick frequently.
If you’re feeling apathetic that’s often a sign of depression which is closely tied with anxiety. People normalize feeling bad but you shouldn’t. If something you used to love doing feels like pulling teeth or you’ve noticed a lasting change in your mood and relationships, these are possible signs of anxiety.”
What are some things people can do if they are struggling with mental health?
“I recommend seeing a professional therapist. We see physical therapists routinely for things in our body, we should do the same for our mind. Medication is also helpful for so many people. Getting good nutrition and checking your levels of B12 & magnesium, both of these are related to mood. In the past I’ve used meditation more habitually, now I more focus on being mindful and running is my meditation time. For me, getting outside every day is helpful, even if that’s just stepping onto my porch it lowers my anxiety.”
Mental health can feel lonely or isolating at times, what can someone do to combat that feeling?
“For me, I found being vulnerable and saying that you feel alone has encouraged lots of other people to share their experiences. Communicate your feelings to friends and family members, it’s similar to the mentality of ‘killing it with kindness’ but for loneliness.”
This past summer you made a career change in moving from Flagstaff back to Salt Lake City, this was primarily driven by your health and happiness. Was that scary for you and how did you get through that?
“It was so scary, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Don’t be afraid of change and take that on yourself. Don’t feel like you have to be miserable for any reason. We get stuck in the ‘shoulds’ of life. If you’re not happy, it’s not worth it. I now tell myself and others, I can be more successful if you let myself be happy first.”
Do you have any thoughts on how we can continue to champion mental health awareness?
“It would be wonderful to break down the stigma that talking about mental health is taboo. More people would realize they have conditions that are undiagnosed and feel less isolated. By driving awareness and having conversations we can help people have a better quality of life. I think we could be better about it in the workplace by having mental health days, similar to sick days when you need one for your mind people should be encouraged to take them.”
One thing that you’re passionate about is reducing your carbon footprint and making more sustainable choices, how do you integrate that into your life? What can people do?
“Having a background in civil engineering and being a trail lover, I realized I’m running on all these mountains, but are they going to be available to our kids? It’s my responsibility as a voice in the sport to protect the mountain.
To have the biggest day to day impact, I started with nutrition and going plant-based. I’ve moved away from single-use plastics and am instead using reusable silicone baggies, glass containers, coffee cups, produce bags, etc. I’m challenging myself to drive less by grouping my errands into one or two days versus all the extra trips. My hope is that collectively if we can all reduce our meat consumption and drive a little less, all the small actions will add up quickly to more.”
In addition to dominating in the running scene, you also discussed or mentioned launching your own planner/training journal, what inspired this?
“I wanted everything together because like so many other athletes there’s a lot of overlap with training and life. I also like to write lists, do gratitude journaling and track my daily habits, so I drew all this out and created it for my needs. Then people started asking if they could get one, which inspired me to digitize it and sell it, allowing people to personalize it and make it their own. I’ve done it for the past 2 years and will do it again in 2021.”
What makes your planner different than other ones on the market?
It’s a training log and 12-month planner that caters to the organization of all parts of your life, such as training, appointments, goal setting, gratitude, hobbies, etc. In addition to the traditional date and time slots, there are personalized habit trackers at the beginning of every month, a yearly training graph and extra pages for goals, books to read, bucket list, birthdays, and more!
Thanks, Grayson! We appreciate your time and sharing your wisdom with Dorai, there is so much that we’ve gleaned from our conversation and you’re such a refreshing voice in the community.
You can find Grayson on Instagram at racin__grayson or read her blog and shop her planners (next year) on her website.