Dai Henwood on how running, meditation helps mental health

Comedian Dai Henwood has opened up about how running has helped his mental health, saying it's the best thing for "blowing out the cobwebs". 

The 7 Days star is running the half in the Air NZ Queenstown Marathon on November 17, before performing a comedy set that night - but says running wasn't always in his blood. 

"I began running about 10 years ago. When I was younger, I couldn't believe it when I saw people running around," Henwood tells Newshub.

Henwood in the Auckland Marathon a couple of years ago.
Henwood in the Auckland Marathon a couple of years ago. Photo credit: Getty

"It wasn't for me, I was mostly into team sports, cricket - which I still play - and rugby.

"I started running mostly for me; I now think of it as a physical form of meditation. It really helps blow the cobwebs out. And I think of a lot of comedy material when I'm running."

Henwood says having something like a half marathon to focus on stops him from giving up. 

"Humans are goal-orientated and having a something like the half marathon keeps me getting out and running even when I don't feel like it." 

The funnyman will be accompanied to Queenstown by friend and fellow comedian Aussie Micky D, who will run the full marathon. The pair is then performing a comedy set that night, which Henwood says "seemed like a great idea six months ago".

"Because we're doing the gig, I think the Friday will be: Race, snooze, gig, eat," Henwood laughs.  

While in the past he might have celebrated with a few beers post-run, Henwood revealed earlier this year he's giving up alcohol for a year.

He told The Project in June he was going cold turkey, calling moderation "unachievable" for him. 

It's had the perhaps unexpected but welcome side effect of being beneficial to his training. 

"I one hundred percent have more motivation without drinking. I get maybe that one extra run in a week that I might not have been able to do before. And getting out there and being able to run a bit further each time... I have really come to appreciate the natural highs!"

To compliment to his running, the comedian says he's also been "going deep" on meditation, after giving it up for a while in his "loose and lazy twenties". 

He now meditates for around 45 minutes to an hour each day, and says it "really calms me down and helps with me deal with my emotions".

"I think it translates to running as well, it helps me get in the zone a lot quicker," he says. 

"The thing I love about meditation is you can't do it badly. You can't be the best in mediation." 

Henwood says the practice has helped him in dealing with anxiety and he would "100 percent recommend" meditation to other men dealing with it.

"I had low levels of anxiety which stemming from some sleep deprivation after having young kids," he explains. 

"I think sometimes there's this idea that it's this hippy dippy thing performed by good looking inspo people wearing Lululemon on Instagram. 

"For dudes, it doesn't have to be like that; it's about sitting down and having some time to yourself." 

As he clearly doesn't have quite enough going on at the moment, Henwood is also part of the 7 Days live tour heading around New Zealand in December, which he calls "his favourite time of year". 

"I'll try not to do too much meditation on stage," he promises. "But a laugh is the best thing you can do for your mental health".

Running, laughter and meditation - Henwood's best medicine.