It used to be that you were about as likely to find me in the gym as you were to find me “in da club”. Things have changed.
For the majority of 2014 I suffered from persistent negative thoughts. I tried various ways to cope with these, from the very old (Buddhist worry beads) to the very new (unfriending a load of people on Facebook). Nothing worked which meant I would need to take drastic action the following year. 2015 subsequently became my year of living dangerously – well compared to how I had been living, anyway.
In February last year I sat silently quaking on a 2 hour flight to spend time in Austria with a good friend. By December I was sitting relatively calmly on a 10 hour flight to a retreat where I didn’t know any of the 130 other attendees. I made lots of changes inbetween those two events but the pivotal one was joining the gym last July.
The person responsible for holding my hand and encouraging me every step of the way was Val the Cookie Queen. Like all the best role-models she didn’t preach or cajole, she was just a great advert for what an active life-style can do for you.
Up to that point I’d heard countless times how exercise helps with low mood. I just couldn’t identify with working-out in any way and didn’t consider it to be an option for me. All I’d done in the past 20 years was a spell of Kundalini yoga: call me hardcore, but I don’t think anyone should be snoring during their exercise session (I swear it wasn’t me).
When I tentatively brought up the idea of following her example and going to the gym, Val plainly stated it would change my life. That was the final push I needed to at least give it a try.
To say I had low expectations on taking out a gym membership is to put it mildly. I felt like a fish out of water and thought it unlikely that it would be for me. But in the spirit of my drive to step out of my comfort zone, I’d give it a proper go for the next 6 months.
After two weeks my obsessive thoughts had decreased by about 90%. I was amazed. Considering they had been intense and constant for the previous year and half, I don’t think this is a coincidence. I doubt I was pushing myself hard enough to release the required amount of endorphins but I do think I sent a strong positive message to myself that I was prepared to do whatever it took to improve my well-being.
Becoming fitter and reducing my body fat was a great bonus. I do two sessions of cardio/resistance work a week plus a Hatha yoga class. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t exactly enjoy being at the gym and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my watch regularly while I’m there. All the same, if I can’t go for any reason, instead of feeling relieved I feel uneasy. This is now an important part of my weekly routine.
Thanks Val, you were right; going to the gym changed my life.
Do you go to the gym or do any other kind of regular exercise? What have the benefits been?