Exercise & My Mental Health (spoilers: It Worked)

You know this scene in Legally Blonde:

(If you haven't seen it, leave now and come back when you've watched the directors cut. I'll wait.)

I'm sold. It's almost infuriating how much of a difference regular exercise and pushing my own limits has made to my mental health.

Everyone I've met at an event, or tripped over bumped into while training, or chatted with on a train after we've had to rearrange our bicycles so they'd both fit in the stupid "bike storage" area that's actually just a gap with folding seats, has been lovely.

There was a guy who high-five'd me while we were running in the park with our head-torches. Still makes me grin. There were a bunch of lads who, when I was running in the dark along the beach, told me I was "well hard" and I don't even care if they were being sarcastic. There's a handful of blokes I see fairly regularly (most of them MAMILs, but one who wears a flat cap rather than a helmet and has a pannier rack secured with garden twine) and we share a nod when pedalling along the twisty back roads. When I've gone swimming there's been less bonding with other people, but that's mainly due to the fact we're basically all in our underwear and I'm too British to make eye contact with strangers in their knickers. 

Last year I set myself targets and achieved goals, I have some shiny medals and hard won t-shirts to prove it. But the real victory was the benefit it had on my anxiety and depression, it's no secret that the last few years haven't been the easiest for me, but running and cycling have been the biggest help in clawing myself back from the edge of sanity. (IANAD YMMV)

I hadn't really planned for post-triathcheat though. This time last year July seemed aeons away, and as it got closer it seemed bigger. The idea of booking something to do afterwards seemed cocky, I didn't want to risk the hubris of assuming I'd survive and damn myself to suffer. 

Then I'd done it and I revelled in the glory of having done and having proved I could do it. And promptly stopped.

I've signed up for parkrun, but only went once and since then fallen into the habit of remembering at 8.55 on a Saturday morning. The result has been a slow eradication of the improvements I'd made to my mental health, and to my physical health- when I was running I found I didn't want sugar, let alone crave it, but now I'm back to mindlessly munching handfuls of dolly mixture and packets of crisps.

Regular exercise was the best drug I've ever put into my body, and just like drugs I found different types affected me differently. Cycling chilled me out, I could just keep going and smiling. There's definitely more of a buzz from running. Which again, annoyed me. I'd always thought people who went on about a "runner's high" were just trying to justify the fact they spent too much money on ugly shoes. Swimming doesn't really do much for me, it's either the fact that everyone is in their underwear or the ever present risk of drowning, there's too much concentration involved to really throw myself into it. So far I haven't found any exercise which comes with a suicidal thoughts warning in the list of possible side effects.


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