So I was at my GP’s for a general check up on how I’ve been getting on, and she seemed pretty pleased with my progress. When I mentioned the marathon training, she was even more animated. “This is one of the key things, I tell patients. I think this extra exercise is definitely a factor in you feeling better so quickly“.
It’s not just a crazy theory by my doc, and I won’t get all l’oreal on you with the science bit. But essentially there are endorphins released in your brain during exercise and these help stabilise the mind and promote well-being.
For a lot of folk, they dread the gym, or a 3 mile run let alone a marathon. Some of them give it a try and they hit that first obstacle, the voice kicks in, and they give up. What they don’t realise is that a good workout doesn’t feel like that the whole way through. It’s probably true of many forms of exercise but running especially. 9 times out of 10 I find the first 10-20% of my run is hellish.
I’ve just left work and could really do with getting straight home and onto my sofa. Spend the next hour running? Why? the train is twice is quick, are you stupid?
As I warm up and stretch “The Voice” is trying his hardest to nip this crazy idea in the bud, and then as the run begins my body rapidly tells me that it’s not enjoying this. But here’s the thing, if you get past this initial phase, you can settle into a rhythm, and the pain/tiredness start to dissipate. Some days are better than others, but the more often you exercise, the more often you get to this point, and the better it becomes.
Every now and then you may get to a point where it doesn’t even feel like you are putting in any effort at all. All you are aware of is your thoughts, and either the sound of your breathing or the track on your ipod. Workout Nirvana.
When you do manage to get this, The Voice has no chance. The smug feeling of satisfaction as you realise you’re already past halfway in your run, and you already know you’re gonna finish it and finish it well, is brilliant. The workout no longer feels like a chore or something you’re being coerced into doing and you really start to enjoy it.
This affects your whole mood, and even though you might feel the legs start to ache as you near the end of your run, it doesn’t matter. You know for that short time, you were pushing yourself to the limit, and everything that was conspiring against you, age/weight/thoughts of warm sofa/last weekends binge drink session, all of those things lost. You won, and it wasn’t even that hard, really.
It doesn’t happen EVERY time you hit the road, but when it does it’s worth all of those other struggles you had in the preceding runs.
So, since my last post, I completed a 5k run(about 3.2 miles) and then a 5 mile run. Fairly slowly on both, and any hopes that the cortisone injection would prove as effective as gummiberry juice were gone just 10 mins into the 1st run. There was definitely still a level of discomfort, but I was able to carry on, so it was an improvement on not being able to run at all. It was a reminder, if ever there was any doubt, that marathon day isn’t going to be a breeze….
Anyway the main thing is I was back in the game & on Sunday, I went to the gym for a 2 hour cross trainer session. I really needed the cardio work, but couldn’t risk too much road running in case I aggravated the knee, so I had to face my fear. 120 minutes on a boring machine, that will mock my efforts the whole way.
But I’m feeling more positive these days, and I went back to basics by putting on an old mix CD from my clubbing years as the soundtrack to my session.
The first 20 minutes took 35 minutes in my head. It was a nightmare start and I’d only got 1/6 of the way into it, but I stuck with it, and then it started to fall into place.
Maybe it was the accomplishment of battling through that first horrible 20 mins?
Maybe it was the fact that I had already managed 2 road runs that week?
or maybe it was just that listening to the Airwave remix of Andy Ling’s “Fixation” for the first time in years was triggering a flashback of coming up in a field in Oxfordshire (Gatecrasher Summer Sound System, 2002)
The reason wasn’t important, all that mattered was I had reached Workout Nirvana, and when I looked at the timer I still had the best part of 1hr 20 to go. Far from discouraging me, I started looking forward to the remainder of the session!
I zoned out, my legs moved at a constant rate without instruction. I’d effectively put on the cruise control on my body and was sitting back in my own head and enjoying the ride. All I could think about was the GP talking about how much she champions exercise as a way of mentally regrouping. Somewhere along the way in the past 18 months I’d forgotten how effective it really is.
The icing on the cake, is that unlike the various other methods of lifting your mood to this form of euphoria there is no messy comedown afterwards.
2 days after that festival in Oxfordshire, I wouldn’t have been writing a blog on what a sense of achievement I’d had, that’s for sure!
Ok, so after the run/workout you may have some aching muscles, chafed nipples and be really, really hungry but depending on what you were wearing to Gatecrasher that year these physical effects would be the same….
It’s on the mental side of things that they differ. I think a similar thing could be said about prescriptive treatments of mental anxiety, depression etc. While in the short term they may give you that boost or help level you out, it’s surely a better solution if you can get your own body to help sort itself out in the way it’s naturally programmed to do?
It’s one thing reading about exercise and it’s effect on the mind in a magazine, or have a doctor tell you. Hopefully reading about my own experience here might encourage someone, maybe even you, to give it a try. What have you got to lose? (other than a few pounds, which is a positive side effect that Prozac can’t claim!)