Bigger than Biceps: Treating exercise as therapy


For a person whose life changed just from stepping into the fitness world, falling off the tracks means a lot more than just missing a couple workouts. It's like going to a class five days a week and then having summer vacation. When you go back to school in the fall, it's hard to get back into the swing of things. This morning I looked at old pictures of myself in smaller size clothing and thought 'what was my routine like then?'

This is normal. People change, grow and life gets in the way sometimes.

It's not about having a long day at work and not having the motivation to workout when you get home. It's about losing all the momentum and progress you built up over years and years and being back at square one.

At the end of May I lost regular access to a gym, so I made use of my backyard and living room for workouts. These are much harder for me to accomplish because I could sit on my couch or sit on my floor and do ab exercises. There was no time to work up my motivation, like getting in the car and driving to the gym. I'd also stop short if I was too tired and got distracted easily.

Working out for me is a priority. I can't lose motivation or make excuses this way. It's become a routine. A task I can't skip, but must complete. Now, I'm trying to view it as therapy — an outlet and a break in the day. I have the freedom to customize my workout, attain a physical space, and push as hard as I can to achieve a goal. Sometimes its overwhelming, but also worth it, the same way releasing thoughts and confessions to a counselor is.

Research shows that physical activity can lessen the impact of psychological, neurological, metabolic and musculoskeletal diseases. Consider it medicine. The doctor almost always asks if you're getting enough exercise in an appointment. Most of the time it's thought of as a redundant question, but it's really an indirect order. Depression causes people to feel a loss of life, fatigue and physical inactivity but exercising reverses it by increasing aerobic capacity and muscle strength. That betters the well-being which has an impact on a persons mood. The mind and body are one.

According to a study on exercise as medicine from December 2015, intense exercises can help defer from simultaneously worrying or thinking about other things that encourage a depressive state. Exercise also stimulates nerve cell growth and the release of proteins to support the hippocampus. The hippocampus' volume is reduced in people with depression.

Now that I have a gym membership, I've been pretty consistent with my workouts. There is a struggle that comes along with getting back into a routine, but once you're there, the results, adrenaline and everything else that comes with it is so worth it. There's not always going to be a little person on your shoulder telling you what to do and when so self-motivation is the biggest factor behind getting back on track.

Remind yourself why you're doing this, how you need to get back on track and set goals in place to make sure you stay on that track.

— Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.


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