I don’t know if you could tell, but I took a little break from my blog. And I don’t want to waste anymore time so let’s jump into it:
When I got home from Vancouver, I was drifting. Who was I now? I wasn’t a student. I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t see my friends. I had left a lot of people behind without getting to say goodbye. I felt lost.
Around my 5th day in Toronto I went to the basement to watch TV and found my younger sister doing a workout. She had started Chloe Ting’s 2 Week Shred Challenge a couple days earlier, as I feel like most of the internet had attempted. I laughed as she did up and down plank, plank jacks, bicycle crunches. I ridiculed her form (which I had no right to do). I sat on the couch eating Oreos.
At the end of the day, I still felt lost. I had watched TV, eaten a sleeve of Oreos, almost had a panic attack, surfed Instagram, and made dinner. The reality of the situation was I hadn’t done anything. Moreover, I didn’t have anything to do, nor did I have any idea when (if) I would get normal again. So, on my 6th day in Toronto, I worked out.
My God I struggled.
I think we need to take a couple steps back. I’ve never been the “fitness-type”. God’s honest reason is that I don’t enjoy sweating and being hot. When I was little, I would spend a lot of the summer nauseous from the heat. Where most people get aggravated eczema in the winter, mine flares up in the summer. When I was little, I would be covered head to toe in rashes, and sweat would make it burn and itch. I hate being out of breath, it makes me feel like I’m having an asthma attack. Working out was a perfect storm of being hot, sweaty and out of breath, and I hate all three. So, I didn’t work out.
I could be considered mildly active. I walk everywhere, I’ve done the walk from downtown Vancouver to UBC many times (which is about 3 hours). I ski, swim, waterski. But working out for the sake of working out was not something I was going to do. And every person in my life, friends, family, therapists, and doctors kept telling me “WORK OUT”. They told me it would improve my mental health, my physical health, my productivity, my body image. They toted it like a miracle cure. And I know miracles don’t exist.
Let’s jump back to the present. Pandemic. I lose 90% of my coping mechanisms. I can’t see my friends, I can’t go downtown, I can’t shop. I’m not performing, I’m not in school. I’ve lost all sense of what day it is. I’ve lost all sense of productivity and I am slipping. So, as a Hail Mary pass, I try working out.
It started with Chloe Ting; I finished the 2 Week Shred Challenge with my sister. And then I got on the spin bike, and then it was the Chloe Ting’s Hourglass Challenge, running, swimming lengths at the cottage. And five months later, I still shove my boobs into a sports bra a couple times a week and engage in some mildly torturous activity for 30-60 minutes.
After five months, I’ve definitely noticed some difference. Like any good scientist, I’m going to publish my findings:
I don’t have as many meltdowns. I don’t fracture under small stresses. I have more energy. My panic attacks are farther and farther apart. I’m not only physically stronger, but mentally stronger. So, I guess I have to finally admit it: I was wrong.
I feel better and come of that credit goes to working out. When the world took everything, working out allowed me to fill in the blanks so I didn’t collapse. I’m not sure what will happen when the world opens back up, when I’m faced with my old triggers. The parties and boys and work stress and applying to schools. But for now, I’m proud to say I have drunk the Kool-Aid (Gatorade?) and I kind of want to keep working out. I like the way it makes me feels, I like that I’m getting a better sleep, and tbh my butt looks better. Who doesn’t like having a nice butt?
I’m not saying it will replace therapy, social support, or other coping mechanisms (it will never support me the way music does). I’m not saying it will replace anything. But it’s another thing. It’s something else it my Batman utility belt of mental health coping strategies.
I know a lot of people who started exercising during quarantine. What else were you going to do? And 5 months ago I would have scoffed at the fitness trend taking over the world. However, I’m on board and I’m even recommending it to others. Here’s the advice I have:
Number 1. For years I would watch what I ate and taken a wild stab at the occasional workout class. I would tell myself I wanted to look good for a certain event or a certain person I was seeing. And every attempt to get in better shape, to workout, failed. Working out and exercising are not easy. They’re not easy habits to pick up and it is a zillion times more convenient to sit on your behind and do nothing. However, if you want to work out, you have to do it for you. I started this for my mental health. Not to appease my family or my doctors or my therapist who’s been asking me to workout for two years. I did it for me. Because as much as 2020 is about so much garbage, it’s also the year I’m putting me first.
Number 2. Try to set real goals. I see all these crazy progress photos and people getting jacked in like 7 days. But the reality of the situation is those changes usually aren’t sustainable. Why did I start working out? To see long-term changes. My dad just turned [redacted age here] but he still bikes 40 km two or three times a week and can out ski me on my best day. Because being active is a top priority for him. I want to be like that when I get older. But those BIG goals, the ones I aspire for, start with little goals. Working out once a week, learning to do a push up, doing the plank for a minute, running a kilometer without vomiting. Today, I ran 6km for the first time since 2014 and I understand that it’s not this massive number that sounds that impressive. But 3 weeks ago, I was struggling to run 2km, so it feels pretty good. I was able to do it because I built small, progressive goals.
So, if you want to pick up working out I would 10/10 recommend. I might even know a running buddy who would love to tag along.
From me, with love, to you,