Exercise And Anxiety – Weekly Recap – 1.12.19 –

Exercise and Anxiety

This week was pretty a pretty standard one when it comes to CrossFit and running. I traveled a little for work, and had some stressful days. Stress is a great trigger for anxiety for me (I know, I’m a lucky girl). After some struggles this week, I thought a lot about the relationship between exercise and anxiety in my life.

For me, there are a number of situations that bring on anxiety. Being overwhelmed with work, or navigating multiple changes, or just disruptions in my every day routines can make me more anxious than usual.

Additionally, the tax season is also just around the corner, which means my husband will be a whole lot less available. Outside of some real estate projects, his primary work (outside of home) right now is tax-related. So during the tax season, there’s a lot more working hours for him. It’s not easy getting all of my work, all of my workouts, and a big portion of the household stuff all accomplished with less support than I’m used to.

exercise and anxiety - running for self-care
Taking some time to stretch and enjoy my run

Praise to all the single parents out there making it happen, because I’m hanging on by a thread WITH a partner whose just busier than usual.  We survive every year, and this year will be no different.  I have to remind myself that we are so blessed to have built a life where my husband is so available for our family the other 8 months out of the year.  Because this stuff is hard, and I am not great at domestic life!

2019 as a whole was an amazing, but also really hard, year for my family. We purchased our first rental property, we moved (a couple of times), I PR’d my marathon time by 14 minutes, I finished my MBA, and I started this blog. In the more difficult times, like finishing my MBA while purchasing a rental property (not something I’d recommend BTW), I have been so thankful to have running and CrossFitting to help keep me sane. Here’s how working out has positively impacted my mental health.

Exercise and Anxiety

It Has Provided Me Consistency
I run and workout every week, on a very consistent basis. For a lot of people, that might get boring or repetitive or even cumbersome. For me, having a consistent practice is a source of comfort. My life is hectic, in a lot of wonderful but also difficult ways. Even when work is insane, or school was beating the crap out of me, I knew there was at least one hour of my day that was stable.

I’ve learned that stability is super important for me and my mental health.  Even if my only stability is the hour or two a day that I work out.  That pillar of consistency is really important for me, and helps me to feel grounded during the chaos. Exercise and anxiety will always be a part of my life, and both make me stronger.

It Has Given Me Confidence & Strength
I’ve always been a fairly stubborn and industrious person.  However, there have definitely been times that I’ve been shaken.  When my anxiety is on the higher end of normal for me,  I notice that I doubt myself and question my decisions.  In the past, when I’m really struggling, I’ve had a hard time owning my voice and being as authentic as I’d like.

exercise and anxiety
OCR racing will make you feel like a BEAST

Working out consistently has given me something I can point to when I question myself. It reminds me that I have endured hard things. It screams to me that I am strong. It gives me space to work out what I need to say and who I need to say it to when I need to advocate for myself. I’ve written about how CrossFit has helped me find strength, and how running has helped me recognize my grit.

Related Post: Lessons Learned From a Decade of Working Out

Most importantly, working out consistently is how I show myself that I am worth taking care of. And when you are worth taking care of, you have a much easier time doing no harm but taking no shit (which is something I wish all women were comfortable with).

It Has Given Me a Physical Outlet for Anxiety
I’m one of those lucky people who experiences anxiety in an extremely physical way.  When I’m anxious, I fidget, I pace,  I get headaches, and my stomach hurts.  It took me a long time to recognize these things as symptoms of anxiety.  It’s not just worry for me, it’s feeling like I’m going to jump out of my skin.

Moving helps. A lot. And rather than pointlessly shaking my leg or messing with my hair, I’d much prefer lifting semi-heavy weights or going on a seven mile run. Sometimes managing anxiety is about changing and pushing back against thought patterns that aren’t helpful. But sometimes managing anxiety is about changing the way my body feels, and allowing that shift to impact my thoughts. No one way is better, but making room for both is so effective.

It Has Given Me Something to Look Forward to
When all else fails, and I feel like crap no matter how many mindful techniques I reference from my therapist days, I know I can look forward to working out.  I know, without one single doubt, that I always feel some amount of incremental relief while I’m running or lifting.  Even if it’s short-lived.

And having a race or CrossFit event on the calendar gives me something exciting to work towards and look forward to. Having something scheduled that I know I’m going to enjoy can help me not put a little less focus onto how anxious I’m feeling in the moment. It gives me a little breathing room, and it reminds me that there are huge parts of my life that I enjoy. Even when anxiety is trying to convince me that I will always feel like this.

Exercise and Anxiety - Crossfit and mental health
After 2019’s Murph – a workout I look forward to every year

The list could go on and on.  Honestly, I feel like working out has helped me manage my anxiety just as much as therapy has.  Combining the two has been the best decision I’ve ever made, and I don’t want to imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have this tool for mental health. 

This hot mess would probably need to be heavily medicated in all reality, and that’s not something I’m super enthusiastic about. So for now, I’ll make sure sure working out happens consistently. It’s my gift to everyone who has to interact with me when I’m extra edgy 🙂

This Week’s Workouts

Total Miles: 51.1
Hansons Marathon Method, Week 7
How the Runs Felt
My runs this week were pretty decent. This week’s mileage was the first in this marathon training block that jumped up a good amount from the previous week. Sometimes the mileage jump is hard for my body to adjust to, but I’ve noticed that I tend to feel more fatigued during the low mileage weeks. I think it is probably a result of my body working more on rebuilding from the previous week’s push. So, I am anticipating feeling a little run down next week, but only time will tell.

exercise and anxiety - exercise for mental health
Lots of treatmill runs this week

A lot of my runs this week were on the treadmill, which isn’t super exciting.  Mon-Wed I was out of town for work, and needed to get my running in early before the sun came up.  Not something I really think about when I’m at home and things are super familiar, but not something I’m completely comfortable doing in other places.  You can blame all of the true crime podcasts I listen to, but I have promised my boys that I won’t be the jogger who disappears.  So I’m doing what I can to hold up my end of the bargain.

Thursday, I had planned to run outside, but a nice thunderstorm rolled in and didn’t seem to give a crap about my personal plans.  Super rude.  Friday, I finally got to run outside, which wasn’t all that great to be completely honest.  It was slightly drizzly, super humid, and a little warmer than I would personally prefer.  But, I didn’t want to be a giant liar and tell everyone how important it is to run in crappy weather, and then run on a treadmill to avoid some frizzy hair.  I am nothing if not, super honest.  And opinionated.  And stubborn.

exercise and anxiety - running in the rain
My sloshy morning

Anyways, my long run this week was nice and long. I really like it when the mileage starts increasing. I listened to several fun podcasts, and the weather was somewhat better than Friday’s. I shared some of my pre-long race morning routine on my IG stories. If you’re interested in taking a look, I’ve saved it into my “Marathon Training” favorite folder.

Overall, the runs this week went well. I hit my goal paces on my speed work, and had no issues during my long run. Weather wasn’t my best friend this week, but I guess global warming is trying to make me tougher. In all reality, most of my runs this week were more for my mental health than for fitness. Some runs are for the physical, but so many more are for the mental and emotional.

What I’ve Been Listening To
I finished up  this season of Blood Ties, and holy cow is it great!  I need to go back to my post on Why Running are the Best, and add a section about how they recommend great podcasts.  Thanks for the recommendation, Maddie!  I’ve also been listening to a lot of podcasts on building an online business and entrepreneurship lately.  My personal favorites this week were Do It Scared, Don’t Keep Your Day Job, and Rise.  The Officer’s Wife also launched their first episode, and I’m so happy to have a new true crime podcast to look forward to now that I’m done with A Murder in Oregon and Urge to Kill.

How the WODs felt
I dropped into a box this week during my work travel, and it was more focused on heavy barbell lifts than what I’ve been doing recently.  There were a whole lot of squats, and my legs were SUPER sore Tuesday.  I was really happy to have a rest day, but definitely had a hard time getting up off the couch.

The workouts were really well programmed, and I feel like they were really beneficial for me this week. I’m glad I was able to do more CrossFit this week than last, even with the traveling.

What Went Well
This week was a rough one for me personally, as I shared earlier.  It wasn’t hard so much as it was just mentally draining.  I’m so happy to have the outlet of working out, as it was very much needed this week.  Despite the stress and anxiety, my sleep was pretty good for most of the week, and I attribute a lot of that to working out.

I learned a whole lot this week.  I checked out two free courses by Jasmine Star and Cathy Heller, and I’m glad that I was able to make this a priority.  It wasn’t easy this week, so I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back.

What Went Shitty
Well, I was pretty stressed and anxious for most of the week, and that never feels great. I didn’t eat as well as I normally do, which is kind of a bummer. I didn’t eat more or less than I typically do, but I definitely didn’t prioritize whole foods as much. I also don’t think I made enough time for true downtime. While I work out regularly, I don’t consider that actual downtime.

Exercise and Anxiety - Anxiety and nutrition
Nutrition wasn’t all bad this week

Also when I have to spend 3 days in a row in full day meetings, I hit my “too many people” quota really early in the week. Normally, I’d take some extra time to relax and read or watch a movie or walk, but this week I didn’t do so great with that. With all of the different things competing for my attention, I didn’t make downtime happen, and I think that only exacerbated my stress levels. I’m definitely looking forward to an extra weekend day this week to prioritize that.

Plans to Improve Next Week  
Next week I plan on making downtime more of a priority.  My son has already asked me to go see a movie, and I fully intend to recline and eat all of the popcorn and Reese’s Pieces there are.  I also plan on making more time to cook and stretch this week, since I won’t be traveling.  I’ve talked about it before, but time isn’t something you find, and it isn’t something that’s hiding.  It’s something you have to make.  This week I need to do a better job of making time for the things I need.

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