Running and Mental Health

***** I wrote this post back in March and never published it. I am still exercising regularly but not running as often due to Tim being away and it being dark and cold in the mornings, but the words I wrote still ring true today.*****

It’s nothing new that exercise benefits us mentally, a quick Google search will tell you that. Why do so many of us live sedentary lives though, and as a result suffer from depression or feeling “low”? We first world citizens live privileged lives and yet there is so much unhappiness, so much complaining, so much medicating. Yet, don’t we already know the answer? At least part of it? We need to move, we need to get off our bottoms (to put it politely) and get out the door. It’s not easy though and I’ve used all the excuses. I’ve been up all night with a baby (valid), I don’t have time, I don’t have money to afford a gym membership, it’s my period,  my little toe is sore….and you could go on. We all have our reasons to be lazy and only moving when it’s absolutely necessary….like to go to the toilet. Our current work environment doesn’t help with many people sitting at a desk behind a computer all day long, but there are still opportunities to move throughout the day, even if it’s just making a point to go for a short walk during lunch time. Last year about August I went to the Doctor, I think I went for some minor ailment, I don’t remember now but it ended up being more of a mental health check up than anything. One of my beautiful friends recommended her Doctor to me and I’m so thankful, she’s much more than a GP and was interested in me more than a prescription. I had a full blood work done to check Thyroid and other things and she advised me to take some vitamins. She also referred me to a psychologist. I was really struggling in every area but especially motherhood, I was not treating my girls well and they were copying my behaviour (as children do), I had a lot of self hatred, and negative self talk, there was a lot going on and when I tried reaching out to people they would say things like “well, Tim does work away, it’s bound to be hard”….very unhelpful. After a few sessions with the psychologist I visited my Doctor again, I still wasn’t doing great and she was hoping for an improvement. She asked me if I wanted anything for my mood….an antidepressant. I honestly didn’t think I was depressed but all the signs were pointing to that, in hindsight. I decided against the prescription and took her other advice, to start exercising. She told me it was part of my wellness plan and so I decided to take her advice, it couldn’t hurt me anyway.

I didn’t really get into regular exercise until after Christmas when Tim suggested we join a local gym that was opening. I’m not saying that exercise is a cure-all but I definitely think it’s for everyone. I know some people need medication and intervention but something in me knew what I needed to do. I’ve been doing some exercise on and off over the past few years, I was the most regular about 2 years ago when I was going to a BodyPump class at the gym and walking weekly with my friend Emma. She ended up moving back to the UK and I think I felt a little lost without that friendship, especially after getting back from our holiday in Canada and missing family. When we moved to Atwell, my friend Anna thought we should start the Couch to 5km running program together, we had each other for accountability and that was KEY. I knew I wasn’t going to be getting up at 6am unless I knew she would be waiting for me and I think she felt the same way. It was great to start at the beginning, we were both pretty unfit so it was nice to have someone to struggle next to. I downloaded the app on my phone, basically it starts you really slowly and builds up gradually over 8 weeks. You can listen to your own music and the app will tell you when to walk and run (or plod). For example the first week you start out with a 5min warm-up walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Running that one minute was hard, that’s how unfit I was. I also climbed Bluff Knoll during those early weeks which was just another example to me of how fit I was, but gave me a vision and hope for a fitter future. I signed up for a 5km run the end of March, I had to pay a small fee which is an incentive in it’s self, I had a goal, I had a time frame, and I had a friend. Well about half way, or maybe we were a little further, Anna told me she was expecting baby number three. She continued running with me for a few more weeks but her Doctor told her that such intense exercise wasn’t probably a good idea due to her medical history. We were both disappointed in the news because had come to love that time together in the early morning, chatting and catching up on each others news, pushing each other to not give up running when our legs were screaming at us. She’s now happily growing a little baby and miraculously I’ve continued running. It hasn’t been easy to motivate myself to get out of bed, and occasionally I give myself grace to skip a planned run. I try to get in three a week and one or two classes at the gym. After a restless night I didn’t want to go this morning…at all. I was tired and slightly sore from my class on Monday, Kate had joined us sometime in the middle of the night and I had a hard time getting back to sleep after bringing her back to bed. This is real life. When the alarm went off at 5:35 I didn’t want to move, it was still dark and bed was so cosy. I did manage to roll out of bed though, get dressed and get my sneakers on before both girls appeared at our door. I was kind of relieved that I was ready to go because I really didn’t feel like dealing with kids who should have slept longer…you know the kind. I was a little later leaving then I had hoped but I got out the door and that’s the most difficult part.

Australians tend to be better at getting going early in the morning. I think it has something to do with the extreme heat. If you want to get anything done outside (gardening, exercise, dog walking) it’s best to do it early just as the sun is rising, before it gets hot.  It’s nice greeting people who are out early, even though I’m listening to music and very sweaty I always say good morning to passers-by. It’s energizing to get moving early in the morning to greet the day, I most often have more energy and get more things done on the days when I go for a run (unless I push myself too far and then I’m shattered). It normally helps me to make better food choices as well. I never really thought of myself as a runner or an early morning one at that…. and I kinda picture myself looking like this when I run. However; I do it, I am doing it and feeling better for it. No I haven’t really lost much weight, but I’ve become stronger and actually have some muscle tone. I ran a 5km timed race last weekend and came in at just under 37 minutes. I was happy with this because I honestly didn’t know if I could run 5km straight yet and I didn’t think I would be under 40 minutes. So really it’s not about the running, it about feeling better. Feeling better about myself, having more to give to my girls, not letting the excuses win. Feeling mentally stronger, knowing that I can push myself to run further because it’s a mind game. It’s a time when I can set my day on the right track rather them be woken from a deep sleep by someone whining for breakfast. I always listen to worship music when I run, it’s a time for me to think about nothing other then God, and pushing myself until the app tells me to stop (I’m now on the C210K one…and it’s hard).

I, of course have bad days, we all do, but I have far less of them now. I’m coming out of that horrible, out of control, “low” time and now I can see it on other mums. Tired, worn out mums, who can’t imagine trying to fit exercise into their schedule. Mums who know they need to exercise to feel better but feel hopeless and don’t really know where to start, maybe they’re afraid to fail. It breaks my heart really to see it because I’ve been there, and not too long ago. Some days I still feel like I’m there. Honestly, I would recommend visiting your Doctor (without kids), and if you need a good one in Perth just ask me the name of mine, also get moving ASAP. Even if it’s just walking to drop your kids off at school instead of driving one day a week, or around the neighbourhood pushing a stroller with a bigger kid on a scooter. It’s possible, and you and your kids will be better for it. So that’s where I’m at, I want to encourage others to get moving because I’ve seen how much of a difference it has made in my life.  I’m a little unsure about how to do this since I don’t want to make people feel worse about themselves (I’ve been there, feeling like people are exercising AT me). The interesting thing is that you can’t fail at it, moving more, even a little bit will benefit you. I don’t plan on running any marathons, running 5kms is still hard, but I CAN run 5km and a few months ago I could barely run for one minute straight. I’m never going to be that super muscular mum with fake boobs at the gym (nor do I want to be) but I can have more energy for my girls. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I decided that 2015 was going to be my year to work on my fitness and so far so good! I’ve set realistic goals with a plan to achieve them. I may be less available for play dates or getting together because I want to go to a class at the gym, this may sound strange but honestly it’s my priority this year. Another word of advice, get outside. I know this is really difficult for people in Canada where the sidewalks are covered with metres of snow right now but when the snow starts to melt get outside and breath fresh air. In the meantime there are alternatives. If you want energy, drink less coffee and exercise more.


Prayers, Plans, and Split Lips

Our church CityLight is going through a bit of a transition right now and as a result Tim and two other leaders are going to be sharing the teaching role. This is a new thing for Tim (but not the others) as well as an exciting and scary leap of faith. We’ve been praying a lot lately about our church, our role in the church, and future plans for our church.

This morning we were there early helping set up. Tim was planning on leading a session on personal testimony this morning for our Family Service (everyone in together including kids) when Eden, who was running around in her sock feet, slipped and had a fantastic face-plant on the tile.

This resulted in me scooping up all 20kg of her, running to the kitchen where Tim was, and trying to figure out where all the blood was coming from. We decided that it wasn’t bad enough for a trip to emergency but definitely a trip home for a non bloody shirt.

So here we are, Eden’s eating a popsicle while Tim’s teaching and somehow looking after Kate at the same time.

Thing’s don’t always work out how we plan them, often they don’t, but we have to trust that God has a plan better then ours, even if it involves split lips. This is definitely true for our church, we wouldn’t have planned how things are going right now but we can trust that God has a plan and rest in that knowledge.

So stay tuned as the next few months are bound to be full of prayer, plans, and hopefully no more split lips.