What Starting To Exercise Has Taught Me About My Mental Health

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Denial and terror, what a joyful combination… but they’re things I’ve been dealing with for a very long time. Oh my goodness, what’s been going on? You might ask. Has something really bad and difficult happened? Are you trying to do something no-one else has done? Is it something completely revolutionary and new?

Well actually, no.

For the past 32 years I’ve been completely petrified of any form of exercise.

As a teenager I passionately resisted physical exercise as much as possible. I was always the girl in PE with a note from home, opting to do extra maths lessons (which I also hated!) instead. But ANYTHING would be better than having to run around a field or, horror of horror, do team sports. I’m not sure if it stemmed from being badly bullied or if I was just lazy, but ever since then I’ve had a complete mental block on breaking out in a sweat.

Over the past few years I’ve been in pretty bad shape. I was drinking way too regularly and for the most part, hardly leaving the house unless it was to go to the supermarket (working from home is awesome, but it does have a nasty habit of turning you into a hermit). I started to think that maybe, maaaaybe, I should start doing some exercise… but I was scared of EVERYTHING to do with it.

I was scared of trying, scared of failing, scared that people would judge me, scared that other people in the gym would think I looked stupid, scared that I wouldn’t know how to use the equipment, worried I’d look fat in workout gear… The list just went on and on.

People have been telling me for YEARS that exercise will make me feel better, but I kept pushing it away. “Yeah maybe it works for you”, I’d think, “But getting all sweaty and out of breath sounds like hell to me”. It was easier to self-medicate my moods with things like alcohol and shopping…

But then one day back in March something strange happened. I was feeling sluggish, depressed, and like I’d just spent too much time in front of my computer. Gareth was in the next room getting ready to go to the gym so I called through (I was too embarrassed to even look him in the eye) and I tentatively said, “Erm, hey, I think I might want to come to the gym with you today.” That’s the even sillier thing, Gareth has been a dedicated gym bunny for 5+ years. He loves it and he looks GREAT, yet still I was so anxious about even telling him I wanted to give it a try.

I’m not sure where the motivation came from, but I know it wasn’t just because I wanted to look better, it was because I wanted to FEEL better. So I went to the gym, and you know what? IT WAS AMAZING. Not only were all my fears completely unfounded (I quickly realised that everyone is too worried about what they’re doing that to look at, or judge, anyone else) but the staff showed me how to use all the equipment (again without judgement at my lack of fitness) and it really wasn’t as complicated as I assumed it would be. They even told me they’d help me devise a regime if I wanted.

It’s been around twelve weeks since I started working out and I can hand on my heart say that I feel like a different person. I even enjoy it! The pride that I feel after lifting a heavier weight for the first time or running for even a few seconds longer each day beats any high from wine or shopping. Plus, it’s brought Gareth and me closer. We go to the gym together which makes the whole thing so much more fun.

Getting to the gym isn’t always easy though, sometimes I’m travelling, sometimes the weather is just too terrible to even leave the house. So was thrilled when I discovered OnlineGym4me. I’ve been loving using it on those days I don’t have the time, or motivation, to make it to the gym. This online video platform broadcasts daily live and on-demand workouts, which I can do in the comfort of my own home, hotel room or airbnb, most of them without any equipment. They cover everything from functional training, fat burning workouts, yoga and Pilates. It’s just like having a private a gym class in your living room. I then started chatting to the guys who own it, and they’ve offered a month free trial (in addition to their usual 14-day free trial) for every single reader of this blog! All you have to do is sign up.

I know highstreet gyms aren’t for everybody, but I’m sure anybody would feel the benefits of adding a little exercise to their life. Even in just twelve short weeks it’s given me a new lease of life. My moods are less haywire, I’m eating better, I’m more focused at work, but most importantly, I feel really fucking proud of myself. The physical benefits are almost secondary.

Everyone needs to take care of themselves and it’s nothing to do with wanting to slim into a wedding dress (you all know I hate that shit). Being fit and healthy is so important, and it wasn’t until I faced my own fears of exercise that I was truly able to realise that.

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10 comments

  1. Alice Hunt

    http://www.payasyougym.com is also great for if you’re away from home. Means you can find a local gym and get in for about a fiver, without having to do an induction. I’ve never really been into going to the gym, but joined a netball team when I moved city, and started going to the gym to get my fitness up for the team. Then I found the same – I started going every other day before work and – it makes me feel great and I’m loving it!

  2. amanda wilson

    If you need to add a little yoga. check out yoga with adreienne on youtube. she is wonderful.

  3. Eleanor Graham

    Great post Kat – I was the girl that used to take music lessons during PE as I was so hopeless and hated it so much. Over the past year or so I’ve found that taking exercise has also helped me with my mood. I am a size 22 on a good day but have recently taken up running giving myself the challenge of a 5k race and really loving it. I come back looking sweaty and red faced with my legs sore but it’s really worth it. Even just getting out for a walk helps. You go girl x

  4. Collette Kay

    I entirely agree. I was that same girl in school, I did PE but resisted actually trying. However, after a massive weight loss a few years ago from dieting alone, I realised that while I didn’t really want to lose more weight, I still felt my body could look better. So I started to learn to swim last year. After about 6 months of this, I started to do yoga. Then pilates. Then Body Balance. Then piloxing. Now Body Combat. I’ve tried aerial pilates and kick boxing, and only didn’t continue with these cos it was too expensive to manage. I get such a feeling of achievement from getting better at something, stretching that bit further, holding that plank longer, standing on one leg without any issue. I’m slowly but slowly increasing my fitness, my confidence in my abilities, and my body.

  5. Hollie

    I also work from home and spend way to much time in front of a computer it made me depressed. Gyms aren’t for me but I joined a netball team and play that also started getting outside more which really lifted my mood. It has a massive impact on my mental health getting out everyday. When I am really busy I shut myself off for days and work without going outside and it definitely effects my mood.

    Good on you. No shame in admitting you want to be healthier.

  6. Kim

    I’m so happy that you were able to overcome that major roadblock of going to the gym! Sometimes it’s more about conquering the mental/emotional associations with gym than the difficulty of physical activity itself. I was exactly the same way you were about exercise while I was growing up, and I didn’t start working out until I was 31 because I was intimidated and thought everyone would be looking at my terrible flabby body. At the time, I didn’t have a supportive partner to cheer me on at the gym, but what I did find was the pole fitness community – an incredibly encouraging, body-positive group of ladies and gentlemen who can inspire anyone to amazing physical feats (I’m doing aerial acrobatic poses that I couldn’t even imagine myself doing just 2 years ago). The community was just what I needed, so if any of your readers are looking for a gym alternative that is an incredible full-body workout and comes with a terrific community, I super recommend pole fitness. It’s also an amazingly good bachelorette/hen-do party activity (I arranged for a private group class for my friend at the local studio and everyone had so much fun).

  7. Congrats, this is awesome! I used to avoid most forms of exercise too, and greatly believed I just wasn’t cut out for it – like you I also work from home and similarly found it to be a factor in causing my mental health to greatly decline. From pushing myself to pick up running, and by making sure I attend as many training sessions with my Roller Derby team as possible, things are starting to improve. I’ve been thinking about joining a gym for a while now and this post is making me want to do it even more! 🙂

  8. Heidi

    Genuinely inspired. Might have to dust down the lycra, strap up those saddlebags & attempt a ‘jog’. (Do people still jog in 2016 or does it need to be a run!??)

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