Working Out With Depression

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I’m a regular gym-goer. I belong to one of those “luxury” gyms with Kiehl’s products and a spa and four levels of sweaty goodness. I work out for various reasons, but the main one is that I was diagnosed with chronic mild depression last year. I kind of always knew I suffered from depression. I tried the natural route – supplements and working-out – but it didn’t really help. Then I went on Wellbutrin and every thing changed. Well, not everything. Things got better. I had more energy and focus. I didn’t fall into funks as often. If I did it was never for long.

I work-out four times a week because it clears my head and pumps me full of those endorphins we’ve all heard about. But there are some days when my energy levels are low and my depression – despite the meds – is kicking my ass. I don’t want to do anything. My brain gets all foggy and I can’t write. I feel melancholy and can’t get motivated to do anything.

Those are the days I need the gym the most. They’re also the days I least want to leave my apartment. For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been making a concerted effort to push through those sluggish days. I think I might be making some progress. Since depression is so common, and since getting motivated to work-out is something many people struggle with, I thought I’d whip together a few tips for people trying to take their work-out to the next level while juggling a less than co-operative brain.

  1. Get your sleep – I’m usually up at six am every day, even weekends. I’m not a sleep-er in-er. I decided to force myself to stay in bed until at least six-thirty. (Seven if I went to bed after eleven.) Those thirty minutes – for me – are crucial, as a lack of sleep can not only make you cranky and lethargic, but it can make you feel hungry when you’re not.  The extra sleep is the difference between 1800 calories a day and 2500 calories a day.
  2. Maintain the habit – Once I’m at the gym, I’m raring to go. It’s the lead-up to getting there that does me in. That week before my period my productivity is cut in half due to hormone fluctuations. Even if I am too tired or crampy to work-out, I still make the trip to my gym.I might stay all of ten minutes, but I get there. I’m not disciplined enough to skip one day. If I skip one, I’ll skip five.
  3. Give yourself  a break – People think that they have to exert themselves to excess in order for a workout to count. There are some days where my brain just doesn’t want to be there. My thoughts are disjointed and I feel overwhelmed. So, instead of doing my regular interval training, I take a lovely stroll on the treadmill for fifteen minutes. The goal is to do something to get your heart rate elevated. You don’t have to run a marathon.
  4. Socialize – This is a big one for me. My gym isn’t just a place where I exercise. Feeling isolated exacerbates my depression. So, in addition to working out, I make it a point to engage the trainers or other women in the locker room. I need that sense of connection so those feelings of inferiority and doubt don’t creep in. Once I’m in that place, I can get stuck there.
  5. Mix it up – I get bored with a routine very quickly. Boredom can lead to complacency. ‘m always Googling different work-outs or asking trainers for new exercises to add to my routine. It could be just one simple move, but at least it gets me out of my rut.
  6. Create goals and reward yourself when you meet them – If anything this is a great excuse to hit up Sephora.But let’s be clear: a goal should be something you work for and strive to attain, not something you already do that comes easily. I’ll add two extra levels to my interval work and throw in an increased incline. Formulate a goal that will nudge you out of your comfort zone. Keep in mind that your reward can come in the form of affirmations. Buying lipstick is great, but the feeling you get when you know you’ve achieved something difficult can be just as fulfilling, if not more.
  7. Be your own champion – Didn’t feel like going to the gym but you pushed through it? Yay! Tell yourself that. Remind yourself that you’re tougher and more resilient than you realize.  You earned it.

What do you do to get motivated to work out?





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