*Trigger Warning: Detailed discussion of body image, depression, and anxiety
Since the mighty age of 3, I’ve been watching and playing sports.
For most of my childhood, I balanced with baseball at Topham Park, soccer at East York soccer club/Clairlea Westview and hockey at Vic Village/Scarborough Sharks/North York Storm. Learning to swim, bike, and rollerblade- I was a very active kid. I can whole-heartedly say I was never the star player, but I loved playing sports. I loved working with a team, having a healthy routine, and actively being part of something bigger than me.
You learn so much more through sports than solely the sport itself.
I continued to play rep soccer until grade 9, when I stopped to played a more competitive level of hockey. Between my high school hockey team and my competitive team, I was on the ice at least 6-7 times a week, sometimes twice a day.
Sports not only challenge you physically, but mentally. What a release getting on the ice was. If I was frustrated, I could get skate harder. If I was anxious, I could work on my wrist shot until it was better, and focus my agitations on that.
When I left home and moved away to begin my undergrad, I dropped all sports. The reason for this was to focus on my studies, join clubs, and socialize in a different way than just with teammates.
I lost this emotional outlet. What do I do now? How do I channel my stressful and anxious emotions? I lost focus of being focused. Yeah, I played intramural sports like flag football, dodgeball, and soccer, but that was for fun. It wasn’t competitive and it wasn’t serious, as I told myself.
Learning to just “go to the gym” was difficult. Usually when I worked out, it was for the purpose of being better in a sport; faster, stronger, and more focused. Gaining the motivation to run on a treadmill going no where was hard. Lifting weights just so my arms would be more toned seemed like a waste of time, if I wasn’t gaining something more than appearance.
I like to have purpose that goes beyond myself when I work on something. What was the point of going to the gym, if it was only going to make me skinny? I had a negative mentality of working out. Yeah, I wanted to be more fit. But, I didn’t see the same strength in working out, and I didn’t consider the health benefits of doing so.
Going to the gym is scary. I salute every person who walks through the doors of a gym and leave it sweaty. But, my self conscious being could not even let me do that at times. If I was feeling uncomfortable, my anxiety would get the best of me and keep me at home.
So, by May 2018, it had been a full year since I had stepped foot in the gym. This is the longest I have ever been without working out, and the most uncomfortable I have ever felt in my own skin. In my 4th year at Laurier, I struggled so deeply with my depression and anxiety, getting out of bed was hard, let alone going to the gym. This year, I’ve been at uncomfortable level with my weight and I know I needed to start figuring my shit out and get moving. What worked from the ages of 18-22, was definitely not working now.
I took a leap of faith and signed up for bootcamp. Let me tell you, bootcamp was not the right direction to take after being out of activity for so long. After not lifting weights or doing consistent cardio, or realistically moving my body in a strenuous way for that long period- it was hard.
Going to a place that specialized in H.I.I.T. workouts ( high-intensity interval training, a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise) and raved about how instructors have the right to yell at you and you can’t be offended because that’s their job was not the starting point that was well suit for me.
The reason for me signing up for something this intense was to get motivated and to get my ass kicked. Literally.
The first few classes were great. I wanted to keep up with it. However, I make a lot of excuses when I’m uncomfortable. Justified or not, if I’m making this many excuses, something is not right and I need to fix something.
I would go to classes first thing in the morning to get a jumpstart to my day. Waking up for a 6am class when I only sleep an average of 5 hours, plus the nerves of going to the gym, is no bueno. I would go to these classes on 3-4 hours of sleep and struggle to get through my day.
Is this what working out for me was going to be now?
I know I needed to find an alternative, without giving up my fitness. Well, my journey to better fitness.
So, I did something I never thought I’d do, and got a personal trainer. I’ve had an assessment and completed one session, and I’ve never felt more focused. Spending a full hour with someone bettering your physical health is mentally exhausting, but I am learning and appreciating how connected both these aspects of my health are. I know how much work this is going to be, and it’s not going to be easy. But if I have the tools to better my mental health through my physical health, it is worth a shot.
These past few months, I’ve learned that you cannot have one without the other. When my mental health suffers, I shut down, and vice versa. I’ve also learned that when my physical health and fitness is positive, my mental health sky rockets. Being equipped with this, I understand how to get myself out of bed, and get out of the funk that is my depression.
Putting on your running shoes is one of the hardest things you can do. You can pick out your gym outfit, create a playlist, and even book a class to attend- but if you don’t have the internal strength to lace up your shoes and get out of the door, this feels impossible.
To be completely honesty, this is one of the most challenging blog posts I’ve ever written. All my insecurities in 1200 words are not something I like to advertise, but I fortunately or unfortunately wear all my emotions of my sleeve. It has taken me a while to realize that I am not alone in this struggle, and there is something in each of our lives we wish to work on and improve. My only wish is that you work on this for yourself, and not for others. Your mental and physical health are to be controlled and maintained by you, and you only. It can be positively and negatively influenced by our peers, but I hope you don’t let it over take you.
And that’s how I’m feeling this week.