Exercise is my anti-depressant. This has been true my whole life, but I spent years undervaluing and even avoiding exercise until I became an at-home mom when my kids were one and a half and four years old. People, I am not proud of this, but I was TERRIFIED of falling apart when I gave up my responsible and mentally stimulating job to face a completely different set of demands at home. I pictured myself weeping in the closet or drinking at all hours, or becoming a snappy, angry monster. To avoid this, I joined a fitness center that offered two hours of child care a day for people working out. I got into a very good groove of two-three workouts per week and stopped freaking out about becoming Joan Crawford. The time to myself gave me a little peace and the workout endorphins lifted my spirits. I fell in love with indoor cycling and became an instructor there, and also ran the outdoor group for the short cycling season we enjoy here in Minnesota. I built my confidence, even trying some competitive events, seriously toned up when I started Pilates, and made a lot of friends. After the kids went to school, and I started working part-time, my workouts fell off until the only class I went to was my own, and I gave that up, too.
Now I work out at BRX fitness, a small studio nearby. I have been friends with the owners for years, and they are fun, challenging, supportive and innovative. I have been introduced to Kettlebell, Zumba, TRX and many objects of
torture crazy fun fitness there. If you are ever in a class with me, I am probably the one complaining and making jokes to help get through the tough spots. They use a twisted sort of vocabulary, for instance saying, “Doesn’t that stretch feel wonderful?” when it is clearly excruciating. Despite the groans, I am never sorry I went. I can always tell when I have slacked off my preferred two to four intense workouts per week. I get morose and want to simultaneously punish and comfort myself with sugary fats. Or fatty sugars. Mmmmm. Moving on. Today I went to Kettlebell. Kettlebell makes me feel like a rock star, even if I occasionally overdo it and end up walking strangely for a couple of days (my hamstrings and quads lock up like like a sack of fists.) My odd waddling gait is accentuated by the squeaking sounds I involuntarily make with each step. Usually I know my limits well enough to stop before it gets to that point.
I pretty much need all the tools available to keep my sanity intact. My faith is very important, as are my relationships, but most women don’t find many barriers to developing faith practices or relationships. Society supports and expects that. On the other hand, I know a LOT of women who say they would like to exercise but can’t take time from their families, jobs or other commitments for themselves. Now that I have years of proof that exercise is key, I want to preach a gospel of self-care that includes exercise, not just for weight maintenance or muscle toning, but for stress relief. The saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy.” I really, really want you to take care of yourself for your own sake, but if you can’t do it for you, do it for the people around you. Go ahead, pop an endorphin anti-depressant. Be a rock star.