The Exercise High; or, Why You Should Think Happy Thoughts

The Exercise High; or, Why You Should Think Happy Thoughts

It’s been a long week. And yes, I’m aware it’s only Thursday; on a Bank Holiday week no less, so technically it’s only been a three dayer thus far. But I’ve been frazzled and tired all week, and my mood has been a bit bleak as a result.

I mean, according to the people I work with, I get an award for being the “nicest grumpy person ever,” which I can only assume means they are in fact, the nicest people ever full stop; but generally, I’ve just been feeling a bit…

Let’s go with whiny.

Now, I said why this wasn’t right in the last post – because perspective is a really important thing when you realise how short life actually is, and how letting the little things get you down can make you miss how amazing living really is. I stand by that – but that doesn’t change the fact that due to hormones, tiredness, sad news or whatever, I have been a bit blue over the last few days.

I’ve also been pretty damn tired. And by tired, I mean that last night, I went to bed at 7:30pm with a headache. And this morning, I thought about going to the gym, I really did – but I couldn’t quite bring myself to get out of bed.

I blame the fact that this has been, apparently, the coldest spring in 50 years. I swear to God this damn country is putting me back into hibernation mode.

Anyway, I’ve been tired, and when I’m tired I don’t eat quite right, and I don’t exercise quite so much. Don’t get me wrong – my meals have all been pretty good, in the grand scheme of things – plus, I am still determinedly staring past the fact that the supermarket round the corner seem to massively overstock their bakery and reduce every cake to somewhere around the 10p mark at exactly the moment I walk in on my way home from work.

These guys are seriously trying to trip me up.

But there’s been the odd little thing here or there where I’ve just had a little extra helping, or I’ve not gone to quite the effort I normally would to source some kind of healthy snack when pushed for means or time. Just a couple o’things that wouldn’t have flown a couple of weeks ago, when I was mid-butt-kicking and deadlifting absurdly heavy things.

And I’ve still been hitting the gym, but I’ll be honest – it’s been a bit half-arsed for the last couple of days, leading up to this morning’s no-I-cannot-possibly-get-out-of-bed break. I’ve just been in no mood for it. I’ve been tired, and I’ve been feeling kinda low.

So this afternoon rolled around, and I knew I had a personal training session pencilled in. I’ve been kinda divided on this session all week, because I’m a firm believer that when you’re ill, you probably shouldn’t work out – and I’ve been trying to figure out whether this tiredness was just some kind of bug, or virus, or something like that. (It’s not.)

But there’s been a little bit of me that’s been kind of looking forward to it, too. Just a little bit. Because every time I’ve done it so far, I’ve come out hella inspired and feeling like I can take over the world, just as soon as I remember how to walk.

Of course, every other time I’ve been super-motivated in advance, so this was one of those ever-so-slightly make or break sessions. All week, I’ve been aware of exactly what I’d have to do. I’d have to make a decision: namely, to decide whether I was going to go there and do a half-arsed job, in keeping with the rest of this week, or whether I was going to pull myself together and… Well… Bring it.

And bring it I did. I was god damned determined this afternoon to get in there and give it everything I had.

Long story short, it was awesome. After five minutes, I felt better. After ten minutes, I felt more energised than I had all week. And after fifteen minutes, a week-long downer was totally lifted.

By the end of the session, I was nigh on euphoric. Of course, having an awesome trainer who pushes you further than you think you can go totally helps in this situation, and Tom really is the best of the best – especially for putting up with my presumably unladylike faces and sweary-noises. But it was yet another occasion on which I realised – again – the massive effect exercise can have on your mood.

It doesn’t have to be the crazy lunges and stuff that this kind of training involves. It doesn’t even have to be in a gym. It can be whatever feels good to you – just so long as you bring the right mindset.

Because we’ve all done the whole why-the-hell-am-I-here-I-hate-everything kinda workout. The kind that makes you spend every second clockwatching and wondering how long you have to stay before it’s socially acceptable for you to leave. Hell, for the first couple of days this week that’s exactly what I was doing. And in fairness, despite the grumbles during the workout I’d always feel a little bit better afterwards – but bringing along a negative mindset only seems to numb that post-exercise high.

Decide you really want it, on the other hand, and suddenly it becomes kind of a joy. Decide you’re going to take dance classes because you love music, and you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy inside after you’ve finished. Decide you’re going to go running because you love the fresh air and the sensation of your ears going from cold to warm (just me?) and you’ll feel like you’ve given yourself a gift afterwards. Or, decide you’re going to go lift weights like Arnie because you like that strong (albeit a little bit wobbly) feeling and the adrenaline rush it brings, and I’ll bet you anything – you’ll have an awesome time doing it.

A lot more awesome, that is, than if you stay in bed and go back to sleep. (Disclaimer: 99% of the time. Occasionally, going back to bed is the best thing ever, and you should bask in that.)

I swear to God, I have this revelation so often. Every time I have a patch where my mood is low, my motivation isn’t quite there, or I just don’t have time to get a good workout in, it is so, so easy to forget how amazing getting moving feels. How great your body feels after you’re done. But every time I get going again, I’m totally floored by it. It’s a high – and I say this as someone who lost two years to eating pizza and prescription painkillers. I know my highs.

Of course, 140lbs ago I’d never have believed it. Hell, three days ago I’d have had my doubts. But trust me – it’s worth it.

All you’ve got to do is think positive, and… Start.

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