If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years, it is that exercise is, hands-down, the best therapy. The worst days? Yup, they usually lead to the best workouts. I proved it to myself once again last night.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me – if there is one thing that I’ve learned about myself throughout the years, it’s that usually twice a year, I find myself in a funk that I just can’t shake. It usually lasts a couple of weeks, and once I finally allow myself that moment of weakness (or perhaps it’s strength in owning how I feel?), cry my eyes out, and move past the crippling fear that accompanies the (thankfully rare) panic attack, I know the upswing has to be right around the corner. I may not be a particularly religious person, but I do believe that God only tests us with challenges we can overcome.
But enough about my wallowing in self-pity, back to last night … I spent most of the day literally sick with the tears and the panic attack and the overflow of emotions that I’ve allowed to fester for the past few weeks. Luckily, I had a Piloxing class last night. Meaning sweat. Meaning punches. Meaning those endorphins were going to help me get back on track. I told the class right off the bat – I had mascara running down my face at 9:30 that morning, and I needed their energy. I needed their excitement. I needed them to turn a bad day good. They delivered.
It took less than 15 minutes for me to feel like me again. Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that the gym is my happy place. It’s the one place I can go to restore my confidence and to truly feel like the best version of myself. If those endorphins coursing through my body won’t cheer me up, nothing will. That’s the beauty of exercise … the fact that it doubles as therapy. Regardless of how terrible of a day I may have, or in how bad of a mood I may be, there is nothing more effective than exercise to bring me back to reality. I still think of my first 8-miler as the perfect example – I was a senior in college. I had a particularly horrendous random roommate (in addition to my completely awesome, very close friends and sorority sisters, Kim and Harriet), who once again did something that grated my absolute last nerve. Instead of actually punching her in the face, I visualized it as I ran. Then my thoughts started to wander to a nicer place. And ran until I felt better. And holy crap, I ran an additional three miles farther than I ever had before. THREE MILES! If that doesn’t say something for losing yourself in the serenity of a run, I don’t know what does.
I’ve said it a million times, and it never fails to disappoint me – my workouts are my savior. My mother has joked that if I didn’t work out, I would have had a heart attack or a nervous breakdown by now. Honestly, I believe it. Because sometimes it takes those lunges, or stairs, or punches, or quite literally that extra mile, to bring the inner peace I so often struggle to accept in my life. It’s a moment (okay, sometimes an hour or two) that I know I can set a goal and achieve it. That I can ignore the struggles or irritations taking my head to a dark place. That I can push myself to be my best me.