Depression and Exercise

Old Self would have problem-solved these feelings of sadness I’ve been experiencing in recent months far better than New Self is doing. Old Self would have come up with a game plan and concrete action steps. Old Self would have project managed the shit out of it.

New Self has this idea that the activities pursued in the past when she fell into a depressive cycle were unhealthy distractions. They allowed the causes of the sadness to be pushed to the side and left unexamined, which allowed patterns to repeat, and ultimately led to an abusive relationship. New Self feels virtuous in her attempts to address the root causes of the sadness, rather than indulging in unhealthy distractions.

What if, however, part of the cause of the current depression is plain old boredom and loneliness?

My way of addressing feelings of sadness in the past was to go out and socialize. I used to belong to various networking groups, and I met the vast majority of the people I consider my dearest friends that way. During what was, prior to this most recent spell, the worst of my depression, I ran a singles group. I hosted weekly mixers that often had 200 or more attendees.

These activities allowed me to retreat into a world of alcohol and partying, and to avoid addressing any of my problems.

I no longer have any desire to drink and party as I once did. The networking groups I used to belong to are now defunct anyway. I’ve joined a few new ones, but they don’t seem to host activities very often.

Having a project (other than writing) would be good for me, though. I think I’ve been moping rather than taking time to muse on and heal past traumas, under the guise of… I’m not sure what. Nothing good, anyway.

Exercise for Mood Improvement

Thus, I’m going to try to become more physically active. This will be my new project. It will be a difficult one. People always say a new habit can be formed in 2 or 3 weeks (I forget which). This has never been the case for me when it comes to exercise. I tend to last a few weeks, perhaps even a few months, then quickly slide back into my slothful lifestyle.

At issue might be my mindset. I can’t quite get myself to want to exercise for the reasons I feel are appropriate. Doing it because it feels good, because I like feeling stronger, or because I want my body to ache less don’t occur to me once I start exercising more regularly.

Rather, once I start getting into an exercise regimen, weight loss (or, rather, size loss) always becomes my primary focus. I get lost in fantasies of a future where I am slender and toned. It becomes something I can’t stop thinking about. It becomes an obsession.

I’ll then forget, or think of as less important, how good it feels to simply move and feel strong.

Exercise, at that point, starts becoming a chore. It’s something I’m doing to work towards a future goal, and I get mad at my body for not changing faster. Ultimately, I get discouraged by what my body can’t do rather than appreciating what it can.

I wind up giving up, and missing workouts more and more regularly. Eventually, I will realize months or even years have gone by since I last worked out.

This has been the pattern with exercise throughout my life.

This is going to be the week I start back with an exercise regimen. I think it’s been about six months since I last did a workout. I’m sure the fact that I feel like hell physically is doing nothing to help with my emotional health issues. I’m hoping the movement will help my mood and energy.

I’m hoping I keep the above as my goals and let go of this notion of “looking fit” as a prerequisite of being attractive. I want working out to be something I do for my inner self, not for my appearance.

Step 1, however, is figuring out what workouts I should pursue. I figured I’d do what is the easiest, and find videos I can do at home. I have tons, but all of them are labeled “beginner” and I know all the routines by heart. I wanted something new, something just slightly challenging to keep up with, so with repetition, when I am someday able to do the routine without error, it will feel like having accomplished something meaningful.

Exercising with Amazon Prime

There are over 1,000 exercise videos included with an Amazon Prime subscription.

I have not looked through all of them.

I did, however, do a search for dance workouts and picked out four to try (disclaimer: one is not a dance workout). The workouts I’ve used in the past were “walking workouts.” I wanted to branch out and try something different. I danced in musicals in high school and enjoyed it. Perhaps, a dance workout would be something I would enjoy, too? And there are certainly tons of options to explore.

As I reviewed the results of my search, I looked to see which videos fit my criteria:

  • No upper body work. I have neck and shoulder injuries that are easily aggravated.
  • No equipment needed except a mat (see below; one episode of one of the options doesn’t meet this criterion).
  • Good for beginners, but still a bit of a challenge to learn/get into.
  • Variety. I can’t stand doing the exact same routine every day.

Each of the workout videos below meet my criteria and have good reviews. I’m excited to try each of them out.

Doonya the Bollywood Dance Workout: Cardio Dance & Conditioning

(60 minutes long, but the reviews say the set up makes it easy to break the workout into 15-minute segments)

Doonya the Bollywood Workout: Abs, Glutes & Cardio

(60 minutes long, but, again, the reviews say it is easy to break the workout into 15-minute segments)

Zumba Awesome Legs & Booty System

(Includes 5 different workouts; a 15-minute intro and four ‘episodes’ ranging from 30-45 minutes each)

GymRa 21 Day Transformation

(10 episodes, all 20 minutes except for one 40-minute one called, “Ultimate Total Body Release with Foam Roller & Ball.”)

Exercise Update: First attempts

All of the above was initially drafted on Monday morning. It is now Tuesday evening.

Thursday’s post will discuss my failed attempt to exercise before work today, but I did manage to exercise for the first time in ages after I got home this evening.

I attempted the Doonya Bollywood Cardio Dance and Conditioning workout first. The warm-up was great, and I felt primed for the real deal once it got started. Then it did… and I was immediately completely lost.

It was quickly apparent that this workout cannot be done without first watching the Doonya Beginner Breakdown.

A $3.99 rental fee later, I was ready to start my workout with the Beginner Breakdown video.

I loved it. The workout is fun and very challenging. I am okay with being hilariously incapable of doing the moves properly just yet. It gives me something to work towards, which is exciting. As is, though, it was a delightful time. I was sweating fiercely and I know my legs and abs will be sore tomorrow, but it was a lot of fun.

The two instructors made me feel as though I was learning a dance routine. There were no ‘encouraging’ words about decreasing my size, getting more fit, or anything. It was all about learning the routine and running through each piece of it many, many times.

An hour went by quickly. After running through the routine in its entirety one last time with all the movements vocalized as they had been throughout, suddenly the instructors were on stage with other dancers. All of them were in full costume, dancing the routine I’d just been taught. I danced along and laughed the entire time.

I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun doing a workout video. And now that I know the basic moves I will definitely try the Cardio Dance and Conditioning video again. Would you believe I might even be looking forward to it?

Chris Update

In my last post (“A Text from Chris”) I said I had heard from Chris but didn’t know what to say in response. I did eventually reply. He wrote back with the kind of lengthy text that I’ve become used to from him.

I feel like we’re back to messaging as we did before meeting in person. Normally, I would think this a bad thing. With him, I do not. His mother is ill and due to this, all his siblings are now in town. I consider the fact that he’s still taking the time to text me at all to be something worth smiling about.

Who knows what will wind up happening. I feel confident that he likes me and that I like him, though, and for now, that’s enough.

2 thoughts on “Depression and Exercise

  1. I’m glad for both of you, and I hope his mom feels better and his siblings don’t drive him too crazy. (Ugh, the thought of many people in one house. Shit show seems about the right description…)

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