August Journaling Day 18: Exercise

I’m having trouble deciding on how to start this entry. I mean, I know the value and benefit exercise has played in my life and I also know how much I avoided it for so long. So let me start with the bad times with exercise and then we’ll get to the good. Once high school was over my exercise routine was to pretty much not exercise. I mean I would walk around and do normal day to day stuff, but I almost never formally exercised during college. My weight ballooned and when I was like 23 I finally started working with a trainer and did a proper diet. I had great results and lost like 63 pounds over the course of a year. But I didn’t keep it up. In 2003 I had my first panic attack and that really shut down any real exercise program for me for a long time. I had bouts of going back to the gym but they were always either short lived or very light on exercise. How come? Laziness? Well partly. But mostly because exercise mimicked anxiety and panic.

Think about it. Racing heartbeat. Sweating. Vision narrows. All sorts of chemicals running through your system. Fatigue. For years when I would try to exercise and would end up leaving the gym the second I started to get a sweat going because it started to feel like anxiety. This of course crept into my life outside of the gym. I’d avoid any kind of activities that involved any type of activity that would result in an elevated heartbeat. So my fitness became extremely poor and of course I gained weight.

I remember going to a trainer briefly in 2014 because when I went back with my counselor she set conditions that I see a nutritionist and a trainer. The trainer was named Laura and I told her the first day that I had panic attacks and that I was in very poor shape. We did a five minute walk on the treadmill. Then did ten squats. No weights, nothing. I felt like my legs were going to cramp. We went to do some lunges and again my legs felt like they were going to cramp. I told her I needed to go outside and I walked as fast as I could towards my car. I remember standing there crying because my anxiety had kicked in and I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in. Luckily Laura was awesome and we very slowly worked up to more and more exercise. By the end of six months I was doing 30 minute walks and 30 minutes of exercises. Then I went to Louisiana Downs.

I went right back to the no exercise routine and kept that for a long time. As I mentioned in my weight loss blog back in March, I started losing weight back in 2018 when I was at my highest weight of 443. I really just started with walking and did more and more walking all the way until this last December. I started with a trainer again and this time I really seemed to have put the anxiety/exercise connection away. I’m able to do much more intense workouts than I’ve ever done and have learned to once again enjoy the feelings of being tired, of working hard, and of sore muscles. It’s been a great last 9 months of being on a really good, increasingly challenging workout program.

Exercise, starting with the walking in 2018, has played an absolutely necessary part in my recovery from anxiety issues. I really think of the many important things that have helped me, it’s at or near the top of the list. The mental benefits for me outweigh the physical ones and the physical ones are obviously great as well. So feeling very grateful about exercise being back in my life and being a part of it.