As with most people on this planet, I have a full time job, family and other commitments whether it be in the workplace or outside of work. I think one of the most important things we all need are hobbies. Mine are Triathlons, Run race, Park Run and taking part in local cycling Time Trials.
I suffer with a mental illness, in the form of stress and anxiety, and I’m sure I show signs of obsessive behaviour too, but more of that in a bit. Having had treatment for my disability, I have found some of it very generic, eat three meals a day (healthy ones), regular sleep pattern and of course exercise!! We all know exercise is good for us, it certainly helps keep the weight off and is proven to help our mental state too.
So how does it help my mental state?
Well, it’s great for an endorphin fix, whether racing or training, so I get my high from that. I try and train before work as I usually walk taller and feel a lot happier in myself afterwards. I drive trains for a living, so sitting down all shift is a precursor to weight gain, and a poor mental state in my opinion.
When I’m out training, I train with power on the bike and heart rate for my running, so at no point am I focusing on anything else but my training, I’m usually in too much pain to think about anything else. I just focus on my ‘numbers’ and that’s it! So as you can see it’s a great distraction.
Some of my training is done with a very close group of friends, who know I’ve been ill, so they let me offload, or we just have banter. Exercise socially has been a huge distraction and in fact great therapy. Obviously the benefits of being outside whilst either running or biking are fantastic, as you do get a natural high. Again having the countryside whizz by certainly picks me up and again gives me a buzz.
There is a downside though – isn’t there always?
Having raced for the last five years, my wife noticed an obsessive trend with me. For example, if I wanted to do the Park Run on a Saturday morning, the night before I would be laying all my kit out, checking it all, and basically just not relaxing! It’s supposed to be a friendly run with like minded people, but I was turning it in to something else.
It is supposed to be a friendly run with like minded people, but I was turning it in to something else.
Of course with triathlons you have quite a bit of kit so being organised is important, but even then my behaviour was odd. Cleaning my bike a lot, checking my bag over and over again, not relaxing and awful sleeps! Is it all worth it??
Then, if I have a good training plan, I would start worrying about how I will fit it all in, am I going to be able to hit my numbers? I would then start getting really anxious and not be able to relax! This now seems crazy, I could understand it if I was getting paid to do it!!
So, you see, my personal experiences of exercise and mental health have been good and bad. Having structure is important, but having too much can cause stress and anxiety, and I guess being competitive has led to me being like this.
So how am I dealing with it?
Putting things into perspective has been the key, challenging my thoughts when I start getting over the top, not worrying about beating people, or setting too many goals for races, not looking too far ahead, and just doing things on a day to day basis with my training. But most importantly enjoy it and the rest will come anyway.
So, having been ill whilst still trying to maintain my training and racing has been a huge learning curve, I certainly feel like I’m winning at the moment.
Oh one thing, don’t take any notice of all the Strava segment busters and the awesome lot on Facebook…….that’s just bull!!!