It’s been great to see so many people out over lockdown - whilst there were probably a bunch of things we missed out on, we were given the gift of time and fresh air to escape our homes and get in some ‘local’ exercise. Some people who probably had to find the box in the attic with some walking shoes, or order an inner tube for their bike tyre that had been flat for a few years, are now regularly going out for a walk or a ride.
The reason I have loved seeing this so much is because of the positive effect it has on our mental health.
During these past weeks through Levels 3 and 4, I have seen many people express thoughts of anxiety and stress with work changing, some people losing jobs, others losing loved ones, parents trying to help with school work, whilst trying to hold down their own work schedules and pets who are likely bugged by the fact that someone is sitting on their place on the couch all day. It’s been a difficult time for many people.
So while it hasn’t been roses for every person, these 7 weeks were a great opportunity for me to reflect on what ‘stressors’ I’m allowing into my life, and how I can effectively deal with them so that they don’t impinge on my mental health. One thing I have managed to do is finally teach my kids how to cook, so that when we head back to school, work and after school activities, one of them will be able to cook dinner whilst I keep up with my training programme.
Exercise for me has, for the last 13 years, been a huge gift. After previously suffering physically from Chronic Fatigue, the toll it took on my mental health was also pretty massive. While my mind was willing to exercise, I physically couldn’t do it, which left me depressed and constantly in turmoil with my abilities. When I was physically able to finally walk and run again, I realised the positive results that exercise had on my mental health. We all know by now that it’s proven research, but sometimes it takes the effort on our part to actually get out there and feel the endorphins before we believe it to be gospel.
We don’t all have to be running long distance, or training for a future event, but the 30-60mins of elevated heart rate through exercise each day has massive positive effects on our wellbeing - better clarity, better sleep, reduced stress levels, lower blood pressure. No wonder so many people have been exercising outdoors!
Unfortunately, as we head back into life post lock down, the benefits of exercise may be significantly reduced as we start to fill our diaries with all the great activities that we had before Covid hit - all the kids sport practices, work meetings, coffee with friends, etc. and we forgo the thing that previously had less priority - the exercise.
Instead of putting to the side the thing that is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, look how you can incorporate it into your day, despite all the other activities that you may have to bring back into your calendar. Can you walk or run early in the morning before you head off to work? Can you get that bike ride or HIIT work out in during your lunch break? Is there a way you can do your exercise whilst the kids are at their dance rehearsals, or when someone else is cooking dinner for the night? If we make our physical health a priority, we add value to our mental health as well.
We have no idea how long we will be in a position where we have so many unknowns, but this one thing we do know - exercise is great for physical AND mental health - so lets keep doing it.
I first heard of Crossfit when I was studying to become a PT in 2016. After a few years of playing around with kettlebells to keep fit, I jumped at the opportunity to compete with a team of strangers at a local Crossfit competition in Hamilton - Tribal Wars - after one of their female team members had to pull out. I had no idea what I was doing really, but I had a great time! So much so that I started training a few times a week in between some long distance cycling events.
I enter events because they give me a goal and a focus for a season. Not long after I finished my first crossfit competition, I also discovered Ultra running. Brian McKenzie’s concept and book “Crossfit Endurance” had me convinced I was more than capable of running an ultra marathon with a crossfit bias as my training. I completed my first 50km at Tarawera in 2017 in the build up to Taupo 100km in October 2018. In the same year I also placed 2nd in my category at the NZ Crossfit Nationals.
I love to compete, not to win, but for enjoyment. I love to push myself beyond what I previously thought was capable and its a goal of mine to always encourage others to do the same. I am all about breaking the glass ceilings that we place over ourselves - which is why my next goal is to run Tarawera 100 Miler in February 2021. This time though, I'm going to put in a few more k’s on my feet.