For years, exercise would be an additional source of stress for me….

Lets get #Fitter Together with Nottinghamshire Mind 

As part of our campaign #FitterTogether with Nottinghamshire Mind, we have found out how exercise has helped Emily cope with her Mental Health struggles.

This is her story… For years, exercise would be an additional source of stress for me

Could I find the time to work out during a busy week? Did this run improve on my pace from last time? How much was I shelling out for a gym membership that I wasn’t using?

Food would also be wrapped up in this stress. Had I worked out enough to enjoy the treat someone was offering me? Why bother working out when I’d exceeded my calorie budget anyway? What was the point of all that working out now that I’ve just blown it with one cake?

Then one day I asked my friend how she’d done for time in the half marathon she’d run. “Don’t know” she replied. “It was fun, though!”

That was completely incomprehensible to me. Why would you do all that work and training without monitoring your progress? Although as we continued talking, it did sound like she was having much more fun during her training sessions than I was…

I decided to try it. I went out without setting Strava, and just with a good old fashioned wristwatch to monitor time. I aimed to do half an hour, keeping to a fairly easy pace.

Without glancing at the data every 5 mins or so, I was listening to my body more, and noticing my surroundings. Running down the local canal on a sunny day, my mood was boosted way more than the runs where I’d finished and immediately dug into my splits to see how I’d done.

When the motivation was just to get out there as opposed to losing weight/getting a good time/working towards a race, it was much more fun. What’s more, food became less emotionally wrapped up in the whole thing. Just as I was learning to listen to my body when running, I was doing the same when I got hungry. I could understand what I was hankering for (even if that was a donut), and it became easier to achieve a balance.

I realise for some people that the competition (even if that’s competition with yourself) will be a key driver for them, and to help them keep active for the benefit of their mental health. I suppose it’s just a case of experimenting to understand what works for you personally.

My therapist recently asked me what I did to relieve stress. Without missing a beat, I said: “Heading out for a walk or run has been a lifesaver through lockdown.” We laughed because I never thought I would be the person who ‘loved’ going for a run, or felt a real need to get there.

Come and join us and help us raise vital funds for mental health.