Published on March 31st, 2013 | by Sky Barsch0
Alternative Energy | From Vermont Sports April 2013
A lot of the time when we talk about exercise, we mention the endorphin rush that comes along with it. Whether that feeling is a slight pick-me-up or the euphoric runners’ high, exercise rarely fails to be a mood improver.
But we hardly talk about why those endorphins are needed. Exercise is key for the millions of us, who especially in the winter, deal with depression in various forms and magnitudes. Whether it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, or chronic or major depression, the good feelings we get from getting our heart rates up and breaking a sweat are key to combatting feeling low.
It’s uncomfortable for me to talk about this here and discuss my own struggles. What’s implied when you say you need that pick-me-up is that you’re not feeling your best. This winter, I was battling something far more serious than the blues. I evaluated my life and, among other things, realized I wasn’t getting as much exercise as I had in winters past. As the January thaw was wreaking havoc on my Nordic ski plans, I was working a lot more and finding it hard to get exercise in during the workweek. I considered joining a gym and threw it out on Facebook, asking for opinions on the best fitness center. Someone commented, “outside,” and I felt like a poseur … of course I would like to be outside, but the reality was I wasn’t making that happen. After several ringing endorsements from fellow mountain bikers and hikers, I joined The Confluence in Berlin and started doing CrossFit.
Group exercise. Indoors. With barbells and weights. Eek. I was not so sure this would be my thing.
While I’ve only been at it for three months, I already feel an incredible transformation in my body and spirit. I feel strong, my muscles are more defined, and my clothes fit better, which I would hope would be the case after doing hundreds of squats, sit-ups, pull-ups, and, ugh … BURPEES. … But the difference that I’m most proud of is feeling better mentally. It’s been rewarding to go from feeling like I’ll never be able to do a pull-up to gradually needing less help from resistance bands. It’s been therapeutic—picturing a particularly irritating person as I do medicine ball slams. It’s been social—getting to know and like more and more people in class (none of whom I’ve thought of while doing ball slams). And the endorphin rush I get after class—someone referred to it as the CrossFit giggles—is unrivaled.
What I did was I gave myself a break and exercised in the manner that I was able. The hour-long classes fit into my schedule; the prescribed workouts were welcomed by my end-of-day brain that didn’t want to think any more; and the location—about 10 minutes from home—made it easy to get to. To walk in and look at a workout and think it’s impossible, but then actually do it, is such a phenomenal feeling. While exercise hasn’t been the only tool I’ve used to combat feeling lousy, it certainly has been a key ingredient.
Finding an alternative type of workout worked for me this winter, and on that theme, this issue has some pursuits we don’t often cover in Vermont Sports. For instance, Lisa Densmore has a piece about fly-fishing. As Lisa explains, fly-fishing requires a lot of strength and agility to stay balanced in flowing water while standing on slippery rocks. It’s not for couch potatoes, and offers the reward of spending time outdoors, getting a workout, and harvesting your own dinner. In 18 & Under, Madeline Murray-Clasen writes about circus arts and the athleticism they require. If there’s any doubt in your mind that acrobatics take the kind of dedication and sweat hours that cycling or kayaking takes, try doing a handstand pushup—something I witnessed Circus Smirkus performer Noah Nielsen do (at CrossFit).
I’m excited to have some variants from our usual editorial direction and hope they serve as inspiration for you to try something new.
I exercise because I love being outdoors and the physical health benefits, and because I like to eat. But it took doing something I didn’t think I’d like—a group fitness class indoors—to reconnect with the other reason I exercise: to feel good mentally. May you enjoy whatever path you take to well-being, in whatever form gets you there.
See you out there,