Fitness and the Winter Blues

Things are about to get personal right here. As always I like to keep this blog as “real” and honest as possible. If you go to my about page you can read my whole history of my complicated relationship with my body up to the point where I started this blog. But what I haven’t touched on before are the peripheral things that also have an impact on health and fitness. Namely, the psychological aspect of health.

I, like many Canadians, suffer from depression.

I have for a very long time.

It’s worse in the winter, like it is for most people in the northern hemisphere, because of the cold, the lack of daylight and the urge to stay inside all day. It’s sometimes called the Winter Blues, but its technical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder (yes, the acronym is SAD).

But I’ve been getting better! Better at dealing with it and better at actually being happier. I no longer consider myself “depressed”, but that doesn’t mean winters aren’t hard.

Photo credit: Hyperbole and a Half

Depression is a complicated beast and is not something that I am going to try to explain here, other than to say that when you start to get depressed (real depression, not sadness) it is a vicious circle. You feel depressed -> you don’t want to do anything -> you stay away from people and things that can make you feel better -> you get more depressed -> cycle repeats.

BUT that is also the cycle that gets you out of that crappy spiral. You can spiral up!

Ok, here is where we get back to fitness. Exercising and eating right and taking care of your body make you less depressed. Not can, might or may make you less depressed. They will make you less depressed. And if you don’t suffer from depression, they will make you feel even better than you already do. There are a lot of physical and chemical reasons for that. But a lot of it boils down to the fact that you are doing something good for yourself, which means that you value yourself and that is a powerful thing!

So keeping active and eating well throughout the winter is crucial for anyone with a sensitive disposition. Obviously that’s not the easiest thing to do in the winter with lots of holiday temptations and the bitter cold outside acting as a deterrent from getting off your couch. But those are pretty easy to  overcome once you do it a couple of times and realize how great it makes you feel.

One of the nail ripping incidents

But what happens if you injure yourself? I seem to be on a minor injury streak recently. I bashed my ankle yesterday and it swelled up pretty badly. I have pulled and repulled my adductor 5 or 6 times now (I really need to get it checked out). And I have fallen down a set of stairs and smashed my knee. Oh and I can’t seem to make it through a leg workout without ripping off 1-3 nails.

Injury for an athlete often leads to depression, and if it’s something you are already predisposed to, it can be pretty hard to fight it off. But one of the keys is to have a game plan. If you have a minor injury, keep going to the gym, just take it easier than normal. But if you have a major injury that requires rehab or rest, the best thing to do for your mind is to come up with a plan of action.

  • How long are you out of commission?
  • Will this cause a permanent change to the way to function?
  • What are the steps to getting healthy again?

Lay it all out, go over it with your medical team and commit to it just like you would any other goal. And here’s the REALLY important part… treat it like a normal goal you would set for health and fitness. Break it down into mini goals and celebrate those milestones. Soon enough you will be back to normal and making even bigger progress than before.

*** I wrote the post after being bombarded by the “Bell Let’s Talk” day campaign and thought that it was important to share. I know it’s an uncomfortable and even shameful topic for some people, but it’s important to have these conversations. None of us are alone.  ***

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