I believe that fitness saved my life.
A lot is already known about the release of serotonin that comes with exercise, the increased energy and general sense of well-being.
For years, I have struggled with the classic male covert depression, often mislabeled “mild” depression. It’s the type of barely acknowledged depression that is held at bay by numerous little mental habits and coping strategies–everything from obsessive hobbies to gazing out the window and daydreaming about being rich and famous. Without apparent addictions, it doesn’t set off alarms. My mantra was “I’m fine” followed by a shrug. Every so often, a crack appears and what comes rushing in isn’t sadness but anxiety. Anxiety is a silent killer. It can brilliantly keep up a facade of calm and control. It also contain its own twisted logic–“I’m anxious about [blank].” That means [blank] must be very important.
When I started going to the gym, it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t pull my socks up and throw myself into it. I went because I was bored and there was something about it that appealed to me. I jogged around the track, lifted some light weights, did a few crunches. I did the same routine for six months.
As my body woke up and I became more active, I wasn’t completely at the mercy of my depression and anxiety. I had something else up my sleeve.
I never have a “bad” workout. No existential crisis, no writer’s block. It’s a time and space where effort and fatigue become my friends. There are moments when I don’t even feel as if I’m exerting myself; I’m channeling energy from somewhere.