We have all been there, 4.55am alarm blaring from your iPhone on your left-hand bed side table.
It seems at that moment, thousands of thoughts can spring into your mind in a few seconds (think a 1970s cartoon devil and angel on either shoulder moment) “GET UP, you will never regret a workout, and you will feel so, so good all day” or “Oh I’m so tired… I could stay in bed an hour longer, I’ll just go tonight”
99% of you reading this would relate to the above, here’s my tip JUST GET UP! It’s ALWAYS worth it.
Once up, everything is OK, no one said you had to attempt an Olympic record off of 5 hours sleep, or smash out 10 x 400's in 68 seconds, but one thing is for sure consistency beats intensity every day of the week! You’re much better getting your consistent training in, then “going to the well” on the days where you feel capable or it is really required.
In an era of such educated awareness around mental health it is a beautiful thing to see so many people training purely for the purpose of improving/maintaining their own psychological health.
So many studies have continually shown strong links between a regular exercise regime and decreases in depression, anxiety and negativity as well as greater cognitive clarity.
Other perks of training include greater resilience, increased productivity throughout the day, a more positive outlook, improved sleep, greater vitality and a greater learning capacity.
A lot of very good doctors are now prescribing exercise as a big tool in their mental health recovery kit! We have all heard the term “runners high“ it is a very real thing, a very fascinating thing as well.
When we engage in vigorous exercise many significant biochemical changes occur in the brain.
Neurotransmitters like Serotonin are released, a decreased level of serotonin is linked to depression; so Serotonin is our natural anti-depressant.
Endorphin's are produced by the central nervous system these are shown to inhibit pain signals and produce a form of euphoria!
These endorphin's and serotonin releases are highly addictive, as well as all this, while exercising the stress hormone cortisol is dampened.
Increased blood flow to the brain further enhances the delivery of oxygen and glucose to neural tissue which helps to improve clarity and learning as well as make us fell bloody good!
Neuroplasticity is the brains capacity to re organise and form new neuralconnections, this happens all throughout our life, by regularly training, and making exercise a part of our daily routine we can continue to change and enhance our neural pathways , again this is partly due to enhanced blood flow to the brain.
Regular aerobic exercise has also shown to be the only activity that consistently boosts neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells). It is critical for so many physical reasons that all human beings move, but for the above reasons on a mental and emotional level it is crucial that we continue to exercise in some shape or form for our whole lives.
Everyone trains for different reasons, but for many people the number 1 reason is to “feel good for the day” we know the chemical reasons why this is so, but there is a lot to say for the social aspect of exercise as well, even if it is 5 am and you're meeting a friend or 20 like-minded people in a running group, there is something beautiful about training with and accomplishing something with other people.
There are lots of organisations around raising awareness of suicide prevention, depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. It is fantastic that more people are now talking about this subject as it really does affect everyone in some way, everyone will have their days and certainly no one chooses to come across “the black dog” but it is great that now people are talking, people are listening, and people are moving!!
Let’s all keep being kind to each other, we never know someone else’s struggles. If you have a friend or family member suffering or even a suspicion they may be, exercise in any form is a great way to get started on the road to recovery it may not be the only tool (psychologists, psychiatrists etc are vital in many situations as well) but it will give the individual the outlet, drive and focus that is so important to every one of us!
Look out for each other