The Power of Endorphins

Back in late November I was feeling really down. I just chalked it up to the time of year. It was just starting to get cold, the days were getting progressively shorter, and I was gearing up for another holiday season without a number of the people who had been around my table for so many holiday feasts of the past. So it was understandable. I was having trouble focusing at work, was neglecting my house, and didn’t feel like doing much of anything. Depression. And I felt stuck.

Yup. I’m a coach. I help clients get un-stuck all the time and was having trouble helping myself. I’m about as good at being my own coach as I am at French braiding my own hair. Thankfully I too have a coach. The first thing we talked about is how I felt over-whelmed by everything. That’s never a good place to be because collectively everything is more than you can handle. It needs to be broken down into manageable pieces. My coach asked me, what’s one thing that you want to take aim at?

She asked me about my running. I said I was running sporadically and that wasn’t it because trying to fit more runs into my schedule right then would just cause me more stress. I didn’t have the time I told her. So we agreed I’d aim at getting something accomplished at work. That would make me feel better, right? Well yeah, it did. Sort of. But a funny thing happened. The Monday  after Thanksgiving, I signed up for a 6am Pilates class. I went to bed a little earlier the night before and resisted the urge to go back to bed when the alarm went off and made it to the class. The next day it wasn’t as hard to get up and I went to the gym to run on the treadmill. Getting up to run in the cold and dark was asking too much, but the treadmill was an okay compromise. Just a slow 3 miles. I ran 4 days that week and took two Pilates classes! By the the next week the endorphins were starting to kick in. Getting up wasn’t as much of a struggle and my mood was starting to elevate!

Never underestimate the power of endorphins! Suddenly I was looking at everything more positively. I was thinking clearer about everything. Just that simple mood boost helped change my perspective; made everything else feel more manageable. It wasn’t really the time of year, it was my lack of exercise! When I looked back at my training log and saw how long it had been since I was running consistently, it was no wonder I had been feeling the way I had. So if you need to take aim at something, start with exercise. Even just the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Commit to walking a mile every morning before work. And that’s where you need to start if you want to run, whether you’re new to the sport or have been on the sidelines for a long time.

Starting an exercise plan is always hard at first. I’ve been getting up 6 days a week for over a month now to either run or do some sort of strength training or swimming (my go to cross training). It’s still hard. And as I work muscles that have been goofing off for months, I’m sore. If you’re feeling it, don’t give up! Focus on the good. Do you feel stronger? Are the endorphins helping to make you more awake and alive? Do you feel more focused? It takes a lot of discipline and drive at first, but then it starts to feel natural. It’s just getting over that hump.

I’m feeling pretty up! I’m ready for the new year ahead. I noticed that it’s not completely dark out when I leave work now, and this week in New Jersey the thermometer hit 65! This weekend’s schedule includes my first double digit long run since October. Thank god for endorphins! Are you feeling ’em?

img_3073Saddle River County Park, Glen Rock, New Jersey. January 2016.

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