Friday, March 10, 2017

Swimming and Other Fitness Stuff

Hello there!  It’s been awhile!
I don’t know about you, but I know for myself that the idea of “health” gets overwhelming.  You can find so much information on the internet and a lot of it contradicts other information.  One website says, “Don’t use plastic because it will cause toxins to leach into your food.”  Another site says, “Don’t eat GMOs – they cause cancer.” An article claims, “Walking is the greatest anti-depressant” while another blames gluten or dairy or red meat for humanity’s problems.  What are we supposed to believe? Perhaps more relevantly, what are we supposed to do about it?
When you live with mental illness, it is easy to blame yourself for your illness.  Add to that the never-ending barrage of information on health, and you can find a million reasons to blame yourself.  When I start reading too much about health, I am tempted to stop taking my meds.  I feel like because I am not doing all the right things, it is my fault I’m sick.  If it’s my fault I’m sick, then I don’t deserve to take the meds that help me.  If I’m going to justify spending money on meds, I’d better be doing every single thing that could possibly help me. 
That is faulty thinking.  For one thing, the meds I take are cheaper than a lot of the recommended “health foods”.  For another, without the benefits I receive from my meds, there’s no way I would have the energy or mental clarity to even figure out a healthy lifestyle and diet. 
My approach to fitness and health is an “every bit helps” approach. This means that I’m not going to cut out my meds and trust a specific diet instead.  I know my meds help, so I take them.  I don’t have to earn them by meeting a certain lifestyle standard.  I can add health components to my life, as long as they work for me. Every little thing that works adds to the benefits I get from my meds.  For me to incorporate a health practice into my life, it has to meet some criteria.  First, it can’t cause a lot of stress.  If I’m going to be constantly worrying about what I’m eating, that will increase my anxiety, not reduce it.  If I always have to force myself to work out, it has the same affect.  Second, it has to be sustainable.  It can’t take hours out of my day or require a lot of prep.  Third, it has to be at least a little bit enjoyable.  I won’t force myself to drink a smoothie that tastes terrible or do a workout that makes me so tired I could cry. 
Here’s what works for me right now:
Swimming. Back in January I set myself a goal to be able to swim 2km by my birthday in May.  Yesterday I hit 1.25km!!  Swimming works for me because:
-I’ve set a specific goal.  It’s not just “work out twice a week”.  I’ve tried that kind of goal and failed.  With this goal, if I have a couple of weeks where I don’t exercise, it just means I have to work a bit harder the next few times.  I haven’t failed.  It’s a specific but flexible goal.
-swimming is fun. I love the feeling of being in the water.  I like that I can go slow if I’m having a bad day or faster if I want to push myself.
-swimming is solitary.  Sure, sometimes I need to share a lane in the pool, but I don’t have to wait in line for the exercise machine or awkwardly walk between the mirror and someone doing curls to get to the dumbbells.  Once I’m in the pool, I’m in my own world.  This is a huge plus because the gym always heightens my social anxiety, but the pool lessens it!
-swimming is horizontal.  When I’m tired and having a bad day, I don’t want to hold my head up.  I just want to lay down.  To me, swimming feels like I’m exercising and laying down at the same time. J
-swimming is a full body workout.  I don’t worry about “leg day” or “cardio day”.  I do everything at once, so there’s a lot less to keep track of.
Being off (some) dairy.  Recently I cut out most dairy because I was having some gut issues.  It worked!  I still eat plain yogurt and mozzarella cheese, but I’ve cut out everything else.  This had some unexpected consequences.  Not only does my gut feel better, but I feel calmer and more alert.  My body feels lighter, not like I’ve lost weight but like I’m less sluggish.  I get stressed less easily and I enjoy life more.  I’ve always enjoyed not having diet restrictions, but hey, this is SO worth it.

What works for you right now?