1. It hurts.
Or at least makes you uncomfortable. We’ve spent years making gadgets and things to make our lives easier and more comfortable. Yet we are experiencing higher rates of depression and unhappiness . By exercising we make ourselves feel uncomfortable, (not to the point that we might die) so when we finish that exercise and complete that workout we feel a sense of achievement and relief for overcoming one small hurdle for the day. If done in the morning it can have a knock on effect for the whole day. Simples! 2. It gets you out of the house. I mean going to the pub gets you out of the house too, but drinking isn’t always great for mental health if you are not careful with it. Going for a walk with a friend, or being part of a fitness community helps to get you out of your own mind. Being with others and having a laugh helps you to remember that life is an experience of multiple feelings, not just negative ones. 3. It makes it hard to think... When you are training you need to concentrate on breathing, co-ordinating limbs and distracting yourself from that weird pain in your arm... That really doesn’t leave much space for negative thinking, day dreaming or just generally shit talking yourself. This is why I keep exercising after all these years because it’s a drug that makes me realise it’s ok. 4. It saves you money. Sort of... When you start spending money on a CrossFit membership, new running shoes or those specially made dinners you won’t have any money left for anything else. You won’t be out drinking because you’ll be attending a hot yoga class to improve your flexibility. You won’t waste money buying technology or clothes either, unless they are a GPS watch for triathlon and Skins for improved recovery from your training runs. You’ll never waste money frivolously again because your new fitness friends invite you to do races abroad that use up your cash. It works! 5. It stops you dying... Earlier. Diabetes, cancer, falls. All killers. Fortunately you can reduce your odds of dying early by doing some brisk walking regularly or dancing to Cher at home. It’s not rocket science, so I won’t include specific figures for reduced mortality rates in groups that exercise regularly. You already know it. You are not stupid. But you are if you ignore it. You can enjoy your life, just get your arse out and do some exercise for it. Who the fuck are you?
It may sound a little patronising when I say that exercise, training and being active are good for you. After all I’m a personal trainer that’s completed marathons for goodness sake. But the reality is that exercise hasn’t always come naturally to me, I’ve worked at it for years because I needed something I could complete when I felt useless at everything else. It helped and hindered my mental health for years until I found what worked for me. I was active from a young age like many others when I had to play netball and climb ropes in gym at school. My afternoons consisted of bike riding, go karting, tree climbing and football at the park. This energy expenditure continued into rugby from the age of 10 when I joined my local club in Salisbury. All this time I was doing something I enjoyed, so I didn’t see it as training or exercise, but rather an enjoyable activity with friends. When I moved schools at 16 that changed a little bit. I mean do I need to say more than hormones?! That’s when weight training and drinking alcohol started. It wasn’t always at the same time of course, but the two were well aligned. I was lucky to have the metabolism of an 80kg caterpillar, so I could eat like one and not put on fat. “Hollow legs” was how my Mum explained it! The hormones took over as there came an urge to impress girls. The thought that this could be done through weight training was fascinating to me and I applied myself vigorously, for two weeks. After several early mornings of gym training with my parents I realised that it was far too much effort to get big and strong to impress people. It wasn’t worth the effort. But I was interested in helping others with fitness so I continued down that path with my work. Fast forward to present day and I am training for another marathon again with my partner in crime, my wife Catherine. This time I am enjoying my exercise. I have seen how it benefits my mind and as a result am much more consistent with it. I feel my depression creeping back in when I haven’t trained or meditated for a few days. So I keep on it for my sanity and for the people that love and support me. The time of writing about my dark thoughts has actually moved onto acting upon it using the best method I know, exercise. Tom