Young woman sitting on a couch with her knees hugged to her chest looking depressed.

How to Get Motivated to Exercise When You are Depressed

The holiday season is here once again!  For many, the holidays are a wonderful time of year – full of food, family, and happy memories.  However, for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety, the holidays can be a very challenging time.

As holidays approach, most people find their stress rising and their ability to cope fade away.  To add insult to injury, as we move towards winter, we are exposed to less natural light.  This can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), otherwise known as the “winter blues”.  Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, low energy, and loss of interest in activities that you typically enjoy.

Fortunately, there are ways to help you manage your depression during the holidays.  One of the best ways to combat depression is with exercise.  Some of the many positive effects of exercise on depression include:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved concentration
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Better sleep

The good news is, you don’t need a lot of exercise to feel a difference!  Research shows that as little as one hour of exercise per week can improve mood and ease the symptoms of depression. That is less than 10 minutes of activity per day!

Sounds great, right?  Of course, anyone that has experienced depression knows that this is easier said than done.  Depression saps you of your motivation and energy, and can send you into a seemingly endless loop that sounds something like this…

I know I need to exercise because it will help my depression and make me feel better, but I can’t get moving because I’m depressed! 

These feelings of knowing that exercise can help, but feeling unable to take action can add to anxiety and stress.  Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take that can help you break the endless loop of self-doubt and begin to add exercise into your life.

Change Your Mindset

The first step in getting moving, is changing the way you think about exercise.  The word “exercise” sounds like work.  It sounds like a task to be accomplished or a chore to be done. In other words, it’s something “extra” you have to fit in to your life.  When you are depressed and have no motivation or energy, the last thing you want to do is add one more thing to your to-do list!

So, start by not thinking about it as exercise at all.  Change your mindset to think of it as simply, movement.  Moving your body is a natural part of life.  By shifting your mental focus from exercise to merely moving your body, you remove the burden of extra work and can begin to appreciate how good it feels to just move.

It is important to find movement that feels good to your body.  Movement should be associated with positive energy and feelings, never discomfort or pain.  If you have physical limitations, find movement that you can do that does not exacerbate existing conditions or injuries.

Everyone’s body is different, so it may take some experimentation to find movement that works for you.  It may be slow and flowing, like yoga, stretching, or tai chi. Or, it may be short and intense, like punching a heavy bag. Or, it may be simple and relaxed like walking.  Remember, any movement that feels good to your body is good for your soul.

Start Where You Are Today

Depression has an ugly way of making you feel like the current version of yourself is not acceptable.  It strips you of your confidence and keeps you from taking that first step forward.  For example, below are some common thoughts you might have when you are depressed.

I would start exercising if only…

…I could get out of bed.

…it wasn’t so cold and miserable outside.

…I wasn’t so anxious around other people.

Don’t let these feelings stop you from taking those first steps to get moving.  Start where you are today and work from there.  Wherever you are today, however you feel, start there and take one step forward.

If you can’t get out of bed, stretch or do some simple yoga poses right in your bed.  If the thought of leaving the house is overwhelming, walk a lap around the house or walk up and down a flight of stairs.  If the thought of having to interact with others makes you anxious, stay home and use an exercise video or online workout that has a movement and instruction style that is a good fit for you.

Create a Safe, Accessible Space to Move

Individuals with depression constantly battle feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.  Therefore, it is important that you find a space where you feel comfortable and safe to move without feeling anxious or judged.  This space should be easily accessible to you and provide you with enough room to safely move.  It may be in your own home, at a gym or recreation facility, in your neighborhood, or at a favorite outdoor space like a park or trail.

You should always feel positive and supported in your space.  That means avoiding environments

  • that are highly competitive.
  • provoke an anxiety response.
  • lead to any feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.
  • where people are critical and unsupportive.

Find Your Support

One of the best things you can do to help yourself find the motivation to move more, is to connect with others for support.  Research shows that positive social support, can decrease stress, increase motivation and improve overall mental health.

There are several ways that you can connect with others and get the support you need.  Pick the option(s) that work best for you based on where you are today.

Meet-Up with a Friend

Schedule a date with someone to meet up and do something active.  This could be a partner, friend, co-worker, or anyone that you enjoy spending time with.   Having a time planned to meet someone can be the motivation you need to get up and get moving.  Just make sure that whomever you choose is supportive, never competitive or critical.

Join an Online Community

If you suffer from social anxiety or do not have anyone in your life right now that can fully support you, consider joining an online community.  Fortunately, there are thousands of options available online.  Just as with your in-person relationships, it is important that you find an online community that fits you.   Take some time to explore different groups to find one that meets your needs.  Your community should be inclusive, supportive, and committed to helping you become healthier.

Team Up with Your Pet

Support doesn’t have to come in human form.  Exercising with your pet is another way to get the support you need to get moving.  Animals are source of unconditional love and support, making them perfect workout partners.  As an added bonus, research has found that interacting with animals has numerous benefits, including:

  • Improving mood by boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine.
  • Reducing levels of anxiety and stress.
  • Increasing motivation.
  • Fostering a sense of purpose and improving self-esteem.

If you don’t have a pet, don’t worry!  Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter as a dog walker or playing with the animals.  There are plenty of homeless animals that would appreciate your time and affection.

Keep it Simple

One of the keys to adding movement into your life when you are depressed is to make it as easy as possible.  Depression can make even the smallest tasks seem overwhelming.  So, take the stress away by keeping it simple and focus on minimizing the effort to move.  Give yourself permission to take the easy road.  If you don’t feel like getting dressed, exercise in your pajamas.  If you normally go to the gym, stay home and do a workout video.

Set Micro-Goals

Another way to simplify is by setting micro-goals, that is breaking up the experience into ridiculously small pieces.  Studies show that breaking down larger tasks into smaller pieces is the best way to accomplish a goal.  This is because every time we accomplish a goal, our brain reacts by releasing dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical.  This good feeling motivates us to continue on, accomplishing more while improving our overall mood.

Here is an example of how you might use micro-goals to encourage yourself to move.

  • I will put on my socks and sneakers.
  • I will go to the kitchen and fill my water bottle and drink.
  • I will walk in a path between the kitchen, the living room, and the hallway for 5 laps.
  • I give myself the permission to stop after 5 laps. If I am feeling good, I will do 5 more laps.
  • When I am done, I will sit in my favorite chair.
  • I will remove my socks and sneakers.
  • I will drink the rest of my water.
  • I will relax for at least 5 minutes.

Use a Timer

Breaking the inertia associated with depression is usually the hardest part.  If we can find a way to just get started and get moving, everything else becomes easier.  One way to help break the inertia is to use a timer to set time-based micro-goals.  Begin by setting small time increments of no more than 5 minutes.  Commit to moving until the timer finishes.

If 5 minutes seems like too much, start with 1 minute.  Also, remind yourself that you are always the one in control.  Before you start, give yourself permission to stop at any time without feeling guilty.  Remember, any movement is better than none at all.

Connect with Something You Love

Movement should always be a pleasant experience.  However, when you are depressed, it can often be hard to connect to the good feelings you get from moving your body.  One tip for helping to create a positive association to physical activity is to connect the activity to something that you enjoy.  For example, if you enjoy music, create a playlist of your favorite songs that you only listen to while you move.  Some other options might include watching favorite TV show or listening to an audiobook during your workout.

You are much more likely to start moving and stay moving when you connect physical activity to something you enjoy.  So, think about what you love and get moving!

Go Outside

Whenever possible, take your activity outside.  Exercising outdoors has additional benefits to indoor exercise.  Compared with exercising indoors, exercising outdoors has been shown to

  • increase feelings of revitalization and positive engagement.
  • decrease tension, confusion, anger, and depression.
  • increase energy.
  • make the activity more satisfying and enjoyable.

So, consider stepping outdoors for your next workout.  As little as 5 minutes of activity outdoors can make a huge difference.

Focus on How You Feel

Take some time both during and after physical activity to focus on how you feel.  Make sure to tune into the sensations in your body before, during, and after.  Take a few minutes after your workout to assess your mood, anxiety levels, and overall mental state. Try to capture the positive feelings resulting from your activity.  The next time you need motivation to move, tap back into those good feelings.

Be Kind and Reward Yourself 

Finally, always take time to reward yourself for every positive step forward.  Every movement should be celebrated!   Speak to yourself in a kind and encouraging way, expressing gratitude for what you and your body have accomplished.

In Conclusion

Take the time to take care of yourself this holiday season.  If you struggle with depression or anxiety, try to add just a few minutes of movement into your life every day.  Even the smallest amount of movement can have a huge impact on your emotional and mental health.

Lesson 4: The Power of Reflection

It has been several weeks since the half-marathon.  Like anything else, as my life moves forward the experience gets pushed into the background as other things crop up and take its place.  It is so easy to let day to day life consume our thoughts and actions and not take time to reflect upon what was.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Søren Kierkegaard

I am guilty of always thinking towards the future, always trying to be two to three steps ahead.  I have trouble focusing on the present and hardly ever taking the time to reflect on the past.  Being future-focused has a lot of positives.  I tend not to dwell on past.  Research shows that living in the past is associated with greater feelings of pessimism and can be a trigger for depression.   Being focused on the future also means that I am a planner and I am rarely unprepared.  However, this obsession with always staying ahead of the game robs me of one of the most valuable tools for happiness and personal growth – reflection.

Transforming Pain into Gain

No one can argue that physical activity is awesome.  Study after study validates the myriad of benefits of physical activity, including improved as physical health, mental health, and social connections.  However, if we do not take the time to look back and reflect upon the experience, we will miss valuable lessons.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey

When I finished the half-marathon, I was physically exhausted.  My anxiety level was through the roof.  I was disappointed with my performance and was just relieved it was over.  Now, my default state was to push the experience aside (essentially checking it off my mental to-do list) and move on to the next thing.

I mentioned in my previous posts that this was my 5th half-marathon.  However, it was the first that that I took the time to stop to reflect upon the experience as a whole.  I forced myself to look back and evaluate every aspect of the experience. I won’t lie, it has been a difficult process.  However, it was only by taking the time to look back and reflect that I was able see the power of discomfort, gratitude, and acceptance.

When we take the time to stop and reflect upon our experiences with consciousness and intent, the process can be transformative.  In my case, by stepping back and reflecting upon the race, I took an experience that I associated with frustration, anxiety, pain, and disappointment and transformed it into one that I now look upon with fondness and appreciation.

Benefits of Reflection

Reflection is an incredibly powerful tool that is available to each and every of us.  The only thing we need to do is allow ourselves to slow down and take the time to actually do it.  The next time that life is moving fast and you are tempted to just push forward, I invite you consider the following ways that reflection can help you live a better life.

Reflection can help you…

  1. identify negative thoughts and feelings.
  2. understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. view life with more gratitude.
  4. stay focused on the bigger picture.
  5. acknowledge and accept things that are out of your control.
  6. reduce anxiety, allowing you to overcome your fears.
  7. become a more capable, confident, and caring person.

The Final Word

Sometimes the most challenging events in our lives can provide the best opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth.  For me it took a very long 13.1 miles to teach me the power of discomfort, gratitude, acceptance, and reflection.  I hope that the next time you face a challenge, you will remember the power of these tools, use them, and emerge a stronger, happier, and healthier person.

Jennifer's Signature

 

Lesson 3: The Power of Acceptance

I am my own worst critic.  I set my expectations and berate myself if things don’t work out the way I wanted.  If I don’t meet my goals, my automatic response is to blame myself for the failure.  If I had only (fill in the blank) tried harder, prepared better, etc.… things would’ve worked out.

I have always viewed failure as a personal weakness.  I never stop to consider that there may be forces in play that I cannot control and overcome.  The missing piece is acceptance.

Acceptance – The Missing Piece

Failure can be a very powerful tool.  We can learn a lot from our failures, gaining valuable insights and learning lessons that we can use to become better, stronger, more effective.  However, when you look at failure from the single perspective of being solely controlled by the self, you miss the valuable lessons it can teach.  Instead of logically analyzing the failure and gaining constructive feedback, you spiral into a pattern of negative self-talk and blame.

Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it. – Wikipedia

You must look at failure with both responsibility and acceptance.  It is a two-pronged approach – taking responsibility for the things within your control and accepting the things that are not in your control.   Let’s look at some examples from the half-marathon, examining each first from the perspective of blame and next from the perspective of acceptance.

Example #1:  I set a goal time for finishing the race and missed it by several minutes.

Blame:  I was weak and didn’t try hard enough.  I could’ve pulled through if I was mentally and physically stronger.

Acceptance:  My body has limits.  I had the stomach flu a week before and I had cracked the top of my foot on a bookshelf.  Both contributed to my body not being in peak condition for the race.

Example #2:  I wanted to get through without having a panic attack.

Blame:  I had practiced managing my anxiety during my training runs.  I was confident that it would not be an issue in the race, but it was.  Again, I was weak.  If I was stronger, I could’ve pushed the feelings aside and kept going.

Acceptance:  I can’t control everything.  Sometimes my anxiety and panic disorder gets the best of me.  I can do my best to prepare, strategize, and cope but sometimes it is not enough.  The best I can do is deal with it when it happens and move on.

When I reevaluated the race from the perspective of acceptance not blame, it completely reframed the experience.  It led me away from my destructive thinking and down a path of   opportunity for personal growth.

Acceptance vs. Excuses – What’s the Difference?

Now you might ask, “Aren’t you just making an excuse and rationalizing the failure?”.  I too, struggle with the same question.

I hate excuses.  I am 100% for personal responsibility.  I firmly believe that we are responsible for our own actions – right or wrong, good or bad.  For the longest time, I viewed acceptance as an excuse. However, there is a distinct difference between making and excuse for an action or outcome and accepting it and moving on.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. – Benjamin Franklin

Excuses are based on short-term thinking.  Excuses are all about instant gratification without concern for bigger goal.  Acceptance, on the other hand, is based in self-caring and nurturing.  It is focused on long-term.

For example, let’s say I have a 5-mile training run planned for today.  My body feels good, I feel healthy, but I’m just not motivated to get up and get out the door.  So, I decide to I skip my run today and stay home and watch TV.  Now, I classify this as a big ‘ol excuse.  I am choosing the path of least resistance.  This is the option that leads to instant gratification but does not help me achieve my long-term goal.

Now let’s look at the same scenario under a different set of circumstances.  I have a 5-mile training run planned for today but my foot is very painful and running is exacerbating the injury.  So, I decide to skip my run today and take a day off to rest and ice my foot.  In this scenario, I am practicing acceptance.  I am consciously deciding to accept the reality of something I can’t control (my injury) and choosing the option that is best for my current well-being and for my long-term goal (being healthy to run the race).

Finding the Balance

When you experience failure, finding a balance between taking responsibility for the failure and choosing acceptance can be extremely difficult.  When things don’t turn out the way you planned, it so is easy to fall into the trap of self-blame and guilt. When I start to slide down that slippery slope, I ask myself the following questions

  • Were my expectations too high?
  • Were there external forces beyond my control?
  • Does the outcome really make a difference in the long run?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, it is a trigger that I need to stop and reevaluate my feelings.  My guilt and blame is probably misplaced and destructive.  The healthy choice is to acknowledge the failure, accept the outcome, and move on.

Although it’s not easy, pushing aside the blame and choosing acceptance truly is the path to becoming a better, stronger, and happier person.  I think the following words from actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 25 years ago, sums it up perfectly.

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. – Michael J. Fox

Next time you face failure, I challenge you to take a step back.  Look upon the failure with a new lens – one of responsibility and acceptance.  Then sit back and watch your happiness grow.

Jennifer Hobbs Signature

Up next…

Lesson  4:  The Power of Reflection

 

Man Looking at the Stars

Lesson 2: The Power of Gratitude

I always try to run with thoughts of gratitude, but I choose to run the half marathon as my “race of gratitude”.   Pondering all of the things that I have to be thankful for carries me forward and I ride the wave of gratitude to the finish line.

Anyone that runs knows that breathing plays a big role.  As I run, I try to imagine inhaling a thought of gratitude and exhaling the word “thank you”.  It probably sounds silly, but it works!  It takes my focus off the external mechanics of running and refocuses my energy internally, creating a more profound mind-body connection.  I enjoy my run more and it becomes a more fulfilling experience.

So during the half marathon, I chose to run with gratitude.  I ran with gratitude for…

The opportunity to participate in the race.  I am blessed to have the time, support, and resources to train and race.

My health.  Although I am not perfect, I am strong and healthy.  I am thankful for this body that carries me through 13.1 miles.

The world around me.  I drink in the fresh air, embrace the wind on my face, and admire in awe the beauty of fall in the Northeast.

My community.  All around me are examples of my community coming together for common cause.  From the race personnel and course volunteers working hard to keep me safe and hydrated, to the thousands of spectators on route cheering and waving signs, I am grateful for each and every one.

My running partners.  As I run, I acknowledge that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my running partners (both human and canine).  They were with me through months of training.  From early morning runs before the sun came up, to finishing the last few miles of a long run in the dark, they were with me every step of the way.  They pushed me forward, encouraged me onward, and kept me laughing the whole time.

My family and friends.  Most of all I am profoundly grateful for my family and friends.  Their support means the world to me.

“Gratitude also opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe, while dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it.” 

– Stephen Richards

This attitude of gratitude powered me through the first 9 miles, but when I hit “the wall” and the overwhelming fatigue set in, it became harder and harder to focus on being grateful. By mile 10, all I could think about was the pain in my foot, the leaden sensation in my legs, and my escalating anxiety and self-doubt.  My physical and emotional discomfort distracted me until the only thing that I was grateful for was that it would be over soon.

When finally crossed the finish line, my feelings of gratitude had evaporated.  I was exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed.

This race taught me that I had more to be grateful for than I imagined.  I made it.  I struggled through the pain, the fatigue, and the panic.  It was awful, but I made it.  I finished safely and at the finish line, despite my feelings of failure, I was rewarded with nothing but love and support.

Finally finished, surrounded by family and friends, I took a long, deep breath.  I inhaled in the power of gratitude.

Jennifer Hobbs Signature

Up next…

Lesson  3:  The Power of Acceptance

Woman in Pain

Lesson 1: The Power of Discomfort

I was never a runner. I have always been active, always in motion but was never a runner. As I look back on my childhood, every memory I have of running ends poorly.

I remember running the obligatory 1 mile in gym class as a child. By ¼ mile in, I inevitably had to stop, heaving and gasping for breath. The remaining ¾ miles was an embarrassing combination of running/walking/stumbling until I finally finished, usually minutes after the rest of my peers.

I also remember playing soccer. I loved soccer. I loved the dribbling, the kicking, the scoring. I hated the running. They tried me first at midfield, position that involved the most running. Let’s just say, that didn’t last long. I moved on next to play forward (a little less running) and finally back to a position on defense (the least running, except for goalie which was already taken) and still was panting and miserable before we hit halftime. By high school, I threw in the towel, quit soccer forever, and moved on to volleyball. At that point, I was convinced I was not meant to run – ever.

“If you want to choose the pleasure of growth, prepare yourself for some pain.”

– Ritu Ghatourey

Fast forward 30 years later and here I am, a runner. I have now run 5 half-marathons and more 5k and 10k races than I can remember and you know what? It still sucks. It’s uncomfortable, it hurts, and it never gets easy. My experience this past weekend only served to carve that truth even that deeper in stone. Yet, I still run. Of course the obvious question, and one that I get asked over and over by friends, family, and strangers alike is “WHY?”

Why in the world would I choose to do something that is so downright painful? Well, the reality is that one of the reasons I run is because it is uncomfortable.

People often talk about the value of going “outside your comfort zone”. That sounds like tipping your toe in the water. I would argue that for true growth, you not only need to venture outside of your comfort zone, but reach out and embrace discomfort.

3 Types of Discomfort: Physical, Social, and Emotional

For me, there are 3 types of discomfort when I am in a race: physical, social, and emotional. Now, this perspective on discomfort is based solely on my experiences. I am sure if you read the scientific literature, it is a gross oversimplification of the concept. However, for me, I can neatly divide up my discomfort into each of these 3 buckets.

Physical

The first type of discomfort is what I call “true” physical discomfort. As a runner, you get to experience plenty of this type of discomfort. Your muscles hurt, your lungs burn, you feel overwhelming fatigue, and on and on.  Some days it feels like with every mile you log, you also log a new ache or pain.

Social

The second type of discomfort is social. This is the discomfort felt when you have to engage and interact with other people. Now for some, this doesn’t qualify as a source of discomfort at all. Actually, for many people, social interactions are a source of great pleasure. For me, however, this is definitely an area where I struggle.

Running, by nature, is an individual activity and can be a great fit for individuals like myself that battle with social anxiety. However, on race day, running definitely becomes a community event. Hundreds of people packed in at the start line, hundreds of spectators lining the course, and hundreds more race volunteers and staff. Just thinking about that many people raises my anxiety level into the red zone.

Emotional

The third type of discomfort is emotional. As an individual with anxiety and panic disorder, I find that most of my emotional discomfort has its roots in fear. Irrational fears play on a continuous loop in my head as I run. Will I disappoint my friends and family if I miss my goal time? How will I cope with the embarrassment if I don’t finish? What if I have a panic attack in front of all of these people? These fears of judgment, inadequacy, and embarrassment all vie to overwhelm me as I race.

Discomfort: Perception vs. Reality

I experienced all 3 three types of discomfort during the half marathon. Looking back on the race, I can start to put my feelings of discomfort in better perspective. Let’s explore my perception of discomfort, or fear, versus the reality.

Fear: This is really going to hurt.

Reality: It really did hurt, but only for the last 5 miles.

In the half marathon this past weekend, I experienced plenty of physical pain. By mile 8, my right foot was throbbing due to a very unfortunate crack it took to bookshelf a few weeks before. Good news, the bookshelf was fine. Bad news, my foot… not so much.

As the miles past, the pain layered on, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the finish.

Fear: I am not going to be able to deal with all of the people.

Reality: It wasn’t as bad as I thought.

I always struggle at the start line when everyone is packed together. In a race, runners line up according to their predicted pace, the fastest in the front of the pack and the slowest in the back. I am neither particularly fast nor slow, so I usually line up right in the middle. Perfect for me from a racing perspective, horrible for me from an anxiety perspective. So this time, I tried a new strategy, I started in the back. No crowd in the back of the line. I felt good and relaxed at the start. I probably added a minute or so to my time starting behind the slower runners, but it was worth it.

Fear: I am not going to hit my goal time and I will disappoint my friends and family.

Reality: I didn’t hit my goal time and nobody cared.

I am very fortunate to have wonderful and supportive friends and family. As I crossed the finish line, I had a 10-person cheering section getting me through those final few steps. I was greeted in the finish area with hugs and high-fives. The rest of the day was peppered with texts from friends congratulating me on the race. If anyone cared in the least that I didn’t hit my goal, they certainly didn’t show it.

Fear: I am going to have a panic attack and embarrass myself in front of all of these people.

Reality: I had to stop running for several minutes at mile 10 because I felt a panic attack coming on, but I got through it. I don’t think anyone even noticed.

When I “hit the wall” around mile 9, my anxiety began to skyrocket. I knew my hopes for a personal best were gone and I worried I would not be able to finish the race. My anxiety started to build upon itself as my fears played through my head. By mile 10, I felt the telltale signs of a panic attack coming on – dizziness, nausea, and cold sweats. I knew I needed to stop the escalation of my anxiety. I stopped running, breathed deeply, and thought positive thoughts. Two minutes later, I was feeling better and started back with a slow jog, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

Why Discomfort is a Powerful Tool

I don’t think anyone would argue that experiencing discomfort is not a pleasant experience. At the time, it feels downright awful. But when it’s over it is truly liberating. So, what happens when you allow yourself to be uncomfortable?

You Learn Patience

Discomfort is a temporary state.

You Gain Perspective

Discomfort allows you to reframe catastrophic thinking. Whatever your fear, things usually it isn’t as bad as you think.

You Learn to Cope

Discomfort is unpleasant. As human beings, we are designed to want feel pleasure to minimize unpleasant sensations. When we are uncomfortable, we develop new strategies to deal with the discomfort.

You Grow as a Person

Embracing discomfort gives us freedom to try new things, meet new people, and expand our horizons.

Next time you feel uncomfortable, don’t run from the feeling – reach out and grab it. I promise, you will be happy you did!

Jennifer's Signature

Next Up…

Lesson 2: The Power of Gratitude

Woman Tired from Running

4 Powerful Lessons I Learned From Running 13.1 Miles – Introduction

A few weeks ago I ran my 5th half-marathon.  The race was tough.  Tougher than I expected, and I thought I knew what to expect.  I had run this race three times before once in the rain, several times in freezing temperatures, and once with a nasty head cold.  Each time it was a challenge, but I always finished stronger and faster than I had anticipated.  This year the weather was perfect and I was feeling good. I had been running strong all summer, posting personal bests in a 5k and a 10k this season.  I had every reason to believe that the trend would continue and I would be crossing the finish line with another personal best to add to my record. Well, as they say, the best laid plans… 

Girl on Fire Hits the “Wall”

For the first 9 miles I was on fire.  My legs seemed to move effortlessly as I flew past my fellow runners.  I was imagining myself crossing the finish line, executing an epic fist pump as I looked up at the timer and saw my time.   And then something happened that had never happened to me before, I hit the “wall”.  For those of you that are not familiar with this bit of runner’s terminology, hitting the “wall” is a sudden loss of energy and overwhelming sense of fatigue.  I have heard people describe the sensation like letting the air out of a balloon. For me, I was more like the balloon popped and the remnants plummeted to the earth.  At one moment I was soaring, the next all I wanted to do was pull over to the side and curl up into a ball.   I didn’t just hit the “wall”, I full-on faceplanted into it.

The Final 4 Miles of Agony

Although every fiber of my being was telling me otherwise, I didn’t curl up in a ball.  I did have to pull over several times to slow down and breathe, but in the end I made it.  The final 4 miles were excruciating but I kept going and I crossed the finish line.  When I did, there was no epic fist pump as I looked up at the timer.  I posted my slowest time ever.  As I crossed the line, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief but also of disappointment.  I failed.  I had set a goal, come so close to achieving it, and I failed.

What a Difference a Day Makes

The next day I was sore and tired.  More sore and tired than ever before.  But now, I embrace the aches and pains.  They are a reminder that I just ran my best race ever.

As I sat in bed the afternoon after the race, nursing my beaten body and bruised ego, I replayed each of those 13.1 miles in my head.  As I mentally relived the experience, my perception of the race changed.  I didn’t fail, I succeeded.  I may not have run as fast as I had hoped, but I ran a great race.  It is true that it is not about the destination, but the journey that matters.

“Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to find joy in the journey.”

― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I realized that those 13.1 miles were truly a journey of discovery.  I learned 4 very important lessons and in the process, discovered the power of 

  • Discomfort
  • Gratitude
  • Acceptance
  • Reflection

Over the next few weeks, I will explore each of these areas and share my experiences with you.  I hope you join me on this enlightening 13.1 mile journey!

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