Friday, April 24, 2015
First off, I love alliteration, so hats off to you, WEGO Health! It gave me an easy title, and we know by now that titles are the trickiest part of my blog writing, so molto grazie!
I'm a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, and have been since I was 21. I spent the first five years post-college working in Corporate Fitness, and even after I left that, I taught a few classes at my local gym for several years. On occasion, I still take on private training clients. So like travel, fitness is also kind of my thing.
As someone trained in health and fitness and the study of human movement (B.S. in Kinesiology over here!), I HATE fad diets. And I don't use the word hate, or capitalization, very often in my posts. Fad diets are bad for your health. Period. I believe in a balanced diet of 55-65% carbs, 15-25% healthy fats, and the rest protein and anything else (read: junk food and alcohol). Of course, this is for the body that can process such. If you have a gastrointestinal illness or a gluten allergy or diabetes/hypoglycemia or any other illness that affects your food and beverage intake, by all means you know the best "diet" (in the nutritional sense, not in the "trying to lose weight" sense) for you! I want to be clear on that. Hell, I salt load because of my tendency for hyponatremia. But I'm not a fan of eating one piece of grapefruit for breakfast followed by four protein shakes to substitute for meals and snacks, and calling it a day, all for the point of looking better. It's not healthy, and your body will, eventually, in some form, suffer from it. I promise you. Ok soap box over, couldn't help it!
So, diet wise, I try to maintain a relatively balanced diet, being careful to add in salt/sodium when needed, and watch my dairy intake due to it's ability to increase my depression. Exercise wise, I also try to keep it relatively steady. With mood cycling, stability is the key. Everything should, ideally, be routine - sleep, diet, exercise. It sounds boring, I know. And sometimes, it is. But it has to be this way for sake of my brain, myself, and those around me when I happen to cycle. I attempt to get 30-45 minutes of cardio exercise at least three to four days a week, plus some strength training and stretching. I prefer running and biking (spin bike in winter/rainy days, outside in summer), though I'll jump on a cardio machine if I have to. I get outside when I can - hiking, kayaking, anything to be out in the warmth and sun. Cardio, in whatever form, helps me in my depressive phases, and helps me to clear my head in general. I have to be careful, though, as in a hypomanic phase, or when I'm in danger of cycling into one, exercise can make me worse. Adrenaline and endorphins can make me more hypomanic. So it's a bit of a tightrope that I have to walk (no pun intended on the exercise/walking thing, nor the cycling/cycling thing, but that worked out nicely for this pun-lover).
Yoga is amazing not only for toning, balance, and flexibility, but for countering cardio intensity of my other workouts. It helps balance my mind as well as my body, ever so important.
How do I manage it? Carefully. Like every thing else when living with a mood cycling condition, it's all about finding the "sweet spot". Too little, I'm depressed and out of my routine. Too much, I'm hypomanic. Ironically, it's the depressed days I don't feel like working out, and the hypomanic ones when I feel like I could run a marathon (I've never run anything close to a marathon, though it's on my bucket list) but I have to be mindful. By keeping it as consistent as I can, I can help to keep my cycles as under control as possible.
I also have to time it with medications. I don't like to work out right after meds for several reasons: 1.) I often get side effects such as dizziness and nausea and the works with my meds. Nobody wants the room to start spinning when they're on the treadmill. 2.) I'm more likely to be hyponatremic, and the more I sweat, the more sodium I lose, making me hyponatremic. But, if I wait too long, I'll get the medication daze/drowsiness, and then I won't have the energy to exercise, so I have to get it somewhere right in the middle, or if possible, in the AM before I take any meds at all.
I have to forgive myself when I slip. There are days, weeks, where depression kicks my ass, where the stress of work and my business and life just take up my days and even though I know exercise will be good for me, I can't make myself do it. Other than yoga. Always yoga, every Wednesday. Luckily, it's scheduled and paid for in advance, through my work, and holds me accountable for going. No matter my week, it's my happy place. And I have to learn not to be hard on myself when I miss my workouts, but to gently coax myself back in. To tell myself, "you don't have to do 45 minutes or even 30. Go outside and walk around the block a few times. Do one or two shoulder/arm/whatever exercises. Get on the eliptical for 15 minutes. It's better than nothing. You can do more when you have more energy." It's a battle. Having worked in fitness for years, it was my life. I was never not active, never not "in shape". I battled body image and disordered eating, and there are times when, after missing workouts frequently, I feel those shadows in the corner of my mind. I have to push them back, to not let them win, or even get a foot in the door. I know how that goes, and it doesn't go well. So I have learned to be kinder to myself, at least most days. It's a key component for me.
I've recently begun to tie my fitness goals into my health activism. I've been doing as many charity/fundraising events for all types of illnesses, both those that have affected me and my loved ones, or just those I feel particularly need extra support. My current goal is training for my second Out Of The Darkness Overnight Walk (shameless plug here!). I'm raising money and awareness for this event, which I did for the first time last year, and was such a moving and important experience, that I'm doing it again. If you're unfamiliar with this event, it's an overnight walk, somewhere between 16 and 20 miles, sundown until... whenever you finish in the early hours of the AM, for suicide awareness and prevention. It truly was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. So right now, I'm slowly increasing my mileage, and focusing on that in terms of "workouts", which is amazing because it combines both my need for exercise and my work in mental health awareness. (PS If I make it to $2000 raised I get an Out of Darkness t-shirt, woo hoo!. Sorry, couldn't help it!).