We all hear exercise can cause a reprieve from depression. Countless peer-reviewed studies tout the benefits of working out and its ability to counteract the blues. But sometimes, life renders situations that make working out too challenging. What do you do then?
We present scenarios that might describe what you are dealing with right now and asked experts to provide their advice on how best to help you treat your gloom.
Advice: Try not to focus on the injury and remember the better you rest and take care of yourself, the sooner you’ll return. “Sometimes our bodies tell us to take some time off, and that’s perfectly acceptable,” says Kevin Brueilly, PhD, chair of the department of physical therapy at Augusta University. “But just because you have to sit out from a sport for a bit, there are other things that you should be thinking about.” He says to use the time to reflect on your achievements and start thinking about your goals following your return. He also recommends finding a cross-training opportunity where you can strengthen weaknesses or gaps in training but stay off your feet. “An upper-body ergometer routine is very taxing and can be performed while sitting.”
Steve Washuta, NASM certified physical trainer, also echoes this advice. For a client who aggravated a hamstring during a critical point in race training, Washuta pointed out the client’s weaknesses (core strength, flexibility and swim stroke). They worked on those until his client’s hamstring healed. This made the client stronger when he returned and kept his mind and body in training mode.
Advice: You find yourself in a Catch-22: You want to lose weight, but the extra weight makes it tough to work out. “Sometimes a small shift can alter your mood and lead to results,” says Beth Shaw, the founder and CEO of YogaFit, an organization that provides yoga teacher education.
She advises getting in the right mindset by following these eight recommendations:
- Look for a motivator, for example, a friend or personal trainer.
- Try eliminating foods from your diet like complex carbs and sugar.
- Begin with small goals, such as 20 minutes of daily exercise (even walking works).
- Try new classes/physical activities.
- Test mood supplements like 5-HTP.
- Keep yourself in good company with people who align with you.
- “Incentivize success.” Shaw put a dollar away every time she worked out and bought a cute top.
Advice: First of all, feeling letdown after a big race is over is normal, says Angie Fifer, an executive board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and certified mental performance consultant. “It is important to listen to your body and actually get some rest and recovery in,” she says. Fifer recommends walking, yoga and swimming for active recovery and spending time reconnecting with the friends and family you might have neglected while training. Also, selecting your next goal can serve you well. “That next goal could be a different race or performance goal, a new fitness challenge or even a work or relationship goal.”
Advice: Losing interest in something you used to be passionate about can be disconcerting. “When burnout is being experienced, it is time to focus on what you do like, feels good and is of interest and fun,” says Dara Bushman, PsyD. “Energy pulls where we place it, and it is optimal to shift the mind to engage what is working, opposed to what is not working.”
She recommends that if want you used to run, try a baby step of cross-training, such as riding a bike to the park or swimming for fun. “Take participating in running out of the picture for a period of time.”
Advice: As we age, our times may get slower or we can’t push the way we used to, however, focus on the fact you’re still getting out there. According to Rob Bell, PhD, sports psychologist and mental toughness coach, you should understand your new “why.” The reason you started running/cycling/working out might not be the same as now. Your new why should make you cry. “If it doesn’t,” he says, “it’s not your why.”
He also advises focusing on others. The more you encourage others, the more you get out of your own head. “Plus, the more we are encouraging others, we are actually encouraging ourselves,” he adds.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Many athletes, Dr. Bushman says, fear taking time off causes setbacks in performance. But in reality, “some time off is just what they need to get refreshed and back in the game.”