You know that feeling you get when your heart sinks, your stomach’s in knots, your breathing becomes short, and your heart rate increases? Most of us associate these feelings with anxiety, or some threat to our survival. I got these feelings when I visited my hometown this week to see my hair stylist, catch up with my mom, and for a lunch meeting. As soon as I drove by the mall of my teen years, heard the familiar noises of birds and fancy cars humming, and saw all the Silicon Valley techies swarm into the local lunch spots my stomach sank. This is not the normal reaction I usually feel when I go home. Home is usually my comfort zone, the place I feel safest. In fact, I had actually been home just a week ago and felt nothing but warmth and satiety.
I realized that it felt discomforting to come home because I am in such a transitional part of my career. After leaving the steady corporate world, I am learning to create my own schedule and plans to become a voice in the health and fitness industry. There is so much excitement in this part of my life, but a lot of that excitement comes from things that are unfamiliar and unknown. The ideas and dreams that energize me are also the ones that create such great unease.
Of course, I soon snapped out of my fear based thinking, thanks to a long run, the stair master, and talks with family and friends, but it got me thinking about my struggle with transitions in general. I know I am not alone when it comes to anxiety in times of transition. In fact, exercise science tells us that the body’s initial response to change is well, stress. Think about when you first start exercising – your heart rate elevates, cortisol is released to increase energy, and your oxygen intake increases. It’s no wonder why so many people are unsuccessful when they start an exercise routine. If you are only used to feeling these responses when you are upset or anxious, you will negatively associate that response during exercise and, naturally, you will want to stop. However, think about it. What happens when you get excited for something? Your heart rate elevates, your breathing becomes more dramatic, and you may even start sweating. These are the same reactions you get during stress, and you guessed it, exercise! So, why not trick our brains during times of stress or discomfort. Instead on concentrating on these side effects as bad things, trick yourself into thinking they feel good, and exciting, until you actually believe it!
I can honestly say that I enjoy these sensations during exercise and even better is that feeling when you overcome the initial stress of exercise and start to enjoy the ride. Sometimes I get such a rush from exercise that I can’t sleep because I am so excited for the next day’s workout. I know, I’m crazy. But I do, I love those sensations – sweat poring down my face, my heart racing, my breath heavy – they are so satisfying to me that I crave them. You can feel this same way! (Insider tip: drink 8 to 16 oz of coffee 1 hour before exercise to help give you a boost! Coffee can actually diminish signals of pain in the body and increase your endurance!)
Our bodies are habitual, once you get a routine in place soon enough it will become so much of a habit that when you don’t workout you will crave those same side effects you used to dread so much. More exhilarating than feeling yourself get stronger, is seeing and experiencing the results. There is so much more to the post-exercise high than just a release of endorphins. After a workout, food tastes better, showers feel better, and you look better! Most of that gratification comes from the feeling of accomplishment.
If during exercise, while starting a new workout routine, or pushing through any challenge, really, we can get passed new, uncomfortable feelings and maybe even learn to enjoy them, we can reach our goals and make new strides.
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