Five fitness lessons I learned from my depression

Happy Belated Halloween!

Or as I think of it, a socially acceptable reason to dress like Captain America. 

A few months ago, I published a post on my struggle with depression.

It was by far my most popular post to date and I don’t pretend for one minute it’s related to my overall wit and charm.

Ok, maybe a little wit and charm. ;)


The post was popular because depression is so prevalent.

Last week at Spurling, I spent a little time offering a seminar on some of the strategies I’ve used to help get me going when I’ve felt stuck, in life and in fitness.

1. Sometimes feeling stuck is a sign that you need to make a change.

I know.

Thank you Captain Obvious.

When you feel stuck and mired in the struggle, it’s almost impossible to make a change. But sometimes you don't even recognize that something needs to change. 

Awareness is half the battle.

In the case of fitness, perhaps you no longer look forward to going to the gym. I was an avid runner while I struggled with depression, and it was my struggle to literally put one foot in front of the other that helped me realize I was in need of a major change.

2. Blink Twice.

A few years ago I had a therapist who had this maddening habit of doling out Buddhist stories and wisdom like a wise old sage atop a mountain. And there I was, having huffed and puffed my way to the top, only to find her sitting there, legs crossed and palms turned up saying something short and profound like this:

“Blink twice.”

To which I would claw my eyes out and unleash an unfiltered rant of expletives.

She was one of the most effective therapists I worked with, but I occasionally found myself like the Karate Kid waxing cars and catching flies with chopstix, wondering when we would get to the “real issues.”

The phrase "blink twice" comes from Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron, who suggests that we are only one blink away from change, from things being different. No, it’s not quite that easy, but it’s important to remember when we are stuck that even the tiniest of steps is progress.

Let me say that again; even the tiniest of steps is progress.

3. Start where you are.

Also from Pema Chodron, I spent last Friday’s post talking about this concept exclusively. You don’t need to wait until you are different or life is different to make a change. The tendency is to say I'll start "x" when "y" happens.

Don't wait for why.

Start right now, with where you are and who you are.

4. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

Ask yourself this question:

How’s that working for you?

And be brutally honest with the answer.

If you’ve been riding the recumbent bike for 30 minutes a day for six months and haven’t seen any change in your bodyfat, don’t expect month seven to produce different results.

Nothing will change if you don’t change. Whether it’s behavior or your reaction to the behavior, if you stay in the same habit pattern and habit loop, nothing will ever be different.

5. Change the narrative

This is the hardest one for me. Always the hardest. What story are you telling you about yourself? 

It's one thing to miss a workout. It's one thing to run slower than you used to run or spend a night with friends eating everything that's not inline with your nutrition plan.

It's another thing entirely to feed yourself a constant stream of criticism about your behavior.

It's one thing to be in a job you really hate, and another thing to focus every last bit of attention on all of the things you hate about the job. I've done this. I've lost days and months of my life focusing on all of the bad. On all of the suck.

There were good things during those difficult periods. But I was too focused on my negative narrative to see them.