Science Wednesday: A throwback post on why exercise makes everything easier.

The last few days, I’ve been draggin’. Really. I even missed my goal of working out once every 48 hours…more than once. Yesterday, I finally got myself out and covered four miles, kicking and screaming the whole way, because you know what? Inertia can really set in sometimes and, well, blah. Then it’s hard to get started moving again. And then…we can just get stuck.

Exercise helps, always, no matter what else is going on. Today’s post is a throwback from February 2014, because I decided I really need a yoga class this morning, so I’m going to punt on writing a new post today (perhaps I’ll get something fresh up for what is usually Throwback Thursday). The post below is meant to inspire you to get you up and going. No matter how you feel when you start, you’ll feel awesome when you’re done. Trust me on this.

When stuff is hard, exercise helps. Always.

[Originally published on February 10, 2014]

The workflow at Every48 so far has gone something like this: I wake up, I have a theme in mind for a post, I write for a half hour or so, and I schedule the post to publish at 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific time every weekday. That doesn’t leave a ton of time for major-league research, but today’s topic demands some, so I’m going to touch on the big idea and delve more deeply into it this week, giving it the space and time it deserves.

Here it is: No matter what else is going on in our lives, exercise helps. It helps absolutely everything.

Exercise helps everything.

Guaranteed. Every time.
Guaranteed. Every time.

It really does. And it’s not wooey-wooey stuff I’m talking about. It’s physiology and brain chemistry. It’s the miles of capillaries that carry blood to our extremities. It’s the strength in our heart that keeps it beating healthfully for decades. And it’s the hormones that make us feel like life is worth living. At times when we’re down, exercise is a huge “up.” It’s not a panacea for severe clinical depression (seriously: if you’re way, way down and have been for a while, please contact a mental health professional – they can help you). But it’s a huge boost for the down times that all of us get into once in a while. If you’re in a funk, exercise helps.

Exercise basically kicks the pants off everything else we do to try to feel better. I promise.
Exercise basically kicks the pants off everything else we do to try to feel better. I promise.

Here are just a few of the things that I’ve experienced since committing to a healthy lifestyle that included decent nutrition and regular exercise:

1. A former employer who hadn’t seen me since my 40-pound weight loss told me I looked ten years younger than when he’d last seen me about three years earlier.

2. I ran a ridiculous personal record for the 10K, half-marathon, and marathon distances  when I was 39 (half-marathon and marathon), and 40 (10K). Ridiculous. Like, nine minutes off my marathon best, which was an 11-year-old PR. And six minutes off an already-decent half-marathon best, and on a hilly course, to boot.

3. There was a time in my life when I was down, emotionally, quite a bit. Those days just don’t hang around for very long anymore. Sure, I have my moments, but I don’t get into days-long funks anymore.

4. Breakthrough workouts. Once in a while I have a super-duper workout that just makes me feel awesomely strong. I had one of those on Saturday, actually – a great tempo run that felt really comfortable, at a great training pace. Felt super the rest of the day.

5. Every single item of clothing in my closet fits. All the time. There isn’t anything like pulling out the winter slacks or the summer shorts  and “hoping” they fit . Everything’s about the same size, and everything fits.

6. When I’m in a funk, I know that just getting started moving for five minutes will change my outlook. Then I keep moving. Then things really start to look good.

7. When I’m in a funk, I hang in there with my workouts until the clouds part. It always happens eventually. At the spin class I took after a tough marathon in December, 9 days after the race, the funk lasted 20 minutes. The class lasted 60 minutes. I walked out of the gym feeling like a badass again.

8. Major-league confidence. As in, having the confidence to pursue the career path I really want – not just the one that creates a comfortable income. And, leaving bad work situations quickly. (I’m sort of amazed at how many workplace bullies and unethical people there are in the world, even here in Seattle. I don’t work for them. Ever.)

9. I don’t take other people’s B.S. I’m decently nice about it, but if you attempt to bully me, you will find out very quickly that you picked the wrong person. And that was not always the case in my life. But it is today, and it will be that way until I go to the great marathon course in the sky.

That’s what exercise does for me. There you go.

[And back to real time: September 24, 2014:]

Yesterday’s #Every48 workout: A four-mile RUN with a few judicious walking breaks thrown in, because I was really dragging and had no energy. It was drizzling, too, which was actually really nice. I listened to some great stand-up comedy and just got the distance covered. Onward.

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