Are you ready for this?
Do you really want to know my dirty little secret? I have re-discovered the amazing benefits of exercise on my mental health. In my case swimming!
As a New Year’s resolution, this year I, like so many thousands of others, decided to get more exercise. Not so simple for John due to a medical misadventure back in the 90’s and too much rugby in my younger years effecting my ability to walk. As my darling sister put it, “with knees like our’s bro we use them for pleasure not exercise!”
As a kid I hated swimming! I recall in my learn to swim lesson an event which simply meant I wouldn’t get back in the pool no matter what my Mum did, said or promised. Un-PC as it is, my learn to swim teacher pushed my head under the water and held it there too long! So swimming big no, no for John. And my options for exercise are limited. What about gyms…nah not unless I have to!
So many excuses and so many reasons!
Hell I’ll just garden and tell myself that’s enough…but IT IS NOT ENOUGH! Begrudgingly off to the local pool I did go. The proprietor of the pool was a friend of mine and when I rolled up he laughed at me and promptly told me I wouldn’t last the season. He was so sure he wouldn’t take my money giving me a seriously discounted pass “because he didn’t want to rip me off when I wouldn’t use it”. So very sure he not only discounted my pass he bet me “If you last this season the next season is on me”
Now I’m not sure if it was his way of hooking me in but as I explained to him, I can be very determined when I set my mind to it. When I started, I couldn’t really swim any stroke but breast stroke and even then I couldn’t swim a full length (50 m). I would swim from the deep end as far as I could then walk until I had recovered and repeat. By the end of the season (late April) I was swimming a kilometre 3 times a week, resting to allow my muscle to recover every second day.
How good does that feel.
What I didn’t notice was how this exercise changed my mental health, that was until I stopped. When I stopped I rapidly fell into a funk so serious I started to take anti-depressants which unfortunately in my case made me even worse! I struggled through the southern winter (thank God, it’s short here in Queensland) and was back in the pool 2 days after it opened in mid-September.
The impact was immediate! First day I only swam 300 metre (m), the water was ice cold, certainly refreshing! Day 2 500 m the next swim 800 m then finally my regular 1000 m and I remember that morning realising how calm I was how the same problems I had faced the previous week that seemed insurmountable no longer bothered me.
WebMD.com says this about these power packages of pleasure
“When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.”
Well I’m not sure on the last line…I don’t go well without my daily dose! (Click here to see what WebMD.com has to say about Swimming as an exercise)
I hate cold water!
I was not positive about this adventure at all and I cannot deny the amazing feeling I get from the exercise. I’m looking trimmer and fitter as well. Try it, for sure you will find it trying and if you stick to an exercise regime it will reward you mightily.
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