A while back in one of my early sessions with Celine (CBT Lady), I made a list of goals that I wanted to do, or to start doing again. Most were boring, logistical things like spending only reasonable amounts of time on uni work and eating three meals a day. I also included a couple of fun things, like trying to go out with friends once a week, and to go for a run once or twice a week.

In truth, I was already often going for a run once a week with a friend, so that part of my goals wasn’t too arduous. But at least it kept Celine happy, as she probably otherwise would have gone off on a typically therapist mantra of ‘exercise, exercise, excercise and everything will be happy jolly bunnies’. I also suggested that that would kill two birds with one stone on my list (friends + run), so was a bit crestfallen when Celine pointed out that that slightly missed the point of trying to work a range of activities back into my life!

I managed to keep up going for a run about once a week for most of this year. Though I think I categorically can say it is not responsible for helping me feel less low now! When I was feeling my worst this year, through Feb, March & April, it definitely didn’t benefit me at all going for runs on 3 or 4hrs sleep (I allowed myself to cop out if I’d only managed 2hrs) and on a fairly empty stomach having often forgotten to eat the previous evening (sounds silly now, but I seemed to achieve that on more occasions that I care to remember)!

Edit: After discussing this with my friend about the benefits of running on my mood, he diplomatically suggested running had helped afterall, as I’d clearly forgotten the worst of how I felt! In fact I hadn’t managed to run throughout the year at all: I’d run til mid Feb when I hit total exhaustion and was physically ill for nearly two weeks. It was then nearly two months before I felt like moving myself into running again. Though my friend continued to offer going for a run each week. I must have been remembering that act of kindness, and blocking that fact that I didn’t actually go! 

I think the running itself only prolonged my vicious cirles around uni work as I’d only end up spending the rest of the day and the next feeling exhausted and then feeling guilty for not getting as much done as I needed to, so I then had to stay up later and miss more meals in a bid to catch up! Also, in previous years I’ve played several sports on various teams at any given moment, and my low moods didn’t know to keep away then either. (Really I was just replacing everything else I should have been doing with an extortionate amount of sport, which was pretty ugly itself. I’m grateful my dr didn’t send me on my way without help, which some one else subscribing to exercise =everything-is-fine may have done)

The one thing I think might be good about the concept of exercise, exercise, exercise, no matter how much flack it gets and however much I hated it at the time, is that it helped me ‘hit the ground  running’ (no pun intended) once I got through my most depressed time (which was mostly thanks to time and meds). Because I was running already, now I just needed start enjoying it properly. Otherwise it would have taken more time to pull myself out of default depression mode trying to think of what to do with myself once I felt a bit better.

Since I’ve been home for just over week, I’ve gone for a few runs. I’m aiming for every other day now – trying to find a balance of optimism and realism – I know I’d just give up altogether trying to go every day. The first two times I ran my loop in 28 minutes, and today I managed 27 minutes! I don’t know how far it is, not more than three miles, but it does have a killer hill at the end!

I’m looking forward to getting into a running routine – in previous summers I’ve tended to see the same people out, in roughly the same locations, at the same times each morning. It’s an odd sort of relationship we have with each other: the interaction is limited to a brief wave and an exhaled grunted ‘hey’ (or ‘morning’ if it’s early on in the run and feeling particularly energetic),and in any other sort of situation we would barely recognise one another (not least because of wearing proper clothes), or have anything else in common. Yet we see each other at quite a vulnerable, if superficial, point: girls with no make up on, guys in pools of sweat and close to exhaustion. It’s funny how much you can gather, and give a good deal of empathy/sympathy/support to each other, depending on their running style and ease or strained gait that day.

And I guess it’ll always be good to get out if only to avoid those mean side effects of mirtazapine 😉