Posted by: Jack Hope | Thursday July 19, 2012

Running Against Depression

In the last couple of days I’ve started a program to learn to run for thirty minutes continuously. The object of the program is to build a running habit of 30 minutes every day, as a way to improve physical (and in my case, mental) health.

So every day since Sunday I have been out in a local field, iPhone in hand with the built-in stop watch feature set and the music blaring, running around as recommended by this program suggested by About.com. Divided up into bursts of running for 1, 2 or 3 minutes, separated by 1 minute walking segments, the idea is to slowly strengthen myself until I can run for 30 minutes without stopping.

So far, it’s been intense but good, although it’s still early days. I get an e-mail every day telling me what today’s 30 minutes will look like.

Why running?

I’ve struggled for the last several years to find a consistent exercise routine. The closest that I’ve come to date has been my participation in dragonboating. Dragonboating is a fantastic sport in that anyone can participate regardless of their skill and fitness levels and that provides a lot of core exercise. It’s also a team sport, which is great for socializing, and it opens op a lot of possibilities to compete in a variety of locations.

But dragonboating is a seasonal sport, largely in spring and summer. There’s few opportunities to participate in it during the fall and winter.

I’ve previously joined gyms and done more traditional work outs but those are subject to a person’s ability to routinely pay the necessary fees. Unfortunately, as someone who struggles with mental illness, I haven’t always been able to manage that. Fall off the wagon one month and suddenly it becomes a lot easier to just skip the next.

Running on the other hand, can be done year round and requires little more than a good pair of shoes and iPod to entertain you. Weather obviously has an impact, but back on the Coast, it never gets cold enough to deter me from going outside.

Running in short, requires little in the way of ongoing financial support and can be done all the time. It’s a simple and  effective way to add some physical activity to my routine that’s not dependent on anything other than my own motivation.

One of the things that I’ve commented on recently was how a lot of the new habits I built over the last year continued through my last relapse into Depression, how I continued to make sure my kitchen was clean, how I continued to take care of my self in ways that I hadn’t been able to before.

My new habits proved to be very durable, despite the relapse, and may have even helped to mitigate it.

Running may be the new habit that provides a very needed physical activity habit that may further mitigate future episodes, to the point where I remain more functional during the episode. A durable running habit may be another piece in building my post-Depression future.

We’ll see. First I have to get through this three-week getting started training. Then I’ll have a much better idea as to whether or not this going to work for me.

You can check out the program I am using here.

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Responses

  1. This is great! I used to run, and I’ve had similar struggles with getting back into exercise. You’ve planted the seed in my brain to try to start running again.

    • Thanks, I’m surprised how much I am taking to it this time. I suspect (and hope) that that’s in part due to me having my symptoms managed better then they have been in the recent past!

  2. They say of you can maintain a new activity for 1 month it becomes a habit. Good luck with running, I can’t run, bad knee. Never could run or jog for long periods anyway (no cardio stamina. Lol. I do miss and want to get a bike. When I lived in Seattle I gave up my car for a bike as my main transportation and also rode for pleasure. It was great. 🙂

    • 21 days is what I’ve been told, which is the length of this program. I used to really envy people who were really consistently active, especially the people who biked to work. It used to be my dream to live close enough to work to be able to walk there but now I think I might just aim for being close enough to bike!

  3. That is really an awesome accomplishment, especially when you are in a deep depression. I began walking back in December for a diversion to my overwhelming anxiety. I didn’t have high hopes because I just didn’t feel committed to it. But I did stick with it, I walked even on the coldest and blizzard like days. I kept telling myself I had to walk instead of taking an Ativan, and I did walk. I am still walking to my disbelief. But it has helped the anxiety I wake up with in the morning. And I lost 37 pounds as well. It is amazing what we can do if we set our minds to do it. You can stick with it, remind yourself it is prescribed medication in a sense. You need it. And I believe you will be a success. Keep running.-Boo

    • Thanks so much for the support! I am also trying to treat it the same way that I treat my medication, as a necessary and important part of getting healthy and managing my symptoms.

      I’ve always been a walker, except for when I am at the absolute depths of Depression and I’m hoping that kicking up the activity level will be a long term benefit.

      • I think you found exactly what you need and can accomplish, even in depresssion when we are at our worst.

  4. 🙂 nice idea! Any idea that focuses our energy on doing somethign good for any aspect of ourselves I think helps. Prioritizing myself and doing things that are good for me…make me feel good! 🙂 Plus all that lovely free and legal adrenaline…woohoo. Enjoy! 🙂

    • Thanks, I am enjoying it. I’m excited to see if I can make it to the end of the 3 week program!


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