Most of the clients who walk through the doors of McClure fitness are trying to get fit. 75% of the time, that means attempting to lose weight, whether it be 5 pounds or 75 pounds. I get stuck in a fitness bubble where I concentrate all my energy on helping folks lose weight and burn as many calories as possible. However, I also try to encourage my people to celebrate “non-scale victories” also. These are victories that are a direct result of habitual exercise that the scale cannot measure. Non-scale victories can be anything from getting off diabetes or blood pressure medicine, doing a real push- or pull-up for the first time, keeping up with family on an active vacation like Disney World, buying smaller clothes, sleeping better and gaining confidence.
All of these victories are visible. You can step inside the gym doors and see that real pushup, you can log onto Facebook and see the picture of Susie in her new, slim shorts, chasing her sons at Disney. These are real, concrete things that don’t take imagination.
But not everything is that concrete, that black and white.
Sometimes, the biggest non-scale victory is an emotional one.
Sometimes, the physical work our bodies can do will literally not only change the outside…but also the inside.
We all know that when you exercise, your body releases endorphins and boosts serotonin and dopamine. These are chemicals that trigger a positive feeling in the body; basically, they make you happy and act as your body’s natural anti-depressants.
One in ten people in the United States struggles with depression, and exercise is a proven and effective way to help treat the condition. Maybe you are the one who struggles with depression or maybe you have someone in your life who struggles. If you have someone in your life who does struggle with depression or anxiety, whether it is mild or severe, you need to learn how exercise can help so that you can help them. Maybe it will get you exercising, too!
1. Start out slowly. You can go for a walk or jog outside, or do an online workout video for 10-15 minutes. Just do exercise two or three times a week for a month, each time trying to add a couple more minutes. Work towards a goal, like running for 30 minutes or trying a group fitness class.
2. Ask some folks in your life to be accountability partners for you; tell them your exercise goals and check in with them at least once a week. Maybe they even live nearby and can meet you to exercise. Specifically ask an accountability partner to kindly force you to exercise on the days when you are feeling especially down or overwhelmed. Going for a walk with this person and talking about your day could be exactly what you need. If you are the accountability partner, do your job to encourage and motivate your friend toward goals; don’t allow excuses.
3. Set non-physical goals, like working out three times a week, hitting your daily water intake or talking to your accountability partner. If you need to clean up your diet, consider removing one bad food every couple of weeks: soda, processed sugar, white bread, etc. You can also use a food journal to learn what foods are healthy. My Fitness Pal is a free app that is easy to use and will provide calorie and nutrition information.
4. If you are trying to lose (or gain) weight, resist weighing yourself except once a month. The scale is not a motivator. It does not define you. A better way to track your progress is to measure or take monthly pictures. While you might cringe at the first picture, you will slowly become proud of your progress as you continue to work towards your goals.
5. Exercise even when you don’t feel like it. Those are the times you need it the most!
6. Try yoga. The meditative element and breathing techniques that you will learn can prove incredibly effective at helping calm the mind.
7. Celebrate all victories! Remind yourself constantly that you are striving for progress, not perfection.
Back to our non-scale victories – for those who struggle with depression and anxiety, exercise can give you your life back. It can return you to you. You will gain confidence and self-esteem. Those are victories well worth striving towards.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician. My intention in writing this article is to encourage those struggling with depression to experiment treating their condition with exercise. I am not suggesting that anyone quit taking anti-depressants. You might always need a combination of medications, and I simply suggest that life might be brighter if you get out and move your body!