I must confess something today.
Some 20 weeks ago, I wrote a post about the marathon training that was about to begin. Since 2009, I had not missed one Bluenose Marathon (running 5K the first year, then 10K, and finally the half-marathon last year). I was determined to try the full this year (or at least run a half again).
However, as it sometimes happens in life, things got in the way.
Oh, how I abhor blaming things on the weather. I have run in all kinds of conditions, from rain to black ice, from strong winds to -20 Celsius. But there lies my problem: if it gets colder than -20, I don't run. It's just plain dangerous (I am asthmatic, by the way). And this year, according to the experts, was the coldest winter since the mid-nineties (that is, in about 20 years). At the time slot my running partner K and I run, i.e. 5 am, it is usually cold. But this year in particular, it often dropped under -20, meaning we had to miss many training sessions in the first few weeks of the program.
Not only did Mother Nature fail me, my body did. In February, I caught something that could very well have been the flu. The real flu. The one that completely knocks you down for many days, and from which you need many more days to recover once you're finally out of bed. I will never know for sure what hit me this past February, but as far as my blurry memory can tell, it hit hard.
Then as March arrived and the weather slowly (very slowly) started to warm up, and as the last flu symptoms and the exhaustion had finally disappeared, I started having knee problems, which was bizarre since I hadn't been running very much. In any case, any attempt to run made it much worse.
By then I was already many weeks behind in my training program. So one fateful day, after too much frustration and disappointment, I made the difficult decision: I was not going to run the Bluenose this year.
Interestingly, I felt much better right away. I was - and I still am - okay with that decision. You cannot control everything in life, and this winter was just a very bad one for me.
But then I made a mistake. I also cut down on the gym workouts. I was very tired, after all. Then, some not-so-healthy foods crept back into my diet.
Luckily, good habits die hard, and I still did « relatively well » health and fitness wise. I might not be as fit as I was last year at the same date (scares me to think about it), but I haven't completely fallen apart physically.
However, there has been another, unexpected effect. A big one. And this effect is not physical. It is MENTAL.
Without the constant stimulation of challenging runs and workouts, and with the reintroduction of bad sugars and fats into my diet, something did go downhill:
My mental energy and my mood!
I don't remember the last time I felt as « blah » as this winter. Or if I do remember it, it was a long time ago.
It's fascinating to see how not working out on a daily basis, and how not eating clean most of the time, can change things in a matter of months. This winter I felt more tired, more impatient, more stressed, more negative. I also felt less energetic, less zen, less enthusiastic... in a word...
... less HAPPY.
To me, this is a confirmation that putting the right fuel into our bodies, and exercising sufficiently, does indeed (studies have been showing it time and again) play a significant role on what happens between our two ears.
Given the prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in our society, I believe this to be extremely important! Anybody who does not feel so good mentally should probably, before attempting anything else, get moving and cut down on the junk!
(And by the way, wine and chocolate will NOT make you happy in the way that a healthy lifestyle does. Tried and tested!)
I might not have had the nicest winter, but you can be sure that I am back on track, and that I will remember this unpleasant experience with the slacker lifestyle!
Have you experienced the link between mental health and body health?
And now for more on the « Science of Happiness »,
specially delivered by the experts at UC Berkeley: