Making Time for Exercise

Making Time for Exercise Bipolar Mom Life{photo by my kids}

This is the fourth post of a 12-week series on How I Learned to Manage My Bipolar Illness by Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle.

Growing up, I was never much of an athlete. Sure, I took dance classes since age eight, and swam on the swim team in the summers. But I could never stretch as far or jump as high as my dancer friends, nor swim fast enough to win first or second place in swim meets. Still, my love of being part of a team led me to meet some of my closest and dearest friends during college when I joined the club water polo team. I may have only scored one or two goals during my entire four years of playing, but I scored big time with the friendships I made through the sport.

Active, but not committed

Despite an active lifestyle for much of my childhood and early adulthood, I never pushed my body to truly discover what it was capable of. The closest I came to this was my junior year of college when I added a weightlifting routine to my water polo practice schedule following the advice of our coach. That year I was in the best shape of my life, but I got bored easily and gave up on the weight training during the spring semester.

Before my bipolar illness emerged, I was putting in long hours at the office, but I’d still make time for the gym. My husband and I belonged to a Gold’s Gym right across the street from our townhouse, and we’d go together five to six times a week. The time I’d log on the elliptical machine kept me in decent shape, but I always felt like dragging myself to the gym was such a chore. I didn’t look forward to it, I felt self-conscious, and when we moved we didn’t rush to join another gym. In fact, we bought an elliptical machine to put in our basement so we’d have the convenience of working out at home.

I attended my first yoga class at that Gold’s Gym, the week after I was released from my first psychiatric hospitalization. Yoga was exactly what I needed at that moment. Yoga calmed me, taught me how to breathe, and how to appreciate the struggles of my life.

Fitness took a back-burner when babies arrived

When I got pregnant in 2008, I used pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I gained 43 pounds during my first pregnancy and on my small frame it was a lot for me to carry. The elliptical machine definitely was worth the investment, although it took me an entire year to lose the baby weight. I was more conscious of my eating during my second pregnancy in 2010, and took a prenatal pilates class. I made healthier choices, gained only 23 pounds, and had a much easier time recovering from my repeat C-section.

In 2012, I became a vegetarian for about six months. I changed my eating habits and committed to an intense workout program, which jumpstarted my journey to a healthier lifestyle. Beachbody’s P90x program was exactly what I needed to understand what my body was capable of.

Realizing my potential

Since then, I’ve purchased several Beachbody home workout programs and have to say that I am a huge fan. They allow me to work out at home, whenever I can fit it into my schedule (which, with two kids on opposite school schedules, is a major benefit). Beachbody as a whole has moved almost all their programs to 30-minute workouts (or less! Shaun T has a 25-min workout), which makes their programs so attractive. For beginners, they always have a modification on the exercises in the videos, so if you are just starting out you follow the modifier until you’re strong enough to do the full exercise.

Exercise is now an important part of my treatment plan because it allows me to de-stress, unwind, and feel a sense of accomplishment for taking care of my body. Here are some tips for making exercise a priority in your daily life:

  • Write it down – schedule it on your calendar each day so that you don’t reach 9pm and realize you forgot to exercise
  • Set a goal – sign up for a 5k (or an 8k on the same day Annie runs her first half-marathon!) to give yourself something to work towards
  • Workout with a friend – set a date to walk with a friend or try out a new yoga or cycling class

I think it’s important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, so that you don’t dread doing it. There are so many ways to get active: at-home workout DVD’s, walking, yoga, cycling classes, pilates, swimming, and more. Find what you love and then go for it!

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  2. Exercise has been a key component for me to manage my mental health as well. Have you found your favorite program yet? I’d love to hear what it is.

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