Tag Archives: running

depression: part 1

7 Jan

PCOS is often associated with depression. But the fact that we are predisposed to depression for biological reasons does NOT mean that we are doomed to it! It doesn’t even always mean that PCOS sufferers need antidepressants, although I do take them. Today, I want to talk about a good first step toward controlling depression, for almost everybody: exercise.

Obviously, exercise is good for us on a number of levels. Its health benefits are undisputed. But even if you only exercise a little, it can help a lot with depression. You don’t have to be out there sweating up a storm to see this benefit (although you will feel even better if you do!).  Even a walk every morning–no matter whether it’s “brisk,” as all of the health magazines seem to specify, or not–will help. My theory on this is that it’s partly the physical activity; partly the sunshine, if you walk outside; and partly just the feeling of doing something good for yourself.  In my own life, because I have a job and two small children and a dissertation to write, a walk or run in the morning is a great source of solitude and a lovely opportunity to take a break from worrying about other people.

I know that, if you are suffering from depression, this sounds unrealistic. It is also really, really hard to do. And I am the last person to argue that it is enough to make you all better. But it’s a great start, and it’s free and good for you in other ways, too. Here are a few tips to help you get started and stick with it.

* If you can, enlist someone to support you and help you. My husband has prodded me out the door any of a number of mornings just by rolling over and mumbling, “Was that alarm for you? Oh, you’re going running, right?”–which is to say, by reinforcing the expectation that I will, indeed, get up and do it. Even if it’s early, and cold, and I don’t like either of those things.

* Log it. Seeing what you’ve accomplished over a month or two is motivating!

* If you’re an early-morning exerciser, get any gear you need ready the night before. I am terrible at this, but it’s such a nice bonus when I wake up and I have a running-ready outfit waiting for me and my iPod charged. I also try to remind myself that if I want to, I can take a lovely hot shower when I get home–a nice reward on those cold mornings.

* Don’t have a nice neighborhood for running/walking in? Neither do I. I live on a busy street with no sidewalks. So I have scoped out my area and I have a park and a scenic cemetery, each within a 5-minute drive. Driving to walk seems counterintuitive, but if it gets you somewhere nice, it’s worth it. I also run on the track at my university some mornings. Less interesting and less attractive, but easy on the joints. Examine your options–there are probably several choices of walking routes near you.

* Be proud of yourself. Even if you’re just taking a casual amble three times a week, that’s time you’re spending to make yourself better in all kinds of ways! Savor those moments and carve out the time you need to create them.

* Finally–last but not least–if this is out of reach for you because of depression, GET TREATMENT. I will have more to say about this in further posts, but it can’t be said often enough: depression is a disease and it CAN be treated. It’s not always easy, because different things work for different people, but most of us can find effective treatments and get relief.

just a moment to be thankful…

31 Oct

….for my iPod.

Now, I know that a lot of people discourage running/walking outdoors while wearing headphones or earbuds, and there are good reasons for that. If you work out outdoors, of course you want to use good sense–if you’re running alone at midnight in a bad part of town while blasting Neil Diamond, that is dangerous.

However, in a populated place, if you remain aware of your surroundings [you can use just one earbud if you like], I think music is safe enough. And it is a HUGE boost to the enjoyment I get from running. Running in silence is a little too much like work for my taste.

Enter the iPod.

I wear mine, which was a gift from my lovely in-laws, in an armband to keep it safe. I set up a playlist ahead of time with songs that will fit into the intervals I will be running that day, and then I can just hit “play” and do my run. I highly recommend a music player. Indeed, that plus running shoes are the only two pieces of equipment I think you need to become a runner.

couch to 5k update

26 Oct

I am hung up in week 5 of couch to 5k. I’m starting to think it’s more of a mental block than a physical one–during week 5 you’re supposed to jump from two 8-minute runs to a 20-minute run! That’s huge. I mean, it’s only 16 minutes to 20 minutes…but that walking break in the middle just seems so necessary.  Anyway, I’m working my way up. Today I did two 10-minute runs. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

The countdown to my 5k has begun, though; it’s 11/22. So I have to get cracking and put on some pressure!

Anyway, here’s an interesting exercise-related musing: I think that, even though I am a total wuss athlete, it has changed my whole view of myself to be doing this. Suddenly I do see myself as an athlete, even though I am such a beginner. I feel more powerful, more self-confident, and, even though I look just the same, prettier.

the program that got me off my butt

16 Oct

So, I was going to the gym regularly, but I was doing very easy cardio–walking on the treadmill, gentle cycling. It was hard for me to push myself harder when I didn’t have any guidelines or goals. I couldn’t attend the gym’s classes, because of my schedule.

The program that eventually made a difference and that’s helping me get more fit is a great running program called “Couch to 5k.” It takes nine weeks, although I am taking a LOT longer than that; I had an injury [a sprained ankle] and now I am taking it consciously slowly to avoid any other problems. However, from having trouble with the ninety-second running intervals of week 1, I am up to the 8-minute runs with no problem at all. This is amazing to me! I am not what I would consider a runner, and never have been; my idea of exercise NEVER involved running. I would have done almost anything else in preference to that. But since I started with this, I have grown to really like it. It’s still hard to push myself out of bed to do it in the morning, but I almost always manage it, and once I’m out there, I like it!

There are many different podcasts you can download to help you with this–they have music, plus the intervals you’re supposed to run. Check it out by searching for “couch to 5k” at iTunes. [Many are free, including the one I’ve been using, the “Chubby Jones” one.] These are really useful at the beginning of the program when you have a lot of short intervals, since those are annoying to time. As I got to weeks 4 and 5, I started mixing my own music playlists instead: 5 minutes or 3 minutes are easy to find songs for, and then you just run/walk as your song changes. But you could always stick with the podcasts if they’re working for you.

I started out on the treadmill, but when I resumed after my sprained ankle, I switched to running outside. I like it much better. It is harder–so I feel like I’m getting more fit in the same amount of time–and it’s a nicer environment. I run in a few different places: a nearby cemetery, a nearby park, and at the track at my university. You can find places near you, even if [as at my house] running on your street is like wearing a RUN ME OVER sign. Tracks are lovely because they’re softer and therefore easier on your joints, which is especially important if you’re overweight, which, if you have PCOS-related problems, you probably are.

The program itself can be found here. Note that you do not have to buy the program via ActiveTrainer; just scroll down and the whole plan is right on this page!

One word of warning here: “couch” is not really “couch.” It’s more like “a little bit active to 5k.” If you really are a couch potato [that is, if you haven’t been doing the kind of mild exercise I described at the beginning of this post], a few weeks of walking first would be a good idea.

A second word of warning: get good shoes. It makes all the difference. Seriously. I am poor but I still bought the good running shoes and it was a great investment. Go to a running shop, get professionally fitted, then go home and buy them online. [I know…a crappy thing to do, but if you’re poor, you’re poor.] You don’t need this year’s model, either. Mine are the same shoe that the shop suggested, but in the 2006 model, not this year’s, and they’re fine. I won’t recommend them just because I know that all feet are different and they won’t necessarily be good for you just because they work well for me! I also bought the Superfeet inserts that the shop recommended and they have been great, too.

So, in summary: this is a fantastic program that can be very motivating. There’s a lot of online community surrounding it, too, so you can go find a message board and read about other people at the same stage. I highly recommend it. Standard disclaimer, though–check with your doctor before embarking on any rigorous exercise program, just to be sure it’s right for you.