Sunday, October 4, 2015

On Exercise and Anxiety

I've been mulling this over for a few weeks and am ready to write about it. I have panic disorder, which is well controlled, thank you very much. But, my biggest challenge in working out is overcoming my anxiety. Sometimes when exercising,  anxiety raises its ugly little head. Not a full blown panic attack, mind you, but it is there in the background. See, the very signifiers of a good workout- increased respiratory and heart rates, and in challenging strength workouts, muscle fatigue or even muscle trembling  (hello side planks), can mimic the physical sensations of a panic attack and/or be the trigger for one.

Avoidance is a classic coping mechanism within those with panic disorder, and I think my lack of commitment to working out stems from this. Don't exercise hard, and you avoid those sensations.

In my treatment for panic disorder, I learned to stop avoiding and face the world. Now I am doing the same with exercise.

I find that I can push myself hard on the stationary bike and not feel anxious, probably because I am in a sitting position (anxiety is weird and irrational). I do ok with strength workouts from my magazines. But, it's those exercise videos that get me.

I have a number of videos that I cycle through, they are almost all from The Firm, Jillian Michaels, and Crunch. They are all designed to really make you work, which is what I want, but sometimes they trigger those anxious feelings. Anxiety, but not panic, which itself is a victory.

I've got my own formula for working through it. First is that I HAVE to do a video every workout day. But here's where the formula comes in. I don't necessarily have to do the whole thing. Before starting, I commit myself to a certain number of minutes. This is based on whether and how long I rode the exercise bike that day, and how much I did on the said video the previous time I did it. Once I hit that minute goal, I have permission from myself to stop, or I can keep going for as long as I want.

If I start feeling that I can't do it, I remind myself that each time I workout I get a little stronger and build my endurance a little more. Then I think about Casey pushing herself through Cross Fit and HIIT. And, I remind myself of when I went to surf camp. It was so physically demanding, but at the end of the weekend I felt like I could do ANYTHING. (except catch waves consistently, but hey, that's my main motivation in getting strong and fit).

Today I did a new video, Crunch Fat Burning Ab Attack. I promised myself 5 minutes. (I had done 40 min on the bike). I got to the 5 min mark and kept going, and going. I did the whole video. It will probably hurt to laugh tomorrow  (it really did attack my abs), but I feel great! Strong and accomplished. I really can do anything!