219 in 2019 · fitness

Workout #300 (and 301 through 305.5)


Tuesday this week, I had a super long day ahead of me, with really challenging work.  Somehow, I got out of bed and went to a 6 am spinning class.  (Then I might have been really annoying about it on FB).

Screenshot 2019-11-06 17.26.12

I’m not a crack of dawn worker-outer — but something in me just knew that this class was a thing I would need for my day. And my day was hard, but I navigated it with a certain amount of ease.

That spin class was workout #304 for 2019.

Not that long ago, I wrote about hitting my 250th workout for 2019.”  In that post, I reflected on how taking on the “217 in 2017″ challenge nearly three years ago had transformed my relationship with working out — and in fact in some ways, has actually transformed my identity.  I used to be a person who worked out often, but there was a lot of negotiation and whinging about whether I really “felt like it” or not.  More times than I can count, I got as far as putting on running gear but never getting out the door.  (Christine wrote about this kind of exercise procrastination last week.  It’s definitely a thing).

Somewhere in the past two years, I turned into a person who works out every day, pretty much, unless something seriously prevents me.  I’m not sure exactly when or why it happened — in 2017, I had to stretch to hit my 217th workout on Christmas day.  In 2018, I hit 218 by August, and kind of gritted my teeth to reach 300 before the end of the year (302 in total).  This year, I sailed past 300 last weekend, and felt confident about setting a goal of 350 by the end of the year.

Cate pictured in the middle of a 5km run, on a trail under a painted metal bridge last Saturday, workout #300

A casual observer might think that reaching for 350 workouts this year might be a slightly obsessive manifestation of my weird affinity for counting things.  (For a very non-data-driven person, I take an unseemly satisfaction from hitting cumulative numbers of workouts, steps, kilometres ridden, streaks).  But I had a realization last week that it’s something a lot different than that — working out in some way almost every day this year has had a pretty profound effect on my emotional landscape.

I have been bleating about the relationship between exercise and mental health for years now.  It’s a proven thing, so familiar it’s almost a cliche.  Exercise can prevent or help manage depression, lessen anxiety and stress, and just generally lighten your mood.  I’ve “known” this for decades.  But I’ve never felt it in such a steady, persistent way before.

My new yoga studio set up for a restorative class. Bliss

A couple of months ago, my business partner commented that I seemed so much more patient these days.  And despite some intense work stress and considerable lashings of perimenopausal PMS and hormonal swings, I’m actually feeling an emotional buffer — dare I say emotional regulation — that I’ve sought most of my life.  Since I was a small child, I’ve had a lot of anxiety and stress. (Picture poor little 7 year old me crying on the couch, clutching my stomach and freaking out my teenage babysitter, because we were about to move.  Then multiply that for countless other experiences throughout my life).  Most of my adult life I’ve had a tendency to impatience and irritability, with a fair bit of volatility at the worst points in my life.  I’ve taken anti-depressants, run marathons, meditated, yoga’ed, and done a ton of “inner work,” as they say.  All of those things have helped steady me — along with the magical seasoning of being past 50 — but I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as in balance as I do right now.  Stressful stuff still happens — and I feel it — but I can hold it at arm’s length, breathe through it, detach from its power — in a way I never have before.

The 305.5 workouts I’ve done so far this year are a melange, ranging from a brisk 4 km walk or hour of restorative yoga to 7 hour bike rides and cross-fit classes.  Turns out, for more emotionally regulated, balanced me, it’s not about intensity of any given episode of exercise, but about a steady stream of them.  I don’t know exactly what brain/metabolic process is being triggered here, but it’s definitely a good thing.

This realization doesn’t mean I’m going to grimly trudge through a prescriptive roster of movement, for my own good. 95% of time, I fully enjoy whatever exercise I’m doing, once I’m doing it.  It’s the starting to exercise part that has always been a source of avoidance and irritation.  Somehow in the past three years, it’s stopped being optional — it’s just is a thing I do. This realization about the impact just reinforces that shift.

What about you?  Can you actually feel the difference for your mental and emotional health of regular movement?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works out in Toronto.




15 thoughts on “Workout #300 (and 301 through 305.5)

  1. This is a great reflection on regular exercise. I’ve also felt transformed by the 219 in 2019 group. It’s amazing how some sort of activity has now become a part of day by default and I’m actually bothered on the days I can’t (not in an obsessive way but in the way a person might be bothered if they can’t find time or the right thing to eat when they’re hungry). That’s why being told I can’t run has been so hard. But I’m still doing something almost every day and I feel it when I don’t. I love your description of the emotional balance and regulation you’re experiencing. It’s beautiful to see. And I want that restorative yoga class!!

  2. Also, despite a Hatha yoga class last night and a good strength workout this morning, I was still testy at a coffee shop this morning….#unexplainedirritability

  3. YES! I take one day off a week and I find that if I don’t, that tips me into physical exhaustion, but if I stick with 6 days a week, much better. I need to move my body, helps me move my thoughts and emotions!

    1. I love the way you explain that, Mina. I am also really balancing the need for movement with the need for rest (which tends to look more like a focused walk vs. a “workout”).

  4. I could have written this post myself. The 219 in 2019 group has absolutely changed my perspective and had a positive impact on my mental health. I’m already looking forward to 220 in 2020.

  5. Love this. I love the wide range of activities that people do in the group. I love the idea of exercise as a regular habit. Certainly for me, it’s made me add to the blend of things that I do. I’m better at working out on campus during the workday since I am often here into the evenings. I’m aiming for 300. We’ll see. It might be close.

  6. Totally agree about my mental health being better when I move. I aim to get to the gym 3-4 days a week and walk/do yoga the other days although I haven’t done the count my workouts thing and lately I know I’m not getting there as often as I like. And I can feel it when I don’t – I’m more sore and more grumpy too so resent life getting in the way of my workouts! Hoping for a snowy winter because skiing/snow-shoeing totally changed my views on cold.

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