I am always on the lookout for wellness journeys to share with you, and this month’s is a true inspiration. For many people, hitting the half-century mark can be distressing, but for Angela, “life is just beginning.”
Giving Depression the Runaround:
How marathons were the answer to one woman’s mental health struggles
I am always on the lookout for wellness journeys to share with you, and this month’s is a true inspiration.
Meet: Angela Marini,PMP
Director, Project Management, Experient
For many people, hitting the half-century mark can be distressing, but for Angela, “life is just beginning.” Her positive attitude is born from confronting her health challenges and taking action. Here’s her story:
Angela struggled with depression, particularly SAD (seasonal affective disorder) since she was a young adult. Anti-depressant medications helped her cope and get through the dreaded winter months. However, she was never fond of the idea of relying exclusively on medications and she didn’t like the way she felt taking them.* At age 40, she began seeing a new doctor who practices holistic medicine. Together they identified triggers for her depression (unhealthy relationships, stress at work, poor eating and sleep habits, sedentary lifestyle from too much sitting at work) and solutions for healing herself and her body:
- Vitamin D during the dark winter season
- Happy light (natural light to increase melatonin)
- Running & Yoga to combat workday sitting and stay active
Running was the perfect lifestyle fit for Angela, a busy meeting professional in a high-stress career involving long work hours and extensive travel. Running provided the following perks:
Convenience: done anywhere, anytime and anyplace, with no equipment or scheduling needed.
Flexibility: fits into her busy life and does not require an exercise group or buddy, other than her dog Sadie who often accompanies her on her runs.
Economical: no gym required; the outdoors is Angela’s playground.
Energizer: Angela often runs early in the morning, before her workday, creating an “energy reserve” for the day and a time to “re-fuel before spending the day being nice to people and being on.”
New experiences: Visiting a city on foot has enabled Angela to see and experience a destination in a totally different way. For example, she’s been exposed to an entirely different Las Vegas during her early morning runs compared to late nights where one can barely walk, never mind run, through the crowds.
“Bodies have an incredible way of healing the self if we’re willing to do the work,” says Angela. Within three months of committing to regular exercise and making other positive lifestyle changes, Angela noticed a marked improvement to her mental and physical health. Within a year, she was able to stop antidepressants and maintains good physical and emotional health as well as a healthy weight. Here’s how Angela embarked on and stuck to her running regimen:
Set realistic interim goals: Angela kick-started her running by downloading and adhering to the Couch to 5 k Running Plan / C25K mobile App. Increasing mileage gradually each week, the free app gets people from the couch to running a 5 km (3.1 mile) run with 8 weeks. Her focus was on setting attainable goals and taking small steps (starting by alternating between running and walking) that built incrementally over time.
Set an end goal: Running a half marathon and not hating running after the event. Once Angela accomplished a half marathon, she committed to a full marathon giving her one-year to prepare and train.
Make a commitment: Angela got rid of her TV, changed her sleep schedule to go to sleep early and awake early, and followed a running schedule early mornings 4 times per week.
Seeing immediate results: Feeling more energetic and physically, mentally and emotionally better motivated Angela to stick to her plan.
The Marathon: Enjoying the Journey
In October 2016, Angela completed her full marathon (26 miles)!! Way to go! Putting the emphasis on comfort, not speed, Angela took the “speed demon” pressure off and ran the marathon in 5 hours and 24 minutes. Her focus was on having fun, being in the moment, and enjoying the beautiful, though cold, sunny day and the landmarks, monuments and scenery along the route. Angela thought she’d be feeling fatigued and would drop from exhaustion at the finish line. Instead she felt euphoric as she crossed the finish line cheered on by family, friends and spectators. A hot bath was all that Angela needed to recover from her first marathon. Two days later was back on track running and enjoying the journey.
Making Exercise Work
Running is Angela’s “health preserver” that keeps her afloat at work and during her business travels. Running before the workday helps her be more productive, more patient and gives her more stamina to get through the day. Angela’s work often comes running with her too. She uses her runs to problem solve, think creatively and generate new ideas. And she’s affecting change at work by organizing walking meetings and encouraging colleagues to take the stairs. At conferences, she sneaks out for 20 minutes at the end of day to squeeze in some physical activity — “If 20 minutes is all that I have, that’s good enough. I rather be active than check my emails. And I’d rather see and be connected to the city I’m visiting than see a glass building and eat institutional food.”
- Just get started
- Set realistic goals
- Stick to journey
- Listen to your body
- Know that body can do more than you think it can
Angela’s Final Words of Inspiration
It takes 30 days to create a new habit. “Don’t give up after the first week. Committing for 30 days will put you in a place where you can enjoy the activity and the journey.”
Be mindful and take a moment and reflect on that how you are feeling. “Hold onto that thought. That’s what will make you come back to your exercise journey.”
* I’m not recommending people go off their medications and start Angela’s program without speaking to their doctor. For some people, medications are necessary.
Do you have a story how you achieved a lifestyle goal? Or maybe you’re in the middle of your journey and looking for some extra motivation by sharing it with others? We want to hear from you. The vision for this blog is for it to become a supportive gathering place of inspirations and ideas, so send us your story and let’s all get healthier together!
Contact us to tell your story!
- Flex Your Mindfulness Muscles: A Practice to help you cope, focus and stay calm April 23, 2017
- Walk the Talk on a Treadmill Desk March 15, 2017
- I Love Interval Training February 11, 2017
- Rebalancing Act: Fallen off the Wellness Wagon? Here’s How to Get Back on Board January 14, 2017
- Giving Depression the Runaround December 12, 2016