Exercise - Crucial for my Stability

    I cannot overstate this enough; I have to exercise, it is crucial to my new found stability. If you do not believe me, ask my girlfriend, she'd be happy to tell you that my outlook on life can change afterwards, completely at times. I even believe that when she asks, "are you going to work out today?", that she is implying I might need it, and bless her heart, she is usually right. 

    It felt like an embellishment at first to say that I have to work out. Upon reflection though, it has become such a part of my regular routine that I do not believe I have gone more than three days, but definitely not four, without exercising in some form or fashion since I have found consistency and a semblance of stability in my life. I have taken walks and light bike rides through excruciating back pain, runs in the winter, body workouts in tiny rooms and whatever else it took to keep that routine going. 

    Why is working out so crucial to my consistency and stability? (There are a million reasons, but they are well covered, just google it and start doing it) For me, there are three key reasons: 

1. I feel stronger and accomplished when I do not believe I am either. There are many days, and every day when I started, that my confidence is shaky or often times shattered for a good reason or no reason, my brain doesn't discriminate. Getting stronger also provides more confidence and helps with my lower back pain which is common for those with bipolar and on mood stabilizing medications (also a requirement). It is nearly impossible for me to not feel somewhat better after exercising, that is reason enough for me.  

2. The flow state and focus on pain, repetition, distance, and/ or endurance allows my brain to refresh, take a break, and often process things I otherwise cannot. Many times my brain will not think clearly, there are too many ideas, thoughts, or rumination on negative events and severe, but unlikely consequences. In the past, I drank to blackout, like all the time. Now, I give myself three options, nap, exercise or write (sorry).

3. Lastly, exercise often uses up extra energy in my mind and body and helps with sleep. People forget that this condition truly affects the mind and body, together and equally. Alternatively, it helps me wake up when all I want to do is sleep. In other words, it is integral for me to work out when I'm in a hypomanic swing, major depression or anywhere in between. Welcome to the Goldilocks Paradox of life with bipolar!

    It is here that I remind people of two things; I started from zero and just because it works this well for me doesn't mean it will for everyone. I had total reconstructive surgery on my quadriceps in March of 2017 (that story later), so the first time I walked without a brace it was to the end of the driveway and back. Then around the block, to the end of the street, etc, with each step being a major victory. Ultimately, a rare stretch of stability and a long run with hypomania (just realized this and pun intended), I ended up completing a half-marathon 18 months after surgery before diagnosis and unmedicated.  

    Like everything else, I lacked consistency and basically stopped running, like the next day. I did not start again until I ramped up from simple walks during a 6 week lay off during Covid. I haven't stopped since. I no longer just run (I hate my lower back), I added biking, bodyweight/lightweight workouts, and specifically core and stretching to help with the tightness that accompanies bipolar and the underlying symptoms; depression, anxiety, irritability, trauma, etc... 

    The rest is history. I have to do it, but I love it. I crave it. I need it. Start somewhere, give yourself and your body a chance to prove your mind wrong. I promise you, if I can do it starting from no where, you can do it too. Start small and without an end goal. As with anything else, just enjoy the journey and the results that follow. 

    As always, thank you so much for reading! I'll probably be back with a video soon, I needed a few days off to recover from my first speaking event (I did a really really easy bike work out that night to try to work off the hefty amounts of nerves and adrenaline coursing through my mind and body), I'm off to the bike!

Lee Formella

@benefitsofbipolar YouTube

@benefits_of_bipolar IG


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