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  • Writer's pictureKris Barling

It's all a mental game

I’m pretty excited!!!! I was able to go back to work today!!!!!! Yep, I am excited about that because I absolutely love my Club and the people I spend time when I am there. So, this post is a pretty damn positive one :)

I was happy to do another swim this morning, but this time I was on my own and knew I had to drive afterward so I didn’t want to push it too far and only did 1200m. After swimming, it is always a challenge to walk to the car, especially when I didn’t have someone to drive the car closer to me. As I slowly hobbled out of the pool and toward the car park, a man with a walking stick went past me at a pace that felt like he was Usain Bolt, to his car which was parked in the disabled parking space. At that moment, my car looked as though it was 100 miles away and reaching it was going to take forever. Thankfully I had thought ahead, popped a couple of anti-inflammatories as soon as I got out of the pool and I had my ice pack in an esky in the car. Yep, this was the sort of preparation I had to do in order to complete this swim on my own and walk the massive distance to the car park. I am thinking that I may look to apply for a temporary disabled parking permit. Doing this is going to involve sucking up a massive amount of pride, which I’m not quite sure I am ready to do. So, we will see……Thankfully my plan of attack worked and after sitting in the car with the ice pack on for about ten minutes, I was able to safely drive. I am very grateful that I’ve now been able to remove the pain medication that affects my ability to drive so I was able to complete this swim and make it home. This very small step back towards independence was very important to me. It’s difficult to go from being a highly capable person to relying so heavily on others for day to day life.

I managed to work a few hours, even after having done my swim, which as I mentioned, has made me exceptionally happy. On my way out I saw one of my beautiful members who asked how I was going. We talked a little about what I was doing and my physical progress. She then asked me how I was coping. I started to talk more about how I was now capable of walking further, until she interrupted me and let me know that she was referring to my mental state. I pretty quickly replied that I was actually surprisingly doing ok, in fact, I was mentally feeling really good. I was focusing on all of the things that I could control rather than the things that I couldn’t and this was really helping me. I could tell that she was really happy to hear this and it meant the world to me that she was interested enough to ask.

After our conversation, the whole way home I was thinking about the question she asked me and what my answer would have been if this situation had occurred a few years ago. The reality is I think it may have mentally broken me. Actually, it definitely would have. Although I have had moments where I have struggled, I have mostly been able to manage my emotions. In the past I would have gone downhill, probably eaten poor food, definitely would have resorted to drinking large amounts of alcohol and would have been extremely depressed. There are a few reasons why this would have happened. Obviously, I have been in a great deal of pain and unable to exercise, but mostly because my life, as I knew it, has completely changed. The things that I really love to do (teach Group Fitness and lifting heavy weights) are out of the picture for around 6-12 months, possibly even for the rest of my life. In the past, not being able to exercise alone would have sent me on a downward spiral, let alone the potential long term implications of the injury. This was because, when I very first started to exercise and diet, it was because I hated the person that I was. It was my way of changing the way I looked as I used to hate the way I looked. I had so many occasions where I would break down in tears in changing rooms at shops because of how much I hated the way that I looked. When I looked at myself in the mirror I would say the most horrible things about my physical appearance. Exercise and dieting was my way of being able to change this. Of course, the endorphin response in the body as a result of exercise would also help me to feel good or at least slightly better than I did before exercising, but that would have been short lived. When I wasn’t able to exercise, even if it was due to factors that I had no control over or if I didn’t stick to my diet I would mentally beat myself up, adding further to my depression. I would exercise when I was sick and often put it as a higher priority than my personal relationships. Because of exercise and the changes to my physical state, I was able to keep my depression at a manageable level. The problem was that I had yet to address the psychological aspect of this.

A couple of years ago, I went through a pretty terrible patch with my health, with injury and illness. I have written and spoken about this before and this was the time that I hit rock bottom mentally. I was on the verge of suicide and had checked out of life. Last week I actually stumbled across a letter that I had written to the founder of Fernwood Fitness where I explained that I couldn’t keep doing this anymore and I had decided that I had failed at being a gym owner and I was giving up. I couldn’t handle the stress on both my mind and body. The reality was that my mental state was in such a terrible state, I wouldn’t have been successful at anything, let alone being the owner of a business. For some reason, I never mailed the letter. Thank goodness I reassessed this because I am now so excited about the future of my club and I am extremely happy with its current state.

I see so many women who join the gym that suffer from depression and anxiety turn their lives around by changing their physical state. I truly believe, what is even more important is developing a healthy mental state. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter which one comes first. Even though I completely lost the plot when I wasn’t able to exercise, it didn’t mean that I had done it in the wrong order. I’m not sure that I would have known just how desperately I needed to change my mental state if this hadn’t happened. What is the most important thing, however, is understanding that if you suffer from anxiety, depression or any other form of mental illness, although it will help, changing your physical state is not enough. You still have to do whatever it takes to place your mind in a healthy place. Ultimately, you need to understand that you didn’t end up in the depressive state as a result of not exercising, it happened as a result of other reasons. It is important to note, however, that there is a large amount of research that suggests some of the foods that we eat contribute to depression and anxiety (a whole different blog post), but for many people, it occurs for other reasons. It may be a difficult childhood, a relationship gone bad, being bullied as a child…..there may also not be a specific reason, but ultimately, there is a lack of self-love and respect and even though you feel happier as a result of changing your physical state, you need to do whatever you can to change your mindset.

My next few blogs, although I will keep the updates on my progress with my injury, it’s time to start writing more about ways to improve your mental state. I will write about some of the things that have worked for me, some of the things that haven’t and hopefully encourage some of you to try them. Just like exercise and nutrition though, it’s not a bandaid effect and it’s something that if you really want to change, you have to work on regularly. You have to want it badly enough.

I am so grateful that I learnt this for myself as it has helped me so much with this injury. It is the reason why I have been able to completely overhaul my nutrition. I haven’t resorted to eating crap food because of being in a negative headspace, and I have been able to focus on the things that I can control, and actually controlled these things. I truly believe that along with my plant based nutrition, my mindset is going to be a large reason as to why my body will heal itself from this injury quicker than what is expected by the experts.

So over the next few blogs I’ll be talking about things like gratitude, self-love, self-respect, removing toxic people from your life, amongst other things. Because I truly do believe that changing those things in my life is the reason I am coping so well at the moment.

I’m looking forward to sharing this information with you all,

Until next time,

Kris xx

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