5 Phases of Using Exercise to Maintain Sanity

Disclaimer: I am by no means a fitness guru. In fact, I used to hate working out so much that I would get literal anxiety at the thought of even having to keep up with everyone else on my team during high school sports practices. I am still not athletic, but I have begun to work out in college as an outlet to keep my stress at a minimum and my sanity at a maximum (though that max is still pretty low).

I must admit that I started the working-out-almost-every-day thing in an attempt to get that classic spring-break bod. Since my wardrobe would consist of bathing suits, bathing suits and more bathing suits for the five days I planned to spend in Bimini – with half of my university and students from several other schools across the country –, it seemed necessary.

After I got over the fear of the weight room and got into the habit of working out any day that I didn’t have an excuse not to, however, I started to notice something bizarre. I still didn’t necessarily enjoy working out while I was at the gym, but I needed to workout in order to not have mental breakdowns, to function, to be productive in other aspects of my life and to feel like myself.

Who had I become?? So, for all other people who don’t love working out but want to get into the habit of doing it (for whatever reason), here are five phases you will go through as exercise becomes your sanity fix.

1. Hating it.

When you first begin attempting to maintain a consistent workout routine, the reality is that you will dread going and will resent the gym with all of your being. How could everyone else here possibly look so normal and not like they want to die?

I learned – the hard way – that looking like the normal people at the gym takes time and commitment. Going to the gym first thing in the morning was the best way for me to get in the habit. If I tried to go in the afternoon, I’d continue to push it off or find an excuse not to go. When my alarm goes off in the morning, it may be difficult to initially drag myself out of bed, but once I do, I am done for the day, and I no longer have to think about or dread going to the gym.

2. Getting into the swing of things.

There will come a day when you walk into the gym, and you know exactly what you are doing. This might mean that you don’t have to wander around the weight room any longer, wondering how in the world you use these contraptions that supposedly make you fit, or this might mean that you pre-plan a workout with the help of Instagram fitness models.

Either way, the gym no longer seems like a scary, confusing place, but rather, one where you belong (or at least look like you do).

3. Realizing the effect NOT working out has on you now.

When I returned to school after spring break, I had a terrifying reality check that my week of no responsibilities was suddenly over, and I was now drowning in homework and studying for exams. I didn’t workout at all over spring break, and I didn’t have time to workout the week after, and I noticed a difference in myself.

Within just two weeks of not keeping up a daily exercise routine, I probably had three mental breakdowns, I felt like I never had energy to do life, and I just felt overall worse about myself. I started to think that maybe working out brought me more benefits than just my half-reached goal of having a spring-break bod.

4. Getting BACK into the swing of things.

So now that you realized that working out does, in fact, keep you somewhat sane, you know you have to get back into it. Although it is extremely depressing how hard doing the same workouts you did before your time-off is, making it over the initial hump is the hardest part.

After about a week or so, you’ll be back, better than ever, and you’ll actually appreciate exercise and all of the good it brings to your life and your body.

5. Congratulations! You’re insane because working out keeps you sane.

There will come a time when a thought such as, “Ugh, all I want to do right now is go for a run,” crosses your mind. Then you will realize the string of words your brain, which once resented exercise, just strung together, and you might be genuinely confused.

Don’t be scared though. Although it may seem insane that working out keeps you sane, it doesn’t mean you have to start posting solely gym selfies on your Snapchat story or that you have to brag on Facebook about your “clean eating.”

Going through these phases allows you to find an outlet to not only destress, but also make you a mentally and physically healthier person. It’s not an easy or quick process, but one day, you will wake up, get out of bed with ease and go workout – without moaning, groaning or even thinking twice about it. And that is an unreal, rewarding feeling.

Viewing exercise as a daily activity, like brushing your teeth, isn’t about losing weight or even about getting a *insert season here* bod. It’s about having a very realistic and good choice to clear your mind and better yourself because let’s be real… we’re all a little crazy and could use the fix.