Exercise and Control

I realized today what I have learned to like about exercising.  When I’m at the gym my success or failure is entirely up to me.  I am not talking about weight loss that can be entirely out of my control.  I’m talking about during that hour of work.  I decide whether I am going to kick butt or play it safe.

I cant get that kind of control from almost anything else in my life.  I can’t control my family, my love life (or lack of), my friends, my job, what deadlines are set for me without my say.  I think this is also why I like voice lessons.  It is entirely in my control.  (I’m doing Moon River this week. Hurray!).

This week I was under so much pressure because of a deadline set for work that even my boss had no input on.  I really thought it was going to be impossible.  I finished my end of the month 6 days faster than I normally do.  That might as well be an eternity in accountant terms!  So for each day to go to the gym and have a short sense of control makes a big difference for my mental health.

This is especially true when I’m kickboxing.  It feels so empowering and exciting to get the anger and frustration out.  I wish I could explain it. I feel like I can explode (maybe even lose control) in a socially acceptable way.

The strange thing about my anxiety is I actually feel tons of adrenalin during the anxiety.  I think that is what allows me to get through it.  I do a good job despite the tears when I’m under anxiety.  In fact, often it is my best work which is perhaps why I can’t seem to remove it from my life.   I remember my old boss saying he kept giving me more work because I did such a good job on them that I was the first person who came to his mind.  Each job I’d agree to because most of the time I had no choice but then I kept doing better and better with the increasing pressure.  Problem is my head was exploding bit by bit….Gosh it’s hard to explain.

At least when I am angry, or anxious my performance in the gym or pool is like nothing else.  Perhaps I feel challenged or my body gives off some chemical when it feels anxious that boosts performance?  I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure. In February I was very upset because of a personal disappointment but I had an appointment to swim so I went and my times totally rocked.  Has anyone else experienced this?

It’s funny because I generally don’t get adrenalin from exercising.  In fact, I never do.  I get adrenalin from anxiety and stress and then it helps me in exercise but it doesn’t actually cause adrenalin.   Maybe before races I just need someone to break my heart or tick me off?  (Please, no!). 😉

Anyway, I was grateful this week when working 12 hour jammed pack days and having my anxiety episode that I have built up a pattern of exercise to help me feel in control.  I don’ t know how I could have made it any other way.  Well, I know it would have been an episode a day earlier and much more severe. I’ve said it a million times but for me anxiety is all about fear and control.  Cognitive therapy has taught me a lot about rationalizing and overcoming that fear but I think everyone needs some control over their life.  For me, exercise does that.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been forced into this mindset of control because so often in my life I’m in situations where if I didn’t do it, or lead it, it didn’t happen.  I remember even going back to Middle School and there was a craft fair for some club and I made nearly every craft.  (Still have the burn on my leg to this day).  In grad school I decided to give up control and went on a trip trusting my group for a project.  Came home and turns out they hadn’t read the assignment fully and in 3 days I had to come up with a survey of JWA employees, tabulate the results and turn in the assignment for the group.  That was the last time I took a back seat in grad school I will tell you that!

This is how it goes for me. Every job I’ve ever had has been one where I had no back up or substitute, total control. Funny because I think I’m a natural leader?  (I admit I’m a terrible follower…).  A side of me obviously likes this control or it wouldn’t land in my lap  so often (I certainly hate the reverse and being told what to do all the time) but the anxiety is an unwelcome side affect I’m getting better at dealing with.  (this is why a mission was so hard for me. You lose all control, but it was for God so I knew it was in His hands and had a great, if exhausting, experience).

This blog actually gives me control.  In the end it is my voice and I chose what to put out there.  No editors (but my own constant editing), no teachers, no collaborators to deal with.  Just me and my voice.

You see why I’m single.  This control thing will be interesting come marriage!.  Even in dating and relationships I feel I often have to take control but that can be obnoxious too.  Are you asking the right questions? Are they being real?  What should you say?  One time I went on a date and a guy made me ask every question or it was silent and then at the end I hadn’t finished my food I said ‘Sorry I’m a slow eater’.  He said ‘Well, if you didn’t talk so much’…Last time we went out!

I guess in the end it is all kind of silly because I don’t really have any control . That is in God’s hands. Believe me He made it possible for me to finish the impossible task this week.  He held my hand when I felt out of control and He helped me make the tough choices.  Some may look at my life and even express to me that I have nothing to feel anxiety about.  What a comfort to know that God understands and loves me no matter what.  He is all patience.  All love.  And He knows us and knows that in the midst of the hurricane I need an hour of control at the gym

(Thanks also to my trainers Michele and Ben for being so great during this crazy week).

I honestly feel like I did on my mission and I can’t wait for a relaxing weekend.  Wahoo!

6 thoughts on “Exercise and Control

  1. It’s good that you react that way under stress and anxiety. In my case, I shut down; the complete opposite. So before I shut down I have to release the stress at the gym or on a walk/jog. I find that as long as I am calm and focused, I get my best word done. I also understand your attraction to control, because who better to get something done than yourself? 😉 Any who, you’re right when you say that ultimately it’s not up to us what control we have, it’s best to take it day by day and to be happy with what is under control. Much love.

    1. Thanks for your comment and sharing your story. I envy you. I feel like I lack the ability to truly feel calm and focus as you describe. I have never been a calm person, even as a small child. So far the only thing that makes me calm is Hawaii. Just thinking about it makes me calm.

      Part of it is I have both insomnia and sleep apnia so I rarely feel rested. I’ve tried tons of doctors and things to help with this. Going to a new specialist this month…

      Its hard to think of a time in my life when I wasn’t at my best when pushed to my brink of mental ill health. And I feel like so often my life gives me that whether I like it or not, so maybe I’ve just learned to excel.

      I don’t mean to make my life seem hard because I know compared to many it isn’t but each of us struggle in our own ways and for me anxiety comes when the stresses pile one after another and then eventually I lose that control. (that dirty word control).

      Still, before that happens in the heat of the battle I’m pretty tough, strong and work hard.
      The human brain is such a strange and miraculous thing God has created! I’m so grateful to be able to put all my struggles in His hands. As you say, what a relief.

      I’m going this weekend to try and get some of that calm. I’ll let you know how I succeed.

  2. I can totally relate – if I could have complete control over everything in my life, I think it would be a lot easier. I think that’s why I, too, get so much out of my workouts – because what you put in is what you get out of it.

    1. Thanks! Especially when it is a high pressure week that control feels so good. What exercises do you find the most satisfying?
      That’s what I hate most about dating. For the most part out of my control. I can look nice, try to get out there but as far as finding that right guy out of my control. Wish I could just take the lead and get it done. 🙂

      1. I love a good run – something about it, you can just feel the pressure start to melt away.
        I’m totally with you on dating. I hate it! Way too much uncertainty, and it makes me crazy to know exactly what I want but not be able to find it (I’m 31 years old. If I don’t know what I want by now, we have a problem). It’s EXHAUSTING. And it shouldn’t have to be.

        1. I’m 31 too! It really is exhausting. I just wish I could request resumes and interview and find the right guy (again wanting control).
          At the same breath its so nice when for a few minutes someone forces you to let go and they actually don’t let you down. My Mother is so great at that. She is a natural nurturer and she is such a calming influence in my life.
          I get what you are saying about running. I wish I could run better because I could do triathlons but when I open water swim I get that feeling. Its like I’m free. I can scream under water, let it all out. In the end no one can finish the swim but me. In control. Yes! Plus, you are out in God’s glorious lakes and rivers. Heaven for me!

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