In the fall of 2018 I visited with my orthopedist because I was experiencing consistent knee pain resulting from what I assumed was 10+ years of running. See, I took up running later in life and always heard that the knees were the first to go, but I thought I was different.
Needing a cardiovascular outlet, my wife encouraged me to join her gym and take spin classes. I knew nothing about this exercise and am about as coordinated as a baby giraffe learning to walk (just google it), so I spent the first 6 months seated towards the back of the room in part because, when I would have a depression attack, I wouldn’t want to engage with anyone. See, as a runner, I could just put on my headphones and go. No need to talk to anyone, no need to engage. Just me, my music and the road (or treadmill). Spin was the opposite. It was social. It was engagement. It was uncomfortable.
Over time, I was forced to engage with my classmates, found some version of rhythm, and, soon enough, actually started to develop a few new friendships. Eventually, I moved up, closer to the podium (instructor) and began talking even more. The funny thing is, as much as I hated going to spin in the beginning is as much as I began to appreciate it over time.
Far too often we find ourselves immersed in isolated situations. A crowded train can feel so lonely with everyone glued to their phones. A run on a treadmill in a busy gym can feel as isolated as a long run on a country road. Nothing saddens me more than when I’m out to dinner and see a family who’s kids are all on their devices, watching movies, playing games, texting. These poor kids are with their blood, around a table, and yet, are so alone. They might as well be at a table for one.
You don’t need a bunch of studies to tell you that human are social beings by nature, but actually doing something about it is the challenge. Most of us are tired, stressed and if you battle depression you really don’t want to engage socially, but little changes can make a big difference.
The power of my spin class is now greater than any depression attack I face, as I have yet to miss a single session because of an episode. Yes, there are still days I don’t want to talk to anyone and from time to time, I wish I stayed in bed, but controlling what I can control, taking the first step to sign-up, and that second step – getting to class, is part of how I manage my mental health.
There are so many things in my day to day life that I can’t control, but going to spin class is not one of them. No matter what the class is, the mental health benefits of attending a group workout is more than just the physical as it forces you to be social, and while that concept can indeed be terrifying, the benefits can be significant.
On November 4, 2019, less than 13 months since I first walked into a spin studio as an uncoordinated, anti-social amateur, I achieved one of my bucket list goals; riding the podium in the front of a class of my friends, my community. Any group exercise can deliver clear, physical health results, but if you battle a mental illness like depression, it can also deliver positive mental health results too.
See how other organizations address their wellness challenges at the Employee Wellness Summit for Law Firms and Professional Services taking place February 27-28, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. More information can be found at https://employeewellnesssummit.com/