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The Benefit of Habit : Exercise with Depression (track it on SP)

Friday, May 19, 2017

As some of my SP friends know my SP journey started in 2011 with some breaks in between (and by breaks I mean many months off at times). When I started on Spark I tracked only my food. I had created a food plan (based off a 12 step group) that worked for me and I lost 10lbs a month for 6 months WITHOUT EXERCISE.

yeah yeah yeah-- I know it sounds great! But it didn't last.
My mom died and I went into a major depressive cycle (I am on disability for bipolar depression). I had to be hospitalized then sent to a partial, live in, hospitalization program for many months (8). Being at a hospital I could not control my food, and did not have a habit of exercise. so the weight came back on-- ALL of it.

So for a couple years I played with SP. I didn't join any groups, I tracked IF I walked. I quit tracking what I ate...because all I was left with were memories of being able to afford to eat a specific way. (my finances had changed)

In 2014, I'd had enough. I wanted this weight off!!! I was 287 AGAIN for the 3rd time!

I started walking to the library which was 1/3 of a mile from my house. I had 4 rewards

(rewards in the beginning are important just as they are later on--- but even more so in the beginning)

My rewards:
* when I got to the library I could check out books (I personally LOVE to read & check out books)
* when I got to the library I was able to use the computer un-interupted , which I shared at home
* when I got home the reward was internal: I had done it and gotten out for a walk that day (and also that it was out of the way and over with)
* and finally, I began to track my daily exercise on SP and watch my daily, weekly, and lifetime miles progress emoticon

Over the next few weeks I changed routes and walked a 1/2 mile each way to a local store as the turn around point. Eventually, I moved and my new library was a mile away. I chose to walk there at least 4 times a week. I LOVED watching the numbers grow on the exercise tracker. It felt so good that I noticed even when I was depressed I would stick to that 4 day a week goal. I downloaded Map My Walk so I could track ALL my walking mileage (I do not have a car) and I would excitedly put the numbers into SP.

My mileage changed over time. My current goal is 5 miles a day with the aim of doing that 6 days a week. But remember its 2017 now. It took 3 years to get to this point.

I live in a lower mood state than most people. I get not wanting to get out of bed! I was life threatening low 3 times in the last 12 months. I get it-- I do. But let me share with you the point of this blog post:

Initially I had built in rewards to release feel good chemicals after each 1/3 of a mile. HEY why not....when we used to eat unhealthy food or binge we told ourselves things that gave us that release. So, for me, I had to find a way to get that FEEL good reward again when doing what wasn't natural for me (exercise)

The reward of watching the mileage go up on SP was huge. I hadn't thought it through. But I was so proud of myself when I saw the weekly numbers hit the goal. And when I was depressed, I was still proud for any mileage logged during that time. I eventually joined several teams and met other SParkers who would encourage me along the way, including but not limited to Dealing with Depression:

I joined the word games which gave me a fun reason to get on SP everyday....and since I was on I wanted to log mileage -- which I could only do if I had gotten out for the day, even if it was back to just 1/3 of a mile each way. The friends on SP would reach out to me if I was gone off SP very long. .... and remember, being on there made me want to log mileage. Needing to log mileage made me force myself to get out and walk.

With my depression, there have been 2 periods of 3 weeks each (just since January) that I did not walk. I'm not perfect at this. But I have built in rewards to help me WANT to keep it up...the friendships that reach out, the chat board where I share honestly how I'm doing and get encouragement and support, and that mileage tracker!!! emoticon I just crossed since 2011. And the scale victory -- last month... I hit onederland for the first time since 2002!!

In the beginning I exercised out of frustration and it was a struggle to initiate daily. The rewards felt good after, especially when I started getting endorphin rushes...but still to get up and out was a struggle. BUT TODAY---
Today I am low but the thought was "I better get out there" and the underlying truth (reason) for that is getting out daily IS WHO I AM now.

Its gone from what I'm gonna have to do to
what I will do to
who I am.

and that keeps me coming back without taking months off anymore. I get back out even before I feel like it-- even if its for a small advance and rewards

P.S. Today I will be lucky if I hit the 2 mile mark. But I will be gentle with myself. I'm proud I got out for the mile that I have done.

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