How exercise changed my life in one year

02 April 2018 - inspiration

Guest article by Syahrul Naem

At 25, I experienced my first major anxiety attack. My inability to cope with the demands of schoolwork and my personal insecurities got the better of me and I was at my lowest. It didn’t help that I was staying in a college dorm, away from the comfort of home and family. It took me about a week or so to recover and sort myself out. In that period, I kept to myself and my only form of solace was heading to the gym, where I found the strength (pun intended) to pick myself up.

It has been more than a year since I picked up my first dumbbell and it has undeniably helped me get to where I am now, physically and mentally. I’m not saying that working out has completely removed my anxiety issues but it has definitely proved to be a useful coping mechanism. More than just a temporary remedy, the benefits of having a good workout at any time of the day motivates me to live the best version of my own life. Here’s what I’ve learned in my journey towards mental and physical wellness.

1. Keeping a healthy lifestyle cultivates discipline.

I’ve always prided myself on having the discipline and motivation to work hard on something that I love, be it a hobby or a school project. But I do have days when procrastination gets the better of me. Since starting this fitness journey, I’ve learned that the idea of discipline doesn’t need to be a rigid one. Being disciplined is to exercise some flexibility and be accountable to oneself. Much like how you cannot force yourself to feel positive in an instant, discipline requires you to give and take and have some self-assurance that if you skip a workout, you have not failed entirely. I know, the guilt burns (and sometimes enough to get you out of your idle mode). But know that rest days are as important for your body to be in optimum condition.

2. It’s a journey.

Being healthy is a passage with its own set of milestones, just like in our regular lives. As we get better at something, we naturally push ourselves to be even better than before. Tracking your progress and constantly aiming to improve help to keep the momentum going. Smashing those personal records not only gives you a boost in self-esteem, but is also an affirmation of all the hard work that you’ve put in. For me, I keep a note in my phone tracking my personal records, and looking at my progress over time helps motivate me.

3. A fitness journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Having friends that work out together helps (though it isn’t necessary for those who prefer some alone time like me), especially on days when you need that extra push. For the gym-goers, having a ‘gym bro’ to spot you helps you get through that excruciating last rep. For the runners, having a pacer helps motivate you to maintain your timing (hearty post-run meals are discretionary of course). So if you need to find a spark to light this journey, join a friend who has already started!

My anxiety has definitely improved with time. Whenever I feel negative about myself or if something is bothering me, my best solution is to sweat it out at the gym. I also find myself reflecting on the day’s activities during my rest periods. That kills two birds with one stone! Emotionally, I feel much happier and less stressed after a workout. I believe that when your fitness regime becomes a part of your life, it becomes an activity that you’ll look forward to every day!

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