Why I Prioritize Exercise During Work
I’m not a medical professional. This is my experience.
Honestly, I hate working out. It makes me tired, I’m not that strong, and I literally have no idea what I’m doing when I step inside. But I know it has a positive affect on how I go through my day, especially anxiety-wise. Another hard truth about me is I’m lazy (maybe demotivated is a better word?). I love doing nothing and just daydreaming about different projects, goals, or aspirations with no due concrete date.
However, my body requires that I exercise for at least 40 minutes a day.. or I partially lose my mind.
I played sports when I was younger, but not because I loved running around and getting dirty with my friends. I was (am) competitive by nature, and I loved to win. I was always moderately if not pretty good at every sport I took up (except volleyball. I hate you volleyball), and always managed to be one of the better players on my teams. It also helped that my dad is super athletic and coached me for a lot of my youth.
Anyway, after I stopped playing sports I stopped getting daily exercise. In high school I did theatre and musicals but I don’t know if you can count singing and dancing as a sport. Though it was great cardio!! That being said, when I started college, I gained at least 20 pounds. I ate Rubio’s almost every day (it was free on my meal plan, can you blame me?) and my dorm was one of the farthest from the gym on campus. Citing above, I’m lazy.
However I went to the doctor after I broke up with my Marine boyfriend my sophomore year of college and I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I knew I had to make a change and get my lazy ass in shape. Not to mention, I was hopelessly depressed and ate my feelings on the reg. I needed a healthy way to cope with all the stress and bullshit that I was going through. I got a membership at our campus gym (it was free—and it had a huge freaking ROCK WALL that I never climbed..) and started to try and act like I knew what I was doing.
I actually did end up losing a decent amount of weight during college. Freshman and sophomore year were definitely my heaviest but I was never “obese” by any means. Although at first, it was hard to come to terms with how I felt about being that heavy. That was one motivation for me to start exercising. Once I started though, I realized that it actually started to not only make me look better, but feel better. I lost about 20 pounds in the first 6 months of exercising and controlling my food portions.
I used to work retail 9am - 1:30pm and then have class from 2pm to either 4 or 5pm. It was a pretty solid schedule and I couldn’t complain. I used to either hit the gym between classes or go after I finished my last one. It was super convenient and easy to keep working out in my routine, and I ended college pretty okay. Well, except for the whole anxiety thing.
After college when I was in a comfortable relationship and my anxiety was at its worst, I let myself go again. I was eating my feelings and not taking care of myself and my body and mental well being was suffering from it. I made a conscious decision to start making time to go to the gym, and that’s the operative phrase. I made time, even if it had to cut into my work day.
All of my doctors have recommended that exercise helps my mental wellbeing, which is already somewhat fragile. After I get out of the gym and the air hits my sweaty face, I feel free. I don’t know a not-cliche way to put it other than that. The reason I go during work also has an impact on how my day goes. Because if I’m not able to go work out for at least 40 minutes during my lunch, my whole day gets thrown off. I’ll work from about 9am to 1:30 or 2pm, then I’ll run to the 24 Hour Fitness conveniently down the street from my office.
I’ll spend the first 5 minutes doing cardio—usually running or sprinting—then I’ll start strength and conditioning. Depending on how I’m feeling that day is how hard I’ll go at the gym. Sometimes I’ll do so many squats and lunges that I can barely walk downstairs, and sometimes I’m just not into it and I’ll spend 20 minutes doing some light ab workouts.
Obviously for me, exercise really isn’t about getting ripped or being the strongest girl in town. I do it as a stress release. With anxiety, I need some sort of release. Sometimes it’s daily and sometimes it’s not, but most of the time I need some sort of activity that allows me to exert some stress and energy; without it, I get upset and wound up.
Before there were some “staffing changes” at my job, I literally needed to get out of the office to stay sane. My former boss used to belittle me and get me so mad to the point where I needed to leave the building. That’s why I’ve prioritized going to the gym during my lunch break at work. I’m very privileged to be able to have an hour lunch break to do whatever I want. I’m also lucky that there is a gym so close to my office. Without those two things, going to the gym isn’t very practical; it’s not impossible, though!
If you’re comfortable, you can ask your boss for an extra 30 minutes on your lunch (that you’ll make up in the beginning or end of the day) to go to the gym. If they’re understanding, they’ll know that you’re doing it for your mental and physical health and shouldn’t hold you back from that. If they’re not understanding, then you have the right to fight for your mental health.
I understand if you don’t want to deal with all of that (you know your boss better than me), so you can consider heading out on a short jog before (or after) work, or hitting the gym after your shift like I did in college and when I didn’t work so close to a gym. You will make it work if you want it to. And you’ll only feel better once you start putting yourself first.