A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Physical Activity and the Anxiety Sufferer

Anyone who exercises regularly can attest to the fact that some workouts go better than others. Runners will often talk about having a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ run. Sometimes it just feels more difficult than others to move, for example I learned recently that it’s a lot harder for me to work out when I’m coming down with a cold.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve got anxiety largely related to my health. Sometimes when my snow white skin goes instantly red during exertion (as is normal for me) and I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I can start to worry that the drastic color of my face indicates a serious problem, which causes my heart to speed more, which causes me to breathe too quickly, which makes me light-headed. It’s a bad situation snowballing into a worse one. I can even manage to get stressed out when I notice how slow my resting heart rate is. It’s around 60-65 beats per minute, which would please any cardiologist, yet I’ll sit there feeling my pulse and thinking, “it’s so slow… is it going to just stop?!”

Last week I had such a difficult Zumba class that I did something I’ve never done before: I briefly stopped and fled from the workout room. I knew intellectually that I was having an anxiety attack. I’ve been doing hour long high-low intensity workouts since last August and my cardiovascular fitness has improved dramatically, so I knew it made no sense to suspect I was suddenly having a heart attack – but my emotions refused to listen to reason.

On Thursday nights my class starts at 5:45PM and on a good day it takes me an hour to drive home from work, so in order to get there on time I have to flee the office at around 4:15, dash into the house, change clothes, and dash right out again. If I get stuck in ANY traffic, I’m late. Last Thursday I was stuck in traffic jam after traffic jam, came in late and missed the entire warm-up song, jumping into a crowded class during either the second or third routine when the intensity level was already rising. I was flustered from being in traffic and late to begin with, plus I had no warm-up time. On top of that it was warm and humid in the room, and I immediately started feeling overheated.

As is my custom I tried to push myself physically instead of listening to my body’s warning signals; jumping when possible, trying to reach further, and generally not pacing myself well. In a half hour I was shaky, my heart felt like it was speeding, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was red as a beet. Terrified that I was about to collapse onto the floor, I fled for the bathroom to splash cold water on my face and hide out in a stall until I felt semi normal again.

And in a few minutes I did. The anxiety attack passed and I was okay, so I returned to class and finished. Afterward the combination of anxiety and exertion left me weak and exhausted, so I nearly ran home and skipped my weekly Yoga. The thing with anxiety though, is if you flee from a situation where an attack occurred it can get harder and harder to go back again. I didn’t want to set up a precedent where I associated the gym with being afraid, so I made myself stay.

I’m glad I did. Walking back into class this week was still hard, because if something like that happens once I assume it will happen every time, but I got over the hurdle and have had two perfectly normal classes so far this week.

In short: anxiety really sucks.

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