Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Exercise Withdrawals

As of late, I questioned myself about why I'm feeling miserable even when things aren't all that bad. Although my frustrations are not as apparent due to my natural disposition, it did make me feel irritated with myself. Oh why oh why am I feeling so blue?

I suppose I can blame it on hormones. Or that there are some things that fell through. Or point to someone else and blame them for making me feel miserable. But deep down, I know that none of those were the answer I'm looking for.

I finally went and asked a good friend. First thing that she came out of her mouth, "Jan, when was the last time did you workout?" Apprehensively, I confessed that it has been a couple of days. "Go and workout. Run. That's your answer," she replied. Then it dawn to me that being active have always been a big part of my life. Who would have thought that being sedentary within just a couple of measly days would have such a pendulum affect with my moods? Exercise withdrawals. That's the answer.

Fascinated with the idea, I looked further into the case. There's actually a lot of studies done with the subject. In the article, Exercise Withdrawal Alters Mood In A Few Days, scientists did a study on this phenomenon.
A new study shows that people who regularly exercise will being to feel depressed and fatigued after just one week of forced inactivity. By one week, the scientists found, the subjects who had stopped exercising reported more fatigue and other somatic symptoms than those who had maintained their workout routines. By week two, the non-exercising individuals reported more mental symptoms as well. [There are] body-related symptoms of depression such as poor appetite, fatigue, sleep difficulties and low energy levels, as well as mental symptoms such as sadness, self-criticalness, anxiety and irritability.

Since I'm a long-distance runner at this time, this article, Study: Runners Experience Chemical Withdrawal When Deprived of Exercise, revealed a very interesting study regarding a link of the runner's high to heroine and morphin addicts.
Researchers at Tufts University may have confirmed this addiction by showing that an intense running regimen in rats can release brain chemicals that mimic the same sense of euphoria as opiate use. They propose that moderate exercise could be a "substitute drug" for human heroin and morphine addicts.

Given all of the benefits of exercise, many people commit to an active running routine. Somewhere during a longer, more intense run when stored glycogen is depleted, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus release endorphins that can provide that "second wind" that keeps a runner going. This sense of being able to run all day is similar to the pain-relieving state that opiates provide, scientists have known.

Addiction? Well, running does tend to be addicting. The happy feeling after a really great exercise feels too sweet to pass up. My regular regiment requires me to exercise 6 days a week. May not seem feasible for most people but taking at least an hour a day doesn't seem that overwhelming.

Life does have a way of getting in the way of my daily routine. I have a job that currently randomizes and dictates my availability. There's also school with plenty of essays and tests that needs to completed. A lot of times, solely juggling work and school leaves me exhausted and depleted so sleep gets in the way. The lack of consistency drive me crazy. Shortening my workouts to 2-3 days a week isn't cutting it. At this point, I sometimes wonder how I will be able to finish the marathon in November.

No excuses, just do it. Perhaps I should pre-plan a variety of different exercise regiments ahead of time for my cross trainings. Or draft a feasible calendar as soon as I get my work schedule. Whatever it is, it's time to be creative. Even if there's a lot of arms needed to be twisted a long the way - mostly mine. Just to preserve my sanity.