My name is Sophie and fitness is well and truly a part of my daily routine. As a long distance runner, my mornings are typically spent running around the gorgeous English countryside, practising restorative yoga, or strength training. My regime focuses on creating balance and harmony to improve my performance as a runner. Of course, the muscle tone I have developed is a cheeky added bonus, but this, my friends, is not why I do it!
I’m here to tell you a secret.
The one question people always ask is “How on earth do you have the motivation to exercise?” and every time I answer, “How can you not?” Once you begin to focus on the feelings that fitness gives you, rather than the aesthetics, it becomes impossible not to make fitness a part of your daily grind. Hopefully this article will open your mind to the psychological benefits of exercise!
After a workout, people have often reported increased mental clarity, creativity, bundles of self-love, empowerment and happiness. And all of this is totally free! The result of a release of chemicals in the body which we can gain access to whenever we please. Pretty awesome, right? These chemicals are called ENDORPHINS.
It’s about to get a little bit scientific, but stay with me! Endorphins, structurally similar to opium and morphine, give you a sudden rush of euphoria without the addictive or damaging effects of the man-made chemicals used in modern medicine. Psychically within the body, they promote healing, and boost the immune system. Mentally, the benefits are endless.
The science behind self-love
I absolutely love to research and develop my understanding of health and fitness, so I often try to soak up knowledge grounded in both science and spiritual well-being. In his best-selling book, The Endorphin Effect, Britain’s leading holistic teacher, William Bloom, takes an incredibly insightful and holistic approach to endorphins; one which I’m going to apply to the endorphin rush experienced during a long distance run. They call it a ‘Runner’s High’ for a reason.
The legends of many ancient traditions tell of a miraculous substance which bestowed upon mortals the gift of celestial immortality. This substance is said to give anyone honour, love, respect, longevity, safety and valour, and turn an eighty-year-old man into a child. (Bloom 2001: 5)
And this is how Bloom approaches the magical effects of endorphins! He asks, how can anyone deny themselves the opportunity to release a chemical which ‘gives physical and psychological pleasures, health and confidence, and that connects us to the beauty and creative power of nature and the universe?’ (Bloom 2001: 5)
He’s right! Now let’s get back to that ‘Runner’s High’ shall we? I’m only human and sometimes going for a run in the cold seems like the worst idea ever! It’s raining, my legs are stiff, and I’m fed up with my playlist. But, once I get out there and start moving, everything changes. The endorphins kick in and for that hour at the start of my day I feel like a superhuman. As I run and the wind rushes past me, I begin to feel more and more awake; more alive! The blood rushing through my veins and the pounding of my heart lifts my mood like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. And it’s not just during the workout that these chemicals influence my mood.
Post-workout, there are so many under-appreciated benefits to daily fitness. Personally, I am my most creative and productive after a morning workout. Having brushed away the cobwebs, my mind is buzzing and the ideas begin to flow. This, for me, is the perfect time to practice my creative writing, work on assignments, or just generally organise my diary to help me feel calmer for the rest of the day. To escape a creative rut, movement is often prescribed. Whether you fancy having a dance around your bedroom, going to the gym, swimming in the ocean or practising yoga, getting your body moving will boost your mental clarity and bring back your creativity. I promise!
Why shouldn’t we feel totally at home in our own skin?
Post-endorphin rush, people also report increased feelings of self-love. We live in a society today where loving yourself and completely adoring who you are is viewed with scepticism, but I encourage you to fight this with all your heart. Why shouldn’t we feel totally at home in our own skin? As well as aesthetically working on yourself, thus increasing self-love, fitness increases something I like to call self-worth. After a workout, you are far more likely to want to take care of yourself for the rest of the day. This means you may find it easier to make healthy choices with your meals, in order to fuel and replenish your beautiful body after all the hard work it has done for you.
As well as being at ease with yourself, Bloom suggests that ‘being able to create your own rush allows you to build a deep sense of being at ease with the world, without any dependence upon other people or external circumstances’ (Bloom 2001: 7). Your wellbeing is placed totally in your hands and the power this gives you is second to none! You don’t need anything or anyone else to help create your own bubble of happiness.
If you’re not already sold on trying to incorporate a little bit of movement into your daily routine, then hopefully this last point will sway you. It’s the people! Engaging in fitness has allowed me to meet so many inspiring like-minded people. Everyone who takes their fitness seriously treats themselves like gold, which will only spur you on to do the same! The people I’ve met through running have inspired me to pursue fitness as part of my career and encouraged me to consistently enter new challenges. God knows how I’d have got through marathons without them!
Treat yourself with kindness and start moving. Your body, your mind and your spirit will give you a big thank you hug!