Read Lucy's story about how exercise and understanding what she needs helped her
Our Sporting Minds mental health awareness month continues with stories from Team UOP member's. These honest and frank stories are an example of how sport and physical activity can play a part in improving mental health. We want to raise awareness for these stories and of the issues they look to challenge. These personal stories are powerful and should start up conversations between you and your friends, family and team-mates. We have also supplied a number of resources below if you are affected by this story.
Lucy is a proud UOP Hockey Club member and has recently graduated, this is her story.
My relationship with my body and exercising has always had its ups and downs. Before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in my final year, I would go through phases of exercising too much or not at all. My weight would fluctuate because of this and I began seeing myself a lot more negatively than I ever had before. I used to think that I wasn’t exercising if I wasn’t pushing myself to my absolute limit. If I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out from running too fast or that my knees would give in from doing too many squats, then what was the point? I wasn’t going to lose weight or tone up if I wasn’t doing this.
This is so WRONG.
It’s taken me a very long time to understand that it’s okay not to push yourself hard every day. Those rest days are there for a reason and some light exercise is still good for you. If you haven’t exercised for a while, it’s okay to start easy and work your way up. Push yourself later and do it gradually. I now know that previous mind set I had about exercising was actually so unhealthy for my mind and probably wasn’t doing my body too good either.
In my final year of study, the general stresses of life and this awful way I was envisioning myself began to take its toll on my mental health. My academic work was non-existent and I didn’t want to get out of bed for anything. Taking on a hockey captaincy role started to look like a bad idea. But actually, leading the team in training sessions and matches each week meant that I wasn’t just doing it for myself, I was doing it for my team and I knew if I didn’t do this right then I wasn’t doing my duty and I’d be letting a lot of people down. I’d committed to this role and I was determined not to be a failure in one of the sports that I’d loved for years. It gave me a reason to get up and a goal to aim for. It was something productive that really kept me going while I was in a dark spell and taught me that sport has a bigger impact on my mental health than I could have realised.
In January 2020, alongside a few other members of the hockey club, I took part in ‘Red January’, a mental health campaign that raised money for Mind by encouraging the participants to do at least one method of exercise a day for the whole month. After having a difficult first term, I wanted to take as much action as possible to put my life back on track and I wanted to start with getting a healthy dose of that much needed exercise. I was determined to do this right and without putting too much pressure on myself. I discovered I enjoyed a lot more methods of exercise than I originally thought and this really helped with preventing the boredom of exercising every day. I noticed I was laughing more while playing a game of badminton and I was happy with settling for a 30-minute yoga session instead of a full body workout. Doing this really improved my body image as I knew it was making a healthy difference in my weight which gave me a little boost of confidence that I needed at this time.
I’ve always found it hard to find a routine of exercising that suits me and that’s still something that I’m working on now. Especially when the gyms are closed and the weather’s terrible, it’s harder to accomplish what I set out to. But I don’t punish myself, I just set it aside for another day and think of something else to do. I set myself flexible goals that are realistic and achievable and work around my daily routine.
You don’t have to be the healthiest person in the world to feel good about yourself and exercising. Know your own body, listen to it and do what feels right for you. Give yourself a break every now and again. If you couldn’t run that far today or do as many sit-ups, then okay. Applaud yourself for how far you got and try again later. You’ll get there.
Give yourself a break every now and again. If you couldn’t run that far today or do as many sit-ups, then okay. Applaud yourself for how far you got and try again later.