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Exercise to Make You Feel Better

Some of the things experienced athletes say can sound bizarre — that a workout gave them more energy or relaxed them, rather than just making them tired or sore. You can get this feeling, too — it comes with understanding how to use intensity (how hard you work) and developing your conditioning.

Exercise can regulate mood and energy, even ease depression, in many ways:

  • It produces chemicals that elevate mood and reduce distress
  • It helps to regulate sleep — regular exercise helps you sleep more restfully
  • It takes you out of the hectic run of your day — many people describe exercise as their “meditation” or a time they can think things through or even solve problems

If you’re finding that exercise just exhausts you, consider dialing down the intensity or length of time you spend on a given activity. (Over time, you will develop the ability to do more for longer, as long as you exercise consistently.) Make sure that some of the exercise you do is easy — lower-intensity activity that can help you get ready to concentrate on your workout or that you can do on days when you don’t have a workout planned:

  • A 5- or 10-minute walk to get a mental (and physical) break, or a longer walk, perhaps with a friend or family member as part of a get-together
  • A few minutes of stretching in the morning, at the end of the day, or just before or after a workout
  • Before a more formal workout: a very easy level of what you are working on, like walking a few minutes before doing a jogging interval, or carefully doing a weight-training movement with a very light weight before moving to your regular working weights

Yoga

One of my favorite activities is yoga. I like the way it slows me down and lets me “take inventory” — feel which parts of my body feel tight or need more attention. Taking a few yoga classes is a nice way to learn about moving the body, and yoga classes run the range from restful (“restorative”) to athletic (Flow or Power Flow).

A good yoga teacher keeps an eye on everyone in the room and helps individuals with positioning or shows them intermediate poses they can use right away — plus, you’re in class for you, and it’s OK if you sit out a pose or two or just take rests. People do get hurt doing yoga, so make sure you stop if something hurts — not all poses are suited to all people, and some poses require more time to learn.

Wonderful art by Maris Wicks

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