Saturday, October 17, 2009

Runners' High: De-stress

I don't want to go into the details of cortisol production and clearance in the body and how that all relates to weight loss, weight gain, eating habits, working out, and so on. Part of that is because it takes too long to explain, and part of it is that I don't really understand it myself, and you can Google it just as easily as I can.

But while I may not understand the details of stress hormones, I do know when I feel that stuff pumping through my blood. I know it makes me want to eat, and it prefers sugars and fats to get its kicks.

Tonight, someone made me mad. They hurt my feelings and pissed me off. I'd already been working for 13 hours, and still had one hour left to go (on a Friday, by the way). I wanted to cry but couldn't. I wanted to call a friend and vent my spleen, but didn't have time, since I had one more appointment to make it through.

My last client of the day was what I call a Baby Swimmer--someone who is so new to swimming that she still fears to put her face in. Working with these swimmers is a very hands-on process, which means me in the water, sometimes lending a hand when Baby Swimmer says, "You're not gonna let me sink, right?" Point is, I was active. I was moving. I was in the water and (sort of) swimming, but at the very least using my body.

And I didn't really start making connections until I got out of the pool, into the shower, and started thinking about the situation that so greatly upset me in the first place. I was considering sending a nice, private e-mail, making sure my feelings were understood, and that everyone was on the same page. And as I was mentally composing this e-mail, I realized that I was thinking sensibly and rationally and reasonably and I was no longer feeling the flood of stress in my bloodstream.

In other words, a gentle workout helped to clear that shit out.

Just a reminder, then, of something we all probably know already: exercise makes you feel better. The next time you feel the tides of cortisol corroding your brain, make time for a little workout. Guarantee it'll clear your head, clear your heart, and clear your blood of those nasty stress hormones.

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