I am someone who believes in balance, in taking care of myself mentally and physically, and in savoring life with loved ones. Until founding Gild, I would never have ranked my career as my top priority. I have prided myself on my ability to enjoy the small stuff. Much of that has shifted since starting a company, and for the most part, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, in the past few weeks, I have been quoted making melodramatic statements such as, “I feel like a shell of my former self” and “I spend 90% of my time looking at my computer screen and 10% of my time feeling tired and thinking about what’s on my computer screen.” This was basically me at Thanksgiving dinner. Can someone cue a sad trombone?
I should point out that I made these dramatized statements with positive intent: I want to find balance. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? When I feel frustrated with how disproportionate my life has become, I try to remember the small things I do each day to care for myself. One of the most important, consistent things I do on an (almost) daily basis, regardless of how busy I am, is exercise.
I don’t need to spout the benefits of a healthy exercise routine, nor am I medically qualified to do so. We all know that working out is good for us, but for many it is the first to-do list item that gets the shaft. I began exercising regularly eight years ago. Since then, I have been adamant about scheduling exercise into my life, regardless of how busy I am or how inconvenient it may be to get a good sweat in.
But why? Why is working out often more important to me than other priorities? Simply put, the changes I experienced when I began exercising are some of the best that I’ve ever made mentally, emotionally, and physically. Abandoning exercise is not something I see as an option, and here’s why:
I have been a long-time sufferer of (at times, crippling) anxiety. For most of my life, I did not have words to describe my intense worries, and so I kept it inside and let it build. When I discovered exercise, I learned that I did not have to find words to alleviate my worrying. I could let a significant of my anxiety go by sweating it out.
This is more true now than ever. After starting Gild, exercise simultaneously became more important and more difficult for me to schedule. If I don’t make time to work out, I feel my anxiety levels rise almost instantly. Working out is not a substitute for a good therapist or modern medicine, but without it, I truly do not believe that either of those things would work the way they are meant to.
When I look at the people around me that I consider “successful,” they all seem to have one thing in common: confidence. Confidence helps us to let go of what others think of our actions and follow through on what we feel is the right path.
When I work out, I feel stronger and more confident. My gym has one mirror wall. There are definitely mornings when I walk in and see myself in the mirror and think “Ew, gross.” After just a few minutes of my workout, that starts to fade. It’s as if the person in the mirror transforms before my eyes, and I love that feeling.
One of the worse side effects of my anxiety is insomnia. When highly anxious, my mind runs a million miles per minute as soon as my head hits the pillow, which causes my heart to race when I realize how tired I might be in the morning. This cycle can continue all night long.
Vigorous exercise tires my body and helps me fall asleep quickly. I am someone who knows what life feels like without sleep, and it is bleak. If exercise can reduce my anxiety and help me sleep better, it is my best friend.
It’s should be obvious that when one sleeps well and is not confounded by overwhelming anxiety, they function with a higher level of mental clarity. This is definitely true for me, but I think that exercise contributes more to my cognitive abilities than just that.
When I work out in the morning, I am more alert throughout the day. I am solution-oriented and think better under stressful situations.
There are probably a million arguments I could have made in favor of exercise, but these four are the most true for me. Exercise looks different for everyone, but I think the best type of exercise is the type that you like the most. Who cares how trendy it is, or how many calories it burns? If you don’t like it, you won’t do it.
So if you think you are too busy to work out, I would encourage you to take a hard look at your schedule and try to open up some time. Maybe it’s ungodly early, or maybe it’s during your lunch break. Either way, squeeze in just a little bit, and see if you can experience some of the relief I have!