Combat that mental strain with your favorite physical activity

Canada has just confirmed entering its second wave of COVID-19. The case numbers are skyrocketing, looking more seriously than they were in March. The health authorities released strict measures. For BC residents, house parties were finally called a halt. In-door group activities closed doors before further inspection and approval. Non-essential cross-health region travels also are now asked to stop. Some strenuous rules.

I was up in Whistler with my husband, lining up for baked goods in front of Pure Bread, when he read the news to me. Looking back, it amazes me how many people were willing to wait outside in 5 degrees below freezing just for bread and pastries. We were there for about 45 minutes. Mid wait, I got a message from the hotel notifying me the morning Yoga was cancelled. Then my husband read me the news about the new orders and the second lockdown.

We cancelled the remainder of our trip. On the following days, I went back to WFH. And just like that, a surge of emotions hit me, without warning. I felt like losing my mind, into an anxiety spiral. It’s hard to explain what exactly happened. But I recognized I could go down that rabbit hole and spiral out of control. All the things that have been on my mind were all coming together and attacking me, asking for resolutions. Life seemed so hopeless, and I detected a sense of failure.

I care about my mental wellness. Yes, I have some mild mental issues. It’s normal, like occasionally I would get weirdly anxious, or some friends would say, tense. Sometimes more random and without trigger, there were the odd panic attacks. Some of the known symptoms can be physical discomfort – sweating, nausea, chills, difficulty in breathing, chest pain, etc., you name it. It’s never a fun trip.

Over the years, those onsets became less and less frequent. It wasn’t because I went to see a shrink, I believe it’s all the physical exercises I’ve been practicing that got me through some of the hardest times.

I used to run until my back gave up. Then I switched to gym time, to HIIT training, to barre and spin. I might not be good at any kind of sport, I am pretty good at picking up different forms of workout. 4 out of 7 days I’d visit a fitness studio. Eventually, I narrowed down to spin and machine assisted Pilates, or Mega Pilates.

When we were in the first lockdown, as the weather got warmer, my husband bought me a road bike rather than a Peloton. So we were able to go outside and cycle around the city. It didn’t feel so bad if I had to do my Pilates by streaming a YouTube channel at home. I knew each week I got to spend quality time exercising while enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air. The new normalcy got even more tolerable once I found out my favourite Pilates studio, Lagree West reopened. Seeing some of the familiar faces gave me immense amount of joy and comfort, although they were always behind a mask.

Each megaformer workout station is separated by a clear vinyl barrier. In the front, the instructor’s voice comes through a little muffled. I can turn around and look at the other Mega Lagree babes whenever I don’t understand what the next move should be.

I was happy as a clam, doing Pilates, bathing in my own sweat and feeling invincible. Also that sense of belonging, that community togetherness, was inspirational. So when it was taken away from me again, my mind decided it couldn’t cope with lockdown anymore. That was my sanctuary; one of the fewer places where I felt my body and mind were safe and in control.

Check out here for a few moments of me in my natural habitat.

Mega Pilates transferred me but also got me depended on it. Sure enough it releases dopamine which helps regular my mood. It also empowers me with full control of my personal autonomy. Through doing those workouts, we slowly recognize our own bodily integrity. We can finally say “my body, my choice.” Strangely that’s a mood booster.

What else are we supposed to do if one day, we can’t get up and go out to do our favourite group class anymore? Do we have enough psychologists and psychiatrists to help deal with that much of anger and negative energy? I say, we hygiene our hands, we mask up, we respect all rules and orders so that our favourite gyms and studios can reopen sooner again!