Physical Fitness for Mental Sanity

When the world seemingly shut down in March, I found ways to release my stress of work and keeping a fitness studio going virtually as well as the frustration of losing my identity (being a stay at home mom and homeschool teacher WAS NOT part of my identity pre-March 2020). Getting outside and going for a run, taking the kids for a walk every day and weekend adventures to new destinations in Central Oregon helped my mental sanity stay somewhat intact.

Fast forward to late spring and through the summer when we could open the studio, have classes, personal training and things were “semi-normal”. My mental sanity was found watching the kids play in the river, the hot summer days swimming and paddling at Elk Lake and other Central Oregon lakes, hiking in the Wallowa Mountains, camping and early morning bike rides up to Bachelor.

Fall came and other than the kids being out of school, there was a sense of normalcy with fall soccer games (masks on of course), after school activities and being busy at the studio. While it was harder to get out for those bike rides and weekend adventures and time in nature, my mental sanity came from early morning runs and walks on the river trail to see the leaves change and even hope that we could make it to Mexico for our 10th annual family vacation and even to the end of the year without a studio closure.

Needless to say, as we are now in the first week of December, the studio has been closed for in-person classes for more the three weeks, the “COVID Surge” is madly upon us, the days are short, the kids are STILL out of school, we didn’t go to Mexico and there is no real end in sight for any of it. The feelings of frustration, anxiety, loss of control and depression are real and the shorter, colder days sap the life out of me. Even the uncertainty of the mountain being open (yes, it will be open, but will i even be able to get parking for my 2-hour adrenaline, heart-pumping, leg burning, slightly dangerous ski sessions during the week to stop time and take control of SOMETHING) is tough to stomach.

So, what now?? My latest obsession is skinning. Not taking the skin of a turkey or some other animal, but the activity where you walk/hike up a mountain in skis with “skins” as long/far as you can in fresh air with your heart pounding and sweat dripping till you get to the top or to where you can go no further. Then, you look out over Central Oregon, at the peaks of the surrounding mountains as the sun casts its first light (yes, at 7:45 a.m. this time of year) on the snow and you take a deep breath and remind yourself you are ALIVE. Even though your heart is pounding, your mind is calm once again. And, then, you peel off your skins and ski down with a balance of controlled reckless abandon through open snow fields, trees and untouched powder, torching your quads even more. And, what’s more, you didn’t have to wait in line for a chair lift.

Finding ways to keep my mental sanity has been challenging these last nine months. The identity loss (in many ways, grieving), the frustration with the loss of control, anxiety over the uncertainty and the 110% effort put into keeping my kids happy, studio running, clients healthy and happy, has left me at the end of my rope many times. But, what always brings me back to a semblance of sanity is the outdoors AND FITNESS/ACTIVITY. Challenging mountain bike and road bike rides up hills, paddling on lakes, hiking up mountains, walking trails to see the leaves change and now, skinning up snow-covered mountains.

What keeps YOU balanced?? What do you do for YOU and no one else (ok, ultimately, my happiness benefits everyone else ;))

Find something in the world that is constant… that grounds you… that challenges you physically to take pressure off mentally.

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