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mental health: it’s connection with exercise and food

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Mental health is an aspect that needs to be considered when partaking in all activities including exercise and how you fuel your body for such with food. It can be challenging at times when imposter syndrome hurdles in and doubt overrides your goals to achieve what you’ve set out to do. This can be due to many things like hormones, feeling overwhelmed or lack of support, planning and having not accounted for small details. What do you do to manage your mental health?

It is well known that exercise releases cortisol, aiding in reducing stress and endorphins to relieve pain which is why it is also recommended to engage in light physical activity when on your period - moreover, I find that using a menstrual cup helps a lot with keeping my period out of the way when exercising. At the same time, if you don’t feel up to it, it’s fine to hold off until a further point. Taking breaks is very important in maintaining positive mental health to prevent burnout from stress. Having had this half marathon being postponed from Sunday 25th April 2021 to this Sunday 22nd August 2021, I have been feeling quite discouraged as I felt towards the start of the year I was training for no reason. Though, I do see that my hard work wasn’t wasted as I was able to take a small hiatus the rest of April and into May, rested and now back in action.

Damilaara and a sunflower
Go outside

Exercise is also good to connect you with others and although last year my running partner and I were training together remotely, our link helped a lot to hold each other accountable. This year, running with my partner in person has shown me I can push myself beyond my bounds, even when we had some time apart as I was running outside and they were in the gym, I was glad to finally get that extra push to commit to getting my gym membership and start weightlifting after doing Pilates at home for the past couple of years. Having a training plan each week is vital to lessen confusion in your daily routine.

Part of your training plan is knowing what food you need to eat. As I said in my previous post, it is not essential to eat before a run, but if you feel you need the energy, you could carb loads the night before or you should have a piece of fruit (a banana is good) or pre-workout (BCAAs have worked for me) at least 20 minutes before running, otherwise you might get stitches which will interrupt your timings, hence your personal bests. Within 2 hours after a workout, eat a protein heavy meal for muscle growth. On a Saturday/Sunday I try to do some meal prep so that food is not an issue during the week as life can get busy with work, leisure and family commitments. For example, last week I prepared vegan yoghurt with added fruit, nuts and protein powder as a sweetener and chickpea flour/veg frittata. Also, wholewheat pasta, pesto with chickpeas and petit pois and jerk lentils and rice and peas with okra.

This can take a while, but if you split the cooking over the weekend it’s easy. Fruit/nut bars, pie or curry are good for meal prep too. A good tip is to never cook one portion of food, it takes time to bring out pots and pans and wash up, so you might as well save some leftovers. Any food that you are unable to eat within 3-5 days can be kept in the freezer until you are ready to consume. If anything, just make sure you have protein on hand, frozen veg is amazing and sometimes cheaper than fresh. As important as it is to take breaks from exercise, a balanced diet is too, though if you want to have cheat days once in a while that’s fine too in moderation.

Lentil/mushroom keema curry

In the end, self-awareness is key as well as staying healthy. Take little steps towards a goal then reassess your needs. Stay mindful.

Don’t forget to follow along with my journey to the big day Sunday 22nd August 2021 as I will be sharing more on marathon training.

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