Running with Depression and Finding New Goals.

January is a hard time all around…

I never got around early in the month to writing up what I think my goals should be for the new year. Its still January, so better late then never! It’s a great chance to recap the past month of where I’ve been at mentally and physically and look forward to new goals. Running with depression is really something I have been struggling with as of late.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen that I try to be very open with my struggles with mental health. I know that social media itself is just the happy highlights of our lives, and the open talk about depression and anxiety is something that our community really needs. Growing up, depression was something that just wasn’t talked about. At twelve years old, I was diagnosed with ulcers from my anxiety, did a few “therapy” sessions, and it was called good. (And I honestly hated those therapy sessions and were about never things that I felt helped because it was projected onto me what *should* be causing these feelings.) It was a small town in the midwest, so options were pretty limited. But I really didn’t understand my family’s genetic lineage towards depression until much later, because you just “deal with it”.

Back to now, January is my hardest month. Come to find out, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) strikes me pretty hard. The one time I was hospitalized for the my depression, it was early January. That anniversary hits me fairly hard every year, even though I now have more effective tools to treat it. SAD is definitely one of the reasons I kept moving farther and farther south as I got older. Even here in San Antonio, while not as cold, January is a dark month filled with gloomy rain, fog, and apathy.

So, my yearly struggle with January continues. I did have some great races this month (The River Road Half Marathon and the Freedom Fighter’s 5K), but its been a real struggle with apathy. I even skipped a MLK 5K that I had signed up for. For me, depression isn’t really about sadness, if that makes any sense. I struggle mostly with apathy. Its hard to move, it’s hard to start anything. And I’m definitely a person that finds joy in movement! This leads to things piling up, and the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed and behind often kicks in. Honestly, my Christmas tree still sits decorated in my living room…

This apathy is a struggle. I had started a Garmin Training Program to prepare for a particular half marathon that the end of February, but found myself routinely skipping those runs or cutting them short. There is a little field that predicts if you’ll reach your goal time, and as I watched the little slider move from green to yellow, it fed into my apathy and my anxiety. I wasn’t hitting the weights either, and seeing photos of my muscle growth from last years hypertrophy program also had me sliding back. I found myself sleeping in most mornings, while struggling to sleep at night. Stress from my day job really compounded all these feelings. I would have days where I would sit on my computer and just feel my heart pounding in my chest for hours.

With this all going on, I told myself that I am a person of action and planning. I’ve decided its time for a battleplan to get myself back on the road of managing my symptoms.

The Current Battleplan:

1: Make Sure to Get Some Sunlight Everyday. Right now, its dark when I can run in the morning, and it’s fairly close to dark when I get off of work. I’m making an effort that everyday (that it is not raining) to go take a walk during my lunch break. Vitamin D deficiency is one reason for increased depression symptoms in the winter, and my own blood work in the past has shown very low levels at my highest rates of depressive and anxiety symptoms. Even twenty minutes a day of sunshine can be very helpful.

2: Make Easy Runs a Priority and Get Back to Nature. I deleted the training plan from my garmin watch, and have switched my watch face to show only my heart rate. This keeps my pace and time hidden, and I just go and run. I’ve also started dreading running in my hilly, dreary neighborhood, so I’m making a point of enjoying some new offroad trails that have recently opened up. This isn’t going to really push to improve my running times, but the point right now is to get back out and pounding the pavement (or dirt) consistently.

3: Putting Weight Lifting Back on the Schedule. Last year, I took about half the year off running hardcore to do a 4 day/week (90-120 minute sessions) hypertrophy weightlifting program. The progress I made in just six months was remarkable. How fast I lost that mass during marathon training was just as shocking, even with still lifting at least once a week. Before getting back on a marathon training schedule, I want to get back to lifting more. I did love the results from having a consistent program. While not as intensive of a program I’ve followed in the past, I’ve found a whole body program meant for 3 days/week in less than an hour that I think is doable. The point here is to have goals that are reachable.

4: Stop Overscheduling Myself. On the note of having reachable goals, I need to stop overscheduling myself. The current two workouts/day or everyday workouts of close to two hours just seem insurmountable. (Even though I was doing this consistently last fall.) The apathy of my depression makes getting those workouts started the hardest part. I need to chop everything into smaller bits that seem more accomplishable until I’m feeling that I’m in a better place mentally and WANT to do these workouts. This includes races! I thought I needed something to look forward to, so I booked a TON of races for the next three months. I feel myself dreading them rather than enjoying them, and I love to race… While I still have these races on my schedule, I’m not booking anything else until I feel better.

Long Term Goals for 2020

1: Enjoy Running Again for the Sake of Running Whether it’s the doldrums of winter, or burnout leftover from my last training cycle, I’ve been dreading my workouts lately. Albeit, many have been on the treadmill. I hate the cold and darkness that this type of year brings. I don’t WANT to have many running goals this year, I just want to run and enjoy it again. Reigniting my passion is of upmost importance. (And I need to stop being so competitive with myself!)

2: Do a Destination Race I actually have two of these planned already. In April, I’ll be attending the Statesmens Cap 10k in Austin. Though this isn’t TOO far from home, I’m looking forward to having some time away from everything and plan on making a weekend out of it. I’ll be attending as a BibRave Pro, so look for me in ORANGE! (I also have a coupon code of BIBRAVE2020CAP10K to save $5 if you want to join me!)

My second race is going to be the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon in September. I have a lot of friends that have moved up there over the past two years, and we’re making a reunion out of the race. While several are meeting us at the finish line, I’ve talked several of my nonrunning friends into running this one with me. I am SO looking forward to visiting a new city and meeting up with old friends.

Cant wait to see all these peeps again

3: Attempt a Sub-4 Hour Marathon (Near the end of 2020) This is really my only time-based running goal for 2020. Last November, I ran the Route 66 Marathon in 4:18. It was my third marathon, a very hilly course, and I beat my old time by almost 40 minutes. I want to see if I can break 4 hours. It would be a big PR, but I plan on picking a late in the year marathon. (Maybe the 50th BMW Dallas marathon in December?) I think 6 months of base building, then starting training in late July. It’s definitely doable on a flatter course.

So, that’s my plan to use running and fitness to help me back into a better spot mentally. As I’ve said on Instagram, this is almost a yearly cycle for me. January is a struggle, but if I have small attainable goals, and treat myself kindly, I can dig myself out of this hole once again. How is your January going? Do you also get the winter blues? Let me know! <3

One comment

  1. I dislike January too. I have the same symptoms as you do. My worries seem much worse during this time of year. I’ve started hitting up the treadmill and it seems to help. Thanks for sharing, Sarah. So cliche but ” I’m not the only one ” Hugs

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