I recently received a sincere, heartfelt text message from a friend who’s been navigating her way through a lot of stressful life events. To my surprise, she thanked me for inspiring her to get back into her workout groove. The inspiration itself stemmed from a social media post in which I explained at length how a single running bout got me out of a major mental funk.

Like many of you, I’ve been going through a rough patch since the coronavirus pandemic began.

I’ve had months of speaking engagements and events suspended, indefinitely. And, I’ve had a lot of eagerly anticipated projects and contracts dry up. This is all while managing a busy household and making sure my family’s needs are met, in addition to supporting my clients in their efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the midst of the new normal.

I’d actually reached a point at which I started to feel emotionally overwhelmed. Having noticed the mood change, my husband asked if I needed a break.

Prior to the pandemic, I was infamous for taking solo staycations and mini getaways to clear my mind and hear myself think. But this time I felt different. I didn’t think a stayca or getaway was the cure. I knew exactly what I needed. Hadn’t really had it since the onset of COVID. I knew it was just the medicine my body craved.

And so, instead of telling my husband I needed a break, I told him I needed a run.

Science demonstrates that people who exercise feel better, function better, and even sleep better.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Exercise is Medicine.” I can say with certainty that it is true, on both personal and professional levels. Exercise is medicine, in its purest form. In fact, science demonstrates that people who exercise feel better, function better, and even sleep better.

But, honestly, the type of exercise that’s medicine does vary widely from person-to-person.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all amount or dose.

As with medicine, it is possible to underdose and overdose on exercise—the latter is far less common so that is a conversation for another day.

Each person is different and, therefore, may react differently to different types and doses of exercise. Some people may get a good dose from a few Zumba or spinning classes a week while others may get their fix from regularly engaging in HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or heavy weightlifting sessions.

My husband, for instance, hates all forms of cardiovascular exercise. He just doesn’t like the monotony of it. But he has a real jones for weightlifting. He lives for it. That’s his medicine. That’s how he gets his fix.

For well over 20 years, I got my fix from running long distances of 40-50 miles a week. If you regularly follow me, you’re likely aware that I had to dramatically cut back on running due to a high-risk pregnancy and subsequent caesarean section. I was really looking forward to getting back on the pavement after a full recovery.

Unfortunate for me, just a few months ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee. It was both a surprise and a major blow to my efforts to resume some semblance of my running regimen. My regimen was my mental therapy. And, honestly, I haven’t been right since I stopped.

Since the osteoarthritis diagnosis, I’ve been performing targeted resistance exercises to increase stability and strength in both my knees. I’ve also regularly engaged in indoor cycling and elliptical training along with uphill walking in order to maintain my cardiovascular health.

This has all been wonderful and great for me physically, but I haven’t got the mental fix I need.

And, so I made an executive decision to hit the pavement again, but with caution.

Since my neighborhood is very hilly and pretty challenging even during walks, I decided to drive to a nearby trail. The relatively flat terrain and modest inclines in this particular trail are very similar to those of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, which is where I initially started distance running. Pretty symbolic, as I felt as if I was starting over again.

I set aside two hours for the run so that I’d have enough time to stretch, stop and/or walk, if need-be. Given my diagnosis, I was pretty damn nervous. Additionally, with my professional areas of expertise, I know firsthand that knee osteoarthritis is no joke. So, I decided to start with a long warm-up walk. And, I had every intention of running a total of three miles roundtrip, tops.

Three miles later, however, I changed directions for what would ultimately turn out to be six straight miles roundtrip. While my pace was modest (5-5.5 mph), I was in full stride for the entire duration of the run. This was my first run since the diagnosis and my longest since undergoing the cesarean delivery.

I had absolutely no pain and no discomfort.

What I did have was an amazing feeling of euphoria also known as the “runner’s high.”

Low endorphin levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and negative mood.

That so-called “high” is generally triggered by the body’s production and release of endorphins. Endorphins are essentially the brain’s ‘happy’ or ‘feel good’ hormones. Low endorphin levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, and negative mood. Needless to say, that six-mile run was just the medicine my body needed.

I can honestly say that I hadn’t felt that good during a workout in a very long while. Goes to show that we’re all different in the ways we react to different types of exercise. While I’ve been exercising in a lot of different ways, I was missing that unique ‘high’ that comes with running. In this sense, for me, running is mental medicine.

Perhaps, all that good mental energy showed in the selfie I shared with the post, as my dear friend wouldn’t be the last person to thank me for the inspiration. I actually received a lot of emails from others sharing similar sentiments of how my post inspired them to get their workout mojo back.

For those who regularly exercise, it can be the best form of medicine. It comes with very few side effects and a laundry list of benefits ranging from heart health, metabolic control and cancer prevention, to immune health, hormonal balance and healthy weight management, to emotional health, stress relief and even improved sex drive.

But regularity is key.

Medicine is meant to be taken regularly to ensure that you have an effective amount of ‘drug’ in your body at all times. The same holds true with exercise.

Because exercise is indeed medicine.

And, I’m not just talking about running either.

You don’t have to be a runner to experience that exercise-induced endorphin release. You can get similar benefits from cycling, swimming, brisk walking, HIIT, lifting weights or whatever form of exercise you choose.

So, figure out what you like, do it, and do it often.

Just as you would take medicine.

Medicine is meant to be taken regularly to ensure that you have an effective amount of ‘drug’ in your body at all times. The same holds true with exercise.

Depending on your preferred workout method and physical condition, this might be as little as three to as much as six days a week.

As for me, not sure if I’ll ever put in the running mileage my body was once used to. But I now know that the euphoric runner’s high that I recently experienced was just the medicine I needed at the time. And, for that reason, I’m certainly committed to getting in at least 2-3 good running bouts a week in combination with the other types of exercise in which I’ve been engaging.

That’s my own personal exercise prescription.

Need help finding yours?

I’m always here for you so don’t hesitate to reach out.