Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Alcohol, depression and weightlifting

It seems a lot of people in blog land suffer from depression. The alcohol blocks/feeds the depression and it's an endless loop of more depression. Maybe this will help someone out there...

Each time I would do dry January or 30+ days off alcohol I would see benefits. A little weight loss, toning, better sleep, money savings. I never really made it to a beautiful point though, I just felt very flat. I trundled along with my alcoholic free beverage and continued my overthinking and average existence. Even when I did 60 days off I just ended up feeling sad and deflated.

A lot of people extol the virtues of fresh air. "Let's go take a walk, clear the cobwebs!" Great, here in the UK the weather is crap, it's dark early and all walks end in a pub where I have to put on a fake smile and order a fizzy water.

I've always done a lot of sport, mainly because my gym in 90 seconds from my front door and I have a training partner who depends on me to meet up. I've been playing with my schedule and in speaking with trainers and internet research I decided to incorporate weight lifting twice a week.

I started lifting weights on Oct 7th in a Les Mills Body Pump class at the gym. I was 2 weeks into my 100 days alcohol-free stint. I had occasionally lifted here and there but not in a proper 1 hour class. It's offered at many gyms, it's a choreographed class so every instructor in the world is doing the same songs, same moves. Then they bring out a new version every 12 weeks. 

I enjoyed the class and the instructor's energy so signed up for another one....and another one.

I was one month into being alcohol free and lifting weights in this class twice a week along with my 'regular' hiit sessions with my gym buddy. I was walking back home at 830 PM on a Monday night (which historically was my heaviest drinking night due to hating my job) and I found myself humming the tunes from the class. I felt very alive and happy. It was a confusing moment as I had not had a 'good' day in many months.

I began to look forward to the Monday and Thursday classes and had some more good days.  

Then I started to do some googling online. I know a lot of people have success with running for depression while others recommend yoga. In some research, weight lifting can have the same or better results than other forms of exercise. Here are two quick summaries:



I've now upped my weight training (still doing the Les Mills Body Pump) to three times a week. I find I feel consistently good for hours afterwards. After class I come home with no desire to open a bottle of wine as my mind is calm and I feel a mixture of energetic yet exhausted in a good way.

I think this may help someone else out there. In particular, the 2nd article makes this statement, 'Another important finding in this study was that there was an association between a change in depressive symptoms and gain in muscle strength.'

I've never been one for running, especially outside in the rain, cold or dark weather. Even when I go out and run the 5k park run, I never get that runner's high, ever. I go on the treadmill for an hour and it still doesn't happen. However one month in to weight training I started to actually get arm, back and shoulder muscles and it's precisely when I started to feel mentally better.

I tried yoga and then mindfulness class but they made my brain spin too fast and then the partner exercises and instructors touching me put me over the edge. I find weight training focuses the brain. As all your mental energy is thinking about the bar and the weight everything else is blocked out.

So if you're sitting in a dark room with a bottle and racing thoughts suffering from bad sleep, flat moods and hangovers, maybe give weight training a try if other sport and activities haven't helped. 

I do the Les Mills Body Pump classes as I have a gym membership and I need a structured time and place to do things. If you have access to weights and youtube you could have a weight training program. There's always free cycle to get free weight equipment or even plastic water bottles filled with water or sand could get you started.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Hello 2018

I completed my 100 days. Once again, no balloons and confetti fell after I met my goal.

While I'm bored with the routine I haven't missed alcohol.

So the plan is to take a few days off from abstaining and then to get back into my routine: work, gym, healthy food, no alcohol.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Day 77

I never get to post on milestone dates, meh. Still on track for 100 days.

All the gym work and no alcohol is finally starting to pay off with decent arm muscles and abs. It's now getting to the point that I'm kicking around going past 100 days as I'm on such a roll on this front.

I am flavour of the month in this holiday season as everyone's favourite designated driver.

This time last year was our annual family Christmas at the in laws. They do it early to fit into everyone's plans. Last year I was hungover on the Sunday due to the non stop wine. This year, I'm booked into the gym for a 9 AM class this Sunday after the Sat night shenanigans.

That's how I roll these days.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Day 40

Just chugging along here, heading towards day 100.

Someone from the gym is doing dry October and is now extending it until a planned party in late November as she feels so great and is down a stone in a month (just from giving up sugar, no other diet or exercise changes!). That's how my dry January went on for 40 days too, I was in the zone. Funny how once you get started and get over the tough days it gains momentum.

Monday, 4 September 2017

On form

I'm more of a blog lurker than writer these days.

In October I did 30 days off alcohol.
I did dry January this year and it lasted 40 days.
I then did a fresh run of 60 days off alcohol.

I'm finding that I now do most days off of it and that's ok.  I've come to a conclusion that I'm more of a boredom drinker than anything else. At the same time I picked up at the gym back in January and now evolved into a set routine, 6 days per week. Alcohol does nothing for me on the sport front and I've been enjoying the benefits of working out.

My current method is to be on 'off' mode with the exception of pre-planned 'on' days. I find that I'm no longer counting hours and days. Backtracking on my calendar I'm currently on day 7 and my next 'on' day is the weekend of Sept 15th as we have some time away planned.

Looking back, 30 days seemed so difficult the first time around. Even a week was daunting in a series of day ones. Thankful to be off of that hamster wheel.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Day 40

The recovering Catholic in me recognizes that I just did the equivalent of no alcohol for 40 days of Lent.

I still haven't come to any conclusions about not drinking, except that I won't drink today as it would sound silly later to say 'I gave up alcohol for 39 days.'  'Forty' has a better ring to it.

In the gym this week, the manager (in her mid-20's) whom I affectionately call 'my weekday teetotaler' and I were comparing notes.  She has zero willpower and used to say, 'I'm not drinking this weekend, well, except for Friday night, and Sunday afternoon.' She had a similar statement about mid-week drinking so thus the name.

She did Dry January like I did and just kept on going.  Any big reason?  Nope, just didn't feel the need to stop yet.  No wedding plans, no weight loss goals, nothing.  I feel in the same boat.

In an ironic twist I've been getting a lot of mystery shops recently.  It's only a hobby, I like writing about travel and experiences and this is just a chance to eat out for free while doing so.  Many of them are via the brewers who want to test how their pubs are doing.  So if the brief says, 'you must order a half pint or pint of beer on this visit,' then I task that to the boyfriend while I get a coffee or sparkling water.  To be fair, I'm impressed with the state of the coffee machines in many pubs these days, on par with the fancy coffee shops!

OH is continuing to follow his fitness regime but got sidetracked this week on two work nights out as the vendors were providing free beer and nibbles.  To his credit he had none last night (Friday) and has a weekend on the cross trainer planned.  My not drinking means that a Saturday for him is usually a can of beer rather than a bottle plus of wine so small wins at least.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Day 36

Dry January rumbles on.  I had said that I would extend it out longer than Dry October, so it needed to top 31 days.  The Saturday just gone would have been my first 'possible' drink day.  However the time is not yet right.

Physically I've done a bit of toning up this past month.  Down one solid kilo and even dipped down another kilo for three days straight.  Back up again after overdoing it at the gym and taking four days off.  I'm down at that annoying last five pounds stage.

OH's sis hosted us for dinner on Sunday with their parents.  That one is an easy one as the parents do not drink.  So I brought along my current favourite non-alcoholic tipple:  http://www.echofallswine.co.uk/sparkling-tisane which they enjoyed too.  Note: the bottle on mine looks more green than this photo.  Price is under 3 GBP at Asda.

Undecided as to how long to keep this up.  I'd like to get more in shape and actually have some ab muscles at 42.  Perhaps a lofty goal.  Otherwise, the job is still carp so not drinking is helping me to preserve my mind, it would drive me nutso otherwise.