Endurance exercise helped me tackle, conquer my depression

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN


Courtesy of Connor Newsum

Connor Newsum crosses the 2019 Santa Barbara Triathlon finish line Aug. 24, 2019 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Connor Newsum, Staff Writer

Around two years ago I found myself experiencing some of the most commonly known symptoms of depression.

Difficulty getting out of bed, an intense lack of motivation for even the simplest of tasks and an overwhelming dullness. My grades were slipping and I was clocking the minimum amount of hours at my job.

I was fully aware that I was stuck in this rut, but for months I allowed it to slow me down, unsure of a solution.

Wanting to avoid a route that involved doctors and pharmaceuticals, I turned to reading self help and motivational books. While the books themselves did not provide the quick fix I was hoping for, one of the books hit on the topic of triathlons and I immediately had the dismissive thought of “Pshht, I bet I could do one of those.”

That idea bothered me for weeks, leaving me wondering: Did I have the mental and physical fortitude for something like a triathlon?

After weeks of toying with the idea, keeping me up as I went to bed, I came across a posting about the Santa Barbara Triathlon. Seeing that felt like the type of sign only seen in movies.

The race was four months away and I knew I had to sign up.

The triathlon was a brightly lit flare highlighting my escape from the emotional fog I had been lost in for two years, and I had goosebumps as I clicked confirm on the race website.

I hesitated to tell anyone in my life that I had signed up for the race. The biggest reason being a fear of embarrassment.

I had just signed up for an arduous event that I had no clue how to train for and no idea if I would even endure the training when I started.

At the time I was about 25-30 pounds overweight. My swimming experience consisted of a brisk dog paddle. I didn’t own a bike. And I hadn’t done any serious running since high school.

Still, the burst of excitement after signing up surpassed anything I had felt in years. I quickly went from sleeping in until 11 a.m. to exploding out of bed at 7 a.m. sharp to run in the cold and foggy mornings. 

In a matter of weeks I went from being unable to jog a consistent 2 miles to running up to 10. YouTube became my full-time trainer. Watching triathlete training videos for tips on distance running, guides on racing bikes and how to start swimming like a pro. I was fully addicted.

I began working out every chance I had. I started working with a trainer in the pool to improve my technique and speed. I found a cycling group that pushed me to keep up and discovered a love for running that forever changed who I am.

The thought of completing the triathlon gave me something to look forward to every morning when I woke up, and the amount of training required gave me a surplus of motivation. I had transformed from passionless to fully motivated in a matter of months.

I was so consumed with the race that I didn’t even have time to reflect on just how much my life had improved. I was earning A’s in my classes and effortlessly clocking many hours at work. I was finally excited about life again. 

I ended up finishing the Santa Barbara Triathlon and have since gone on to do a compete in half marathons, a sprint triathlon, and a full marathon. I currently have a 100 mile bike race coming up in March and many other endurance events planned for 2020.

The joy I get from races isn’t derived from the event itself, rather the feeling of excitement that I get looking forward to race day and the motivation it gives me to push myself harder. The work ethic and passion I’ve found in training has spilled over to the rest of my life and made me a happier, more confident person. 

To anyone who feels stuck in a rut, who is lacking the motivation and excitement and wants to do more, go sign up for something. I’m not solely recommending endurance sports.

Maybe it’s volunteering at an animal shelter, signing up for a club at the City College, or a simple 5k run for charity. 

Knowing that you have something on the calendar to look forward to, a task or event that requires your full attention will help propel you out of a somber state and into the productive, life-loving person we all have within us.