Friday, May 25, 2012

Bipolar Disorder and Physical Fitness

Bipolar Disorder and Physical Exercise
Staying physically fit can be especially challenging for someone with bipolar disorder, at least it is for me. With my energy level and mood cycling all the time, my commitment and motivation to exercise cycles as well.

Last spring I was more fit than I have ever been in my life. I ran two 5Ks, a 10K and an 8K trail race. This was the first time I ever ran as a sport. I trained almost every day, and felt great. 

The 10K was the final race I ran last year. It was in July, and throughout June a fog of depression had slowly started to creep up on me. The second that the 10K was done (It was a rough one. I limp-hopped my way across the finish line with a knee injury), my motivation to work out immediately evaporated. The compulsion and commitment to exercise and healthy eating that had kept me ripped for 6 months just disappeared. 

Fitness Feels Good, Mentally and Physically
When I was in shape, I felt mentally balanced most of the time. My mental health was more stable, and physically, it felt great to be in shape. When fit, I felt strong and confident. I was propelling, rather than dragging, my body around.

Now, after 10 months of relative inactivity, I can feel, and certainly see, the difference. Movement seems to take so much effort, and I have gained back much of the 30#s I lost while training to run. During this period of relative inactivity, I have gone for walks, bike rides, gardened and run occasionally, but my activity has been sporadic, inconsistent, and my eating habits certainly less healthy.

Bipolar Disorder & a Balanced Life
After my last race, I spent the next few months really struggling with my bipolar disorder, which had been well managed for years. I resumed seeing a psychiatrist regularly and we worked on adjusting my meds so that I could regain my mental health. 

Once I was put back together, I started a large project for work, that was my next obsession. But this obsession was played out sitting in front of a computer, and the fitness that I has worked so hard to achieve slipped away over months of sitting on my ass.

My problem is not obsessive commitment to fitness or obsessive commitment to work, it's just obsessive commitment in general. When I was getting fit, that was my main focus, and I let other things in my life slip. Later, when I was engaged in my work project, it consumed my life. I know it would be healthier to spend my time more evenly distributed among all of the things that are important to me (family, friends, hobbies, work, fitness, etc.), its just hard to achieve this balance. So, I'll keep striving for balance, and plan to make regular exercise part of the picture. 

Do you have a story about the relationship between your bipolar disorder and physical fitness? Any inspiring words? (I could use them.) Maybe we can virtually band together and form "Team Bipolar" to help motivate each other to be physically healthy. It helps when you have others that you are accountable to. Please post a comment.  

For past several days have started to get back into my healthy active habits. Went to gym Thurs, went to beach and played in the sand on Fri, ran-walked on Sat and biked today. Last year I was in shape, and it felt so good to be fit! It'll take some work, but I want to feel like that again.

Still sticking with the habit of getting exercise every day (or at the very least 5 days a week). I can tell that my mood is more stable and I feel happier since starting to exercise again!

Bipolar Stats:

  • Level of Mania (on scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=practically levitating): 0
  • Level of Depression (on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1=none, 10=can't get out of bed): 3
  • Medication Compliance (0 = not taking, 5=taking some, 10=taking all): 5 (have not been compliant with Wellbutrin for past few days)
I am recording my mania and depression bipolar data separately because I often have mixed episodes where manic and depressive symptoms occur at the same time.

This blog is for informational purposes only, it is not intended to be used for the treatment of mental illness. If you are having emotional troubles, please see a mental health professional, not a computer. 


  1. I could have written this story myself. Your experience of bipolar effects are very similar to my own.

    I dont know where the fit version of me from a year ago has gone. I have piled on weight and despite experience and knowledge I just cant seem to get going again.

    Im okay with being in this place and trying not to get panicked or frustrated, but I sure would like to get moving again.

    My wife said "just do it". I say that in my head thats like asking someone who has lost their arms to pick up a pen and start writing. Its just gone missing.

    I'm looking forward to spring and learning to surf. I believe its common in bipolar to feel a link to nature and I would say this is certainly true for me. I get out in the surf or wilderness to exercise and I feel the energy of the place and the benefit of the exercise

  2. This blog is great my friend keep it going and have a nice day!
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  3. Your story is very similar to my own. I am 49 years old and am a rapid cycler, predominantly depressed. I am affected very easily by things. I was a bodybuilder years ago before my diagnosis. Have been in and out of the gym. A year ago my husband passed away. It was then that I took it upon myself to commit to getting fit again, so I asked a friend of mine who enjoys weight training, to be my partner. We encourage each other daily in our training and healthy eating. My measurements are 36-25-36 and I am preparing to take fitness modeling pics to send off. So I would definitely encourage any person, especially those affected by this disorder to work out with a partner. Accountability is the key.

  4. I'm so glad i'm not alone. I've been diagnosed since I was 21 (am now 29) with Bipolar Type I. I've always loved bodybuilding and martial arts but there are times when I just get so tired of the routine and other times when all I want to do is stay in bed and not even bother to eat. I tend to have rapid cycles so I usually have frequent manic episodes where I feel like I can conquer the world..but at other times I just want to stay in bed and not bother eating. It sucks to have to go through that and mess with my training but luckily I have a great support system of my boyfriend and gym partner who keep me going. My family also knows what a great impact sports has on me; so they also push me to exercise when I don't feel up to it either. I guess its all about having a support system...if it wasn't for these ppl in my life I honesly don't know if i'd still even be here.