Exercise Can Cause Depression Too

On every list of how to improve your sleep, health, skin, mental illness, whatever, you will always see ‘moderate exercise’.

What’s moderate? It’s the amount where it doesn’t feel like you really did anything. I was working out moderately for a while – about 45 minutes, 5 days a week. And it felt great so I did more of it. Soon it was 90 minutes a day, 6 days a week. Then it was time to start running season again and recently I wound up exercising for 3 hours at a time.

And it wasn’t moderate intensity either. I found the emotional benefits of exercise really kick in when you take an exercise to failure. For some who might not know what failure means – you know how if you’re bench-pressing your on your back pushing weight upward, eventually there will come a rep where you can’t fully extend your arms, that’s failure, that is a failed rep. And if you want to really work out you gotta get there and stay there as long as possible.

And it sounds awful when I writing about it and imagining non-fitness people reading it but it’s actually the best feeling. It’s where the drugs are. Taking an exercise to failure and holding it there for 4 deep breathes causes your body to get so stressed out it releases a wave of endorphins you get you through whatever traumatic life and death struggle it thinks you’re going through.

So I did it obsessively. I kept upping and upping the duration and intensity of my workouts to try and feel better.

There’s also a thing called Overtraining Syndrome, you basically fry your nervous system and your hormones, and one of it’s symptoms is depression.

And it’s a very literal feeling of depression – of being pressed down and being underneath something. Because, yeah, your body is down-regulating and wants this level of stress to stop.

But if you get depressed all the time regardless and you’re working out to try and alleviate that depression you’ve got a recipe for just digging yourself further and further into the hole. And it defeats the other purpose of working out too – getting bigger – because your muscles actually get smaller when they accumulate a lot of damage and don’t get to adequately rest and repair. Which again drives people to work out more, not less, thinking they have to go harder to keep getting gains.

What tipped me off though that something was wrong was falling asleep during the day. Like, I’m almost 40 I’ve been taking afternoon naps pretty regularly but I noticed the urge was getting stronger and stronger, to the point I was just lying down on the floor where ever I was and going immediately into a deep and dreamless sleep that was more disorienting than refreshing.

Eventually I was like, man this is not napping this is passing out. But still I was thinking it must be some other serious medical issue and couldn’t be that I was training too hard because training is good for you, more training equal more good.

Then one day by coincidence I worked out much earlier than normal and had my afternoon nap at 11am – a time when I’m still chugging coffee and usually doing stuff. That’s what got me searching and let me see if I can track down any of the good videos I saw:

^this one’s great for being really direct – he gets read the question is it normal to fall asleep after workouts and he immediately says “no.”

And here’s me talking about it for the people who haven’t seen what I look like in a hundred years:

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