mental health and travel
When I first started working for the Basingstoke Sports Centre in April 2012 in the maintenance and cleaning department there were a few things about the job that I was to benefit from. I got to work in a thriving, friendly and healthy environment where there was always something interesting happening. The Basingstoke Sports Centre is a large place with seven floors of sports and fitness activities and there is something different to do each day, in various parts of the building. I have enjoyed interacting with staff, members and other customers while going about my work and I enjoy the dynamic - whether it’s talking to older customers as they have their coffee meet ups in the cafe, the toddlers having their first swimming lessons or the gym goers pumping iron whose motivation and dedication Is impressive.
The best thing though, for me, is having a free gym membership, as this is offered to all staff.
I like using the gym. I have my own approach to how I work out, I don’t do weightlifting to build muscle and I don’t do simple Cardio Vascular stuff to lose weight. I like to hover between the two - I use moderately heavy weights with more repetitions than what a regular weightlifter would do, and although the gym staff have suggested picking a side, I’m happier sitting on the fence. I’d probably lose weight more effectively or build muscle quicker if I chose to do either or the other, but I like doing it my way.
I am a person with past mental health problems and although I’m pretty much fine now, my old problems are still there sometimes, and when they are there is one thing that predictably helps – working out. If I don’t go to the gym for a week or two because of laziness, the chemicals in my brain become slightly less happy. When I attend regularly and enthusiastically my brain keeps those happy chemicals circulating effortlessly.
I enjoy the gym, but because of other commitments and sometimes laziness I have phases where I don’t go in for a month or two. Then when I do go back I stick with it for a month or two and I lose a bit of my beer belly (which comes back). Since 2012 I haven’t been able to make that final push and burn off the last bits of fat and get myself a flat stomach. So my weight rises then falls, rises then falls, etc. I’m not overweight at all but I’m not quite what I would call trim. Some call it a ‘Dad Bod’.
In 2012, at my heaviest, I was 81.5 kg. At my lightest in about 2014 I was 76.5 kg, and it fluctuates between these numbers. Like most people, I like to eat. Eating feels good. But eating doesn’t feel as good as looking at the scales and seeing that you have lost weight!
It can be tough to retain the enthusiasm – it’s so much easier to stay home and watch TV, but when I do go I love the gym. I’m one of those people that feels a genuine release of endorphins and other happy chemicals when I work out and they last for a few hours after the workout too. Exercise has been proven again and again to be good for mental health as well as physical. For some people this means they feel less depressed perhaps, if they have depression, but this can also mean other things. I know a few people that consider the gym their sanctuary, somewhere they can get away from the stresses in their life, stresses from home life or work life for example. Lots of people meditate when they are working out too, me included. You might find me deep in thought while I am on the cross trainer, thinking about my life, my career, my social relationships and generally organising my thoughts.
The mental health benefits don’t stop there either. Going to the gym gives us social contact, a way of structuring and occupying our time, social status, a sense of identity, a sense of personal achievement and more.
The advantages of becoming a member at your local sports centre go on and on. Sports centres and health clubs are a natural place of happiness and well-being. For eons people have trained their minds and bodies to better themselves and they will continue to do so far into the future. I think the highest concentration of healthy people in any given town or city is at the sports centre. Right now there are people there playing badminton, squash, football, table tennis, working out, swimming, spinning, attending fitness classes and more.
They say that nature has the power to make a person happier. I think the local sports centre does too.