Running is my therapy: mental health advocates extol virtues of exercise

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“Running is my therapy, I let go of all of my worries and struggles when I run. It is my time to be selfish and everyone needs to make time for that.” Lauren White sounds heartfelt as she explains why fitness means as much to her mental health as it does her physical health.

White was talking to other women at a special event at a gym in Shoreditch geared towards raising awareness around the benefits of moving the body when tackling mental health issues. Other speakers at the all-female supper club at the Adidas Studio organised by sister Maddy and Alex Weaver, included the mental health advocate Ifrah Mohammed.

Both speakers told their stories of both physical and mental health battles, encouraging attendees of the group to embrace their emotions and speak out in times of difficulty.
White explained that “everyone goes through stuff, but mental health issues aren’t a sign of weakness. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions are illnesses. We overcome them by seeking help and undergoing treatment, just like you would with a physical ailment.”

White’s story gave the group a deep insight into her personal experiences with mental health issues, both her own and those around her.
Though a difficult topic to talk about, she said: “If I can help one person, even in the smallest way, through telling my story and providing methods which helped me get through the tough times, then it makes it all worth it.”

Mohammed, on the other hand, spent a large proportion of her life in hospital due to a major operation which left her without an intestine and bladder which doesn’t function. She explained how her physical problems became mental ones when she was told she would no longer be able to go to the toilet at the age of 18. Being a majorly disruptive part of her day-to-day life, Mohammed shared the problems she faced psychologically, saying: “I didn’t want to live anymore. If they couldn’t fix me, I just didn’t see the point in carrying on. Life became a chore.”

Thankfully, Mohammed’s attitude towards life changed when she fell pregnant with Jannah, who is now a happy, healthy six-year-old. “I was told I couldn’t have a baby. This made me even more determined to have one. I didn’t care if I didn’t make it through the birth, at least I would have created something beautiful with my body.” Much to the surprise of her medical professionals, Effie gave birth to her daughter successfully and, though she landed herself in critical care as a result, she battled through.

The recurring theme of the evening was how fitness helped both of the girls get through the darkest times of their lives. The Weaver sisters touched on this by saying: “Even if it just gets you out of the house for half an hour, it can be the difference between spiralling into a depression or anxiety attack and starting the day feeling like you achieved something.”

A key aim of the Adidas studio is to allow women from all different walks of life to get their fitness fix in a safe, welcoming environment. The Weaver sisters host regular events to build the already strong community around supporting one another and letting go day-to-day stresses. The studio is open daily, running a range of free women’s classes from yoga and HIIT to strength training.

Weaver says: “Everyone is welcome here. We love the community we have built so far and hope that it grows even more with time. My sister suffered with the most terrible anxiety before getting into fitness and we want to help others overcome the same struggles through movement and group motivation.”

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