How I Cured My Depression: Part 3 Exercise The Demons

This is Part 3 of the ‘How I Cured My Depression’ series.

  1. ‘How I Cured My Depression: Part 1’
  2. ‘How I Cured My Depression: Part 2, Constructing a Future’

What Does Depression Look Like?

Picture a depressed person in your mind. What do you see? I see a man sitting with shoulders slumped, head and necked lowered – looking straight at the ground. Something like the guy in the left photo below.

comparison2

Now what about this guy on the right? Does he look depressed? I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure this guy feels like The Champion of The Universe right now.

So let’s talk about how to get out of the box on the left – and into the box on the right.

Exercise

‘Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn

When’s the last time you had a workout? I mean a real workout where you put your body under some stress and felt sweat dripping down your back? If you’re depressed, my guess is that it’s been a while.

I have found strenuous exercise to be one of the best cures for my depression. I spent a few months finding a routine I could live with and now I do it every week without fail.

“A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression.”

“A follow-up to that study found that exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants.”  (source Harvard.edu)

As I said before – the hardest part is getting started. In the beginning you will have to force yourself to work out – later you’ll have to force yourself NOT to (because rest is key for growth).

To make it happen, all you have to do is set the habit.

How To Set The Habit

  1. Open your spreadsheet from the last post
  2. Add an entry for “Exercise” at a time you can stick with
  3. Start repeating the routine

The science says that it takes anywhere from 21-66 days to set a new habit (source). So you may have to fight yourself for the first two months, but after that it will happen on auto-pilot, like brushing your teeth.

Recommended Ways to Get Exercise:

Here are three different options for getting exercise. I recommend working out with weights for men and women but I’ll give you some other options as well. If none of these fits your style – find something that does. (i.e. Yoga, aerobics, spin class, pilates, etc.)

  1. Lift Weights
  2. Workout at Home
  3. 30 Minute Walks

*Don’t Freak Out: -You don’t have to become an Olympic Power Lifter or workout for 3 hours a day to get the benefits. You can do almost any type of exercise consistently and feel better.

1. Lift Heavy Things

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

If you can muster the effort – this is my top recommendation. I was introduced to working out via a friend in Hollywood. I told him I was feeling awful every day and instead of asking my why – he just said “start working out”. I didn’t get it at first – but he was 100% right.

Join a gym and start working out for around 1 hour – 3 times a week. Believe me I understand that a gym can be intimidating – but after a while you will realize that everyone is too busy checking themselves out in the mirror to notice you at all.

Depending on the city you live in a gym membership will cost you $10-$50 a month. If you have the extra cash it’s worth it. Having the correct equipment can have a dramatic effect on your results. (Those pink 2 lb hand weights have never done much for anyone)

Don’t go into the gym and just screw around. Plan out a routine and stick with it.

Here are a few solid workout routines you can look into:

  • RPT (Reverse Pyramid Training)
    • This is close to what I do and what I recommend over everything else. 3 days a week, 1 hour a day. You can’t beat it for effectiveness and convenience. Do this.
    • My mom also does a variation of this routine using machines instead of free weights. If she can do it, you can too.
  • Push/Pull/Legs
    • I did this for a few months and it was fine. A decent alternative to RPT. I suggest going 3 days a week, not 5.

*Try This: If these don’t fit your needs, go to Youtube.com and search “workout routine for (your gender) age (your age)“.  And find something that you like. Write it down and do it every week.

Steal My 3x Per Week Workout:

This is the exact routine I do. 4 or 5 big movements per day, 3 days a week. By putting this system into place and repeating it for the last 4-6 months I have transformed myself from a sack of mashed potatoes to a lean, muscled Champion of the Universe.

Notice how non-complicated it is. That is the key for me.

I do 3-4 movements and get the hell out of the gym. It never changes. Sometimes I throw in some curls or pull-ups – but when I do that I realize I am just having fun.

Once I chose this routine I stopped looking for other workouts. It’s great to do a lot of testing and researching to find what works for you, but when you find your groove, that’s it. Research over. Just do the work – over and over again. Every week without fail.

Total time is between 40-60 minutes depending on how long I break between lifts.

  • Monday
    • Deadlift
    • Overhead Press
    • Barbell Rows
    • Chin Ups
  • Wednesday
    • Bench Press
    • Incline Dumbbell Press
    • Barbell Curls
    • Tricep Rope Extensions
  • Friday
    • Squats
    • Leg Curls
    • Leg Extensions
    • Weighted Wide Grip Dips
    • Calves
    • Weighted Ab Cable Crunches

On all lifts I do a few warmups and then (2) two working sets of 6-8 reps. The first set is the max I can do for 6-8 reps. The second set is 10% less weight for one more rep than I did in the first set.

If I can do more than 8 reps on the first set, I increase the weight by 5-10 lbs the next time I come to the gym. (steal my gym tracker spreadsheet and track your progress)

2. Workout At Home

If you don’t have the cash or are too shy to go to a gym, work out at home. You can buy a few free weights or there are plenty of body weight exercises you can do to get your blood pumping.

Don’t buy any sort of ab-rockers or push-up machines. No one has ever gotten into shape using any of that garbage. If you’re going to pay money for equipment buy barbells, plates and dumbbells and do the 3x per week workout I posted above.

If you don’t have space for a weight bench at home you can do bodyweight exercises. 3x per week on repeat.

Quick Tips:
Men: Do 25 pushups a day (or whatever you can do), 3-5x per week, every week for 3 months and your chest will pop out.
Women: Do 25 squats a day (or however many you can do), every day for 3 months and your butt will pop out.

Body Weight Workouts:

3. Walk 30 Minutes A Day

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

If you can’t convince yourself to work out at a gym or at home – start walking 30 minutes a day 3–5 times a week. Walking is a great way to get your blood pumping, get out of the house and get out of your head. I have some of my best ideas while out on a walk.

Load some of your favorite music onto your phone, plug in some earbuds, grab a bottle of water and walk. I don’t care if you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or walk in circles around your house. Get your ass off the couch and move your feet for a minimum of 30 minutes.

*Try this: Set the timer on your phone to 15 minutes and start walking away from your house. When the alarm goes off, turn around and walk home. That’s it.

*or Try this: If you happen to have access to a treadmill with a TV on it. Walk at a 3–4 speed and watch one sitcom episode. 30 minute walk done.

A Little Tough Love on Exercise

People who are depressed may have a hard time getting motivated. But do not let lack of motivation stop you. No matter what your head says – just put your shoes on and go.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King

If you do what I’ve outlined here for a few months, your entire mental state will shift.

  1. Lift Weights
  2. Workout at Home
  3. 30 Minute Walks

In time it will become a routine, like brushing your teeth.

  • You will feel better
  • You will move better
  • You will sleep better

Studies have shown that regular exercise plays a role in curing depression. And the effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants.

If you are unwilling to add exercise to your routine – knowing that it could make you feel better, then you need to think about why you’re such a stubborn ass.

No one is that busy. Everyone has an extra 3 hours a week. If you need me to help you find the time: Stop watching TV.

How to get started: Open the daily routine spreadsheet and add an entry for “Exercise”. Pick a time that’s easy for you to stick with and then start repeating the routine. 

Read the next post in the series, ‘How To Find Inspiration, Even When You’re Not Inspired (And the Rubber Band Trick I Use All The Time).

  • phil

    im currently working on to build a routine like that but i dont know if it is right..can you please take a look at it and give me feedback.

    1
    deadlift
    chin ups
    row
    bb curl

    2
    bench or incline bench
    weighted dips
    incline bench
    tris movement

    3
    squat
    leg curl
    calf raises
    bb curl

    4
    military press
    pull ups
    lat raises
    back flys

    3 working sets for the core lift and 2-3 for access.
    ive put four days to allow a day for shoulder
    also do you think flat bench will cause me to have droopy pecs and that i should pair incline press and weighted dips or leaving flat bench as the core and doing incline db access?

    but would you advise making an extra day for ohp because it will be hitten on the others days by bench and inclined etc and it can contribute for me to throw in sdoome lat raises

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Phil – The 3x a week split exactly as I listed above has given me more results than any 4, 5 or 6 day split I tried. I’m no workout expert so I can only tell you what’s worked for me – and give you the following advice.

      #1Don’t over think things

      #2 If you’re worried about droopy pecs that means you are reading a lot of Youtube comments and forum posts. Work out for 4-6 months and then judge your own personal progress. If you see see droopy pecs developing, do more incline presses. If not, just keep going.

      #3 I know my routine probably looks like it’s not enough work. It was hard for me to believe in the beginning as well. But working out 3x a week, and taking 4 days off has given me faster/better results than any other split I tried.

      References:
      http://rippedbody.jp/reverse-pyramid-training/
      http://www.leangains.com/2008/12/reverse-pyramid-revisited.html

  • Michael Philips

    Thanks for some practical simple steps. Depression dulls the brain for me and simpler the better. Do you have any suggestions for pushup alternatives? I have a wrist injury that never healed right so i can’t flex it far enough to do a pushup.

  • Shawn

    The thing with exercise is that I usually hit the gym everyday but I have littleto no energy before or afterward, and after I’m done lifting or running, I’m right back to being depressed. It sucks.