Fitness can be so much more than a physical challenge. The right workout can break us open in profound ways, revealing truths about our perseverance and inner strength that might have been otherwise invisible. It’s therapy. It’s meditation. And sometimes, it can be hugely transformative. With this in mind, we invited some of our readers to share their own stories of The Workout That Changed Everything—how they found their ideal form of movement and what it taught them about themselves. Below, Amanda Brown shares how she learned to get moving every day—and what it did for her mind as well as her body.
I spent much of last summer feeling depressed. Despite having a new job, it still took all my energy to do anything. If I wasn’t working, I was lying on the couch watching TV. I was tired and lacked the energy to exercise, which led to overeating and weight gain—which, in turn, only worsened my depression.
On top of my low energy levels, I didn’t think I had time to work out. It took 10 minutes just to get to the gym. Then I’d have to warm up, work out, and then stretch. Then drive the 10 minutes home, totaling at least an hour, if not more. That’s a big time commitment, even for someone who spends their evenings after work and weekends binging on Netflix and snacks.
Later in the summer, however, I read an article about a woman who ran at least a mile a day for more than 200 days. Some days she ran farther; some days it was just a mile. But she always did at least a mile. After I read it, I thought to myself, I could do that. Even at my slowest, I could run a mile in less than 15 minutes. That’s a much smaller and more manageable time commitment. In my mind, it also required less energy than going to the gym at a time when it took all I had just to get off the couch.
That article stuck with me, and I thought about it over and over before I finally took my running shoes out of retirement and went out for the first mile of my run streak. That first run last August was anything but easy. It was hot and I was out of shape, but I did it. And I did it again the next day. And again the next. Over time, my legs grew stronger, I got faster, and I was able to run farther than a mile.
With each mile, each thud of my feet hitting the pavement, my depression faded, bit by bit. My clothes started to fit better. I felt more confident. I started doing things I had never done before, like running while I was on vacation and making my health a priority. Before I knew it, I was the “crazy person” running outside in single-digit temperatures to get my mile (or more) in. I even ran on holidays.
In addition to the physical improvements, my mental resilience improved too. I handled stressful situations better and constantly reminded myself that if I could run 100 days in a row (or more), I could do anything I put my mind to. Realizing you can do anything is unbelievably liberating.
Unfortunately, my run streak ended in March while I was seeing a chiropractor to address some shoulder pain I’d had for over a year. In total, my run streak lasted 218 days, and during that time, I ran roughly 370 miles. Now that my shoulder is healing, I’m slowly working my way back to running. I don’t know if I’ll take up another run streak anytime soon, but I learned I’m never more than a mile away from a good mood. And even if I do nothing else the rest of the day, I can at least feel proud of that one mile.