How Fitness and Running Can Help Battle Stress, Anxiety and Mental Health – Ania Gabb

Before I begin I just want to make it clear that there is no right way to deal with grief, stress or anxiety. I am just merely sharing my own journey on what has helped me over the past 18 months and hope it helps others.

Once again I’m going to touch on a very personal subject. My journey on how I became a Personal Trainer was tough to write down. This subject is even harder. 2017 and 2018 have possibly been the toughest years of my life. 2017 started off to be amazing with me competing in the world’s greatest marathon in Boston, MA and then London, UK six days later.

How Fitness and Running Can Help Battle Stress, Anxiety and Mental Health
Author running by water.

I had an amazing summer with friends and family and went to some incredible music concerts. I was having the time of my life, until September. My mother was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiform Grade IV. An incurable brain tumour. My whole world had been turned upside down. This was my mum. She carried me for 9 months, brought me into this world and had always looked after me. I always imagined that she would live to 100 and see my future children grow up. Now it was my turn to look after her.

I spent every spare moment I had researching this awful disease. I had discovered that there is very little research on Brain Tumours. However, once you open one door then they all open. The amount of knowledge I have on GBM is now endless. I also knew a little about this disease after my friend was diagnosed at the tender age of 30. He sadly passed away at 34 back in 2014. I learnt about the different treatments he went through, I saw his personality change and I also saw him struggle. However, besides all the pain he went through I had never met anyone more positive. I knew that this was the most important thing to pass onto my mother. Be positive and don’t give up.

Like most families everyone deals with bad news in their own way. My father was in complete denial (he would still to this day disagree with me!), my sister was an emotional wreck and my brother didn’t want to talk about it. What was my way of dealing with it?

It was to stay busy and throw myself into exercise. I honestly do not think I would have stayed this calm if I didn’t have my passion for running. Anytime I felt overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or any sort of overpowering emotion I would put on my trainers, grab my ipod and step outside. Sometimes I would run for hours, just to clear my head. Another advantage is I would suddenly think of things that I hadn’t researched.

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Ania Gabb Blog Image

Sometimes you just need to zone out; clear your mind and things will suddenly pop into your head that you hadn’t thought of.

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain that act as pain killers. Research shows that if you exercise everyday it reduces anxiety and stress levels by 40%. I’ve tested this theory and its spot on. I always feel so much better after teaching a class, a gym workout or a run.

I’m a keen marathon runner and find that having structure in my life with my training plan helps me immensely. I had people telling me not to compete and just to rest but I knew it was the only thing that would keep me sane. So I entered a bunch of races. Sometimes you need to escape from reality and this was my way of doing just that. If you suffer from anxiety, stress, depression or mental health then why not try some sort of exercise. It doesn’t have to be intense; it can be anything – yoga, Pilates, running, walking or spinning. You also don’t have to join a gym, you can exercise anywhere. Remember Personal Trainers are there to help you and won’t judge you. I feel lucky that my clients can open up to me about personal issues. It helps me help them and in return they help me. There is no greater reward than knowing you’ve changed someone’s life for the better.

Another method that has eased my anxiety is Meditation. Again this can be done anywhere. You just need a quiet space, maybe some candles and to be alone. It’s amazing what slow deep breathes can do. Running has been my saviour and can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like without it. My mind is clear and that helps me help me deal with what happened to my mum.


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