I’m so excited to share this piece from the athletic powerhouse, Nicole Loher. Personally, my workouts are a sacred part of my life. Not because I want a “beach body” but because I want mental clarity. If I’m ever creatively stagnant, emotionally distraught or just in a rut, I run. The creation of energy, the repetitive motion, and the gratitude I feel towards my body for its ability to run, gives me mental clarity every time. Nicole takes this approach to physical fitness one step further, which she will explain, in her words…
“Growing up I always knew something about me was a little off but I didn’t understand the full scope of my social anxiety until my first weekend away at college in New York City. Zipped into a black bodycon dress with a full face of makeup, I found myself sobbing in an empty, dimly lit stairwell on the phone with my mom trying to explain what was wrong. I was out with my girlfriends, but couldn’t get over the fact that I just didn’t know what to talk about and felt so alone.
I’d experienced moments like this one before – that feeling of being a bystander in an engaged situation – but this was the first time it felt so overwhelming. Everyone around me felt more intelligent, more involved. In hindsight, this was one of the saddest and greatest moments of my life as it forced me to confront the fact that I needed help.
Over the next four years in college I tried various doctors and subsequent medications, anything to get closer to what would “help me.” Like most, I took the expected route first – I visited my school’s therapist, who quickly dismissed what was going on as normal college anxiety. I knew it wasn’t that, so I asked around to find a doctor who I felt was more qualified.
If you’ve ever tried to find a doctor in New York City, you know it can be as exhausting as dating in New York City. I visited quite a few, who came highly recommended, but they simply kept subscribing various medications to control my anxiety. I gave it a shot (multiple shots!) but every time I began to feel like someone I wasn’t. Ultimately, none of the medications felt right as I never felt like the real version of myself.
Around the same time my Tumblr grew to its height. I amassed quite a following on the platform and was still high-functioning while balancing school work with various events for brands, but the overwhelming feeling of anxiety continued to grow. I was now battling this anxiety in secret as I focused the blog on my burgeoning career and living in New York City. Not to say I was sharing a false version of myself, but I definitely felt like I was living a separate life as I was trying to stabilize my social anxiety.
There were times where I would make intricate plans with friends for an evening out, and I would just cancel five minutes before we planned to meet up. I would continue to make plans to feel optimistic that I’d follow through and it’d be proof that I was better. And each time I canceled, I did it because my feeling of anxiety to be “on” for an entire evening outweighed what I knew would be the high of seeing those friends. It’s not that I didn’t care about the friends, or have disregard for their time or feelings, it always just came down the fact that I couldn’t face the crippling fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.
It wasn’t until my senior year that I found spinning – yes, like, on a bike. A friend asked me to join them in class. Typically, I’d decline and spend my evening studying or scrolling through Tumblr with a pint of ice cream, but I decided to give it a shot because I had never done something like that before. It wasn’t SoulCycle or FlyWheel or any cult-like classes. This was pre-that. It was a 45-minute traditional spin class in the florescent-lit basement of my college’s gym at 6:30PM on a Friday night. I remember walking out of that class feeling like no medicine or doctor had ever made me feel, and for the first time ever I wasn’t scared of or anxious about the group of people who surrounded me, all wearing spandex and happily strapped into spin bikes. We were all there for the same reason – to be a better version of ourselves. And at the end of that first class we did something that is done at the end of every fitness class here in NYC, but I had never experienced it before that point: we all cheered and high-fived each other. It was such a simple act of inclusion, but I had never felt so in the moment in anything in my own life.
I took that spin class every Friday night for the remainder of my senior year. But I wanted to recreate that feeling I got from my Friday night ritual, so a group of friends began to run short distances together a few times a week, to clear our minds and get closer to ourselves. From there, it was a domino effect. I started surrounding myself with people who enjoyed the same spinning and running activities that I did. In turn, they introduced me to new outlets like yoga and eating to better oneself. The more I involved myself in these activates, the better I felt.
You can say I’ve been on this path of “wellness” – through exercise and food – for years since that point, consistently working to challenge myself in new areas that force me to confront that anxiety-ridden side of myself and overcome it time and time again. What most would label as a mental disease, that needs to be helped or treated, I’m so thankful for. My social anxiety pushed me to places I could have never imagined. My social anxiety made me the wellness-obsessed and fearless competitive triathlete that I am today. My social anxiety has given me an outlet to help myself, and a voice as a role model for other women to be the best versions of themselves at any given time.
A question I get a lot is, “how do you do it all?” or the variant, “why do you do it?” I do it because my mental health depends on it. How I do it is I make it a priority for myself, and in turn, those around me. From run clubs, to my physical therapists, to my “adidas fam,” I am now involved with a vastly diverse community of wellness-forward individuals that helped save my life, my self-confidence, and have never once judged me for what many would consider a flaw – my severe, and at time, crippling social anxiety. This community has taken me as I am, and lifted me to a higher place. That is why I strive to be well and continue to find wellness; That is why I do those hip shakes at 4:30AM every morning before I go off to train for two hours; That is why I push myself to be faster, stronger and better every single day.”