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In Her Words: Nicole Loher

3 months ago by

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…

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“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.”

10 comments

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  • I couldn’t agree more. Spinning has over the years helped me in a number of ways and attend a class similar to the one you went to; we all clap and high-five each other at the end. Leads to such camaraderie and you feel fantastic. Nothing beats coming out of that class dripping wet, hair plastered to your skull and such an Adrenalin rush. Not glamorous but hugely vital for my health and well-being. Exercise is what keeps me sane when life collapses around me.

  • Sunny Side January, 26 2018, 10:25 / Reply

    “je n’arrivais pas à lutter contre cette peur de dire ou de faire les choses de travers”.
    Je pense immédiatement au regard implacable qu’un adulte jette sur un enfant pour qu’il soit conforme. Interdit de décevoir, ne pas être aimée pour qui on est, pression terrible qui crée une angoisse paralysante. Le mystère je dois dire est comment le spinning et le reste peuvent-ils évacuer le malaise ? A moins que la pression soit la même, la barre aussi haute, mais sous une autre forme, se challenger avec des éléments d’adulte pour se dépasser. L’égo y trouve son compte.

  • alexandra January, 30 2018, 4:55

    La différence c’est que là on choisi sa propre pression au lieu de subir celle imposée par un autre (peut importe l’autre).

  • Great post . Anxiety, depression, stress are all growing in our society ! Mental health is a huge challenge! I have suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life and exercise is proven to alleviate symptoms and control outbreaks . I still must stress that you also consult a mental health professional!
    Jandrew
    Dress The Part
    http://www.jandrewspeaks.com

  • Thanks for sharing your story, Nicole. Our physical and mental well-being are so intertwined and dependent on each other. At the height of my physical health crisis, I spiralled into the “flee or flight” mode and could not go anywhere without a daily struggle for the better part of two years. For me, yoga brought me back to life. I reconnected with my body and was rewarded with better circulation and strength from the ground up. For the first time in so long, I could feel my body relax, let go of tension and build on strength as the weeks went by with regular practice. And like you, I must not stop as it gives my mind a good place of focus and gratitude. We must listen to our bodies and quiet our minds. :) Best to you and all the readers.

  • Alice R. January, 28 2018, 8:43 / Reply

    Resonates a lot – Thanks for sharing xx

  • She had my full and undivided attention during the introductory paragraph. I could not agree more with the need to workout for mental clarity. Running is probably the only time that my mind is fully at peace and present, otherwise it’s “running”lol a mile per minute. Thank you for sharing this article.

    http://www.byandreafenise.com

  • Very interesting story.
    But I always wonder, for people who begin their day so early : if you wake up a t 4:30, at what time do you go to bed ?
    Because a day is still 24 hours, most adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep, so waking up earlier may give you some alone time, but not more time, I think.

  • I can so relate to Nicoles story. After 40 years of anxiety and depression I finally started exercising to get a fitter brain instead of trying to lose weight. And it is a totally different thing. Now I (almost) always feel motivated to exercise because I am doing it for a bigger cause than just trying to lessen the cellulites on my bum; I am doing it to prevent cellulites on my mind.

  • Tanna Barker January, 30 2018, 12:12 / Reply

    Exercise is my medicine too. I am completely off of anti-anxiety and depressing meds. I haven’t had anxiety in a couple of years because I workout diligently and also try to get enough sleep. It’s the only thing that has ever worked for this long.

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