Iron Therapy

So the long and short of it, as far as I’m willing to write about right now is: I’m dealing with some loss. As much as I am a fan of being (well trying to be) stoic, sometimes you got to let some emotion out. This is the time where instead of heading to my cave to lick my emotional wounds, I head to the gym to slay some type of dragon. There are a number of reasons that I do this that I will go a bit in to. Bear with me if I’m not up to my usual snuff (mediocrity that is), but here are some reasons to get after it when otherwise you want to lay down.

Emotionally

So you are sad, angry, or otherwise. Training is a great way to overcome this. Sadness tends to abate when you get the blood pumping and you do get the added advantage of endorphins being released (regardless if you are striving for the runners high (running HA!)). Training is going to help your body feel better in general. On the other side when you have anger and frustrations about what life has recently offered you up, might I suggest maximal deadlifting. You shouldn’t hit other people (unless you are sparring), but you can attack a barbell as hard as you want. I would also suggest stone lifting or any other type of movement that harnesses aggression. Now of course don’t go too crazy here since training stress is stress and stress is cumulative. You might be already highly stressed from those life events so get in and get moving, but don’t bury yourself with volume (I wrote this sentence as much for you reader as it was for me to read it).

Control

You can’t control the shit that happens sometimes in life, but you can always control two things; your thoughts and your actions. Going in and training allows you to exert some control over your life and still maintain some semblance of routine. You don’t need to hit all of your typical volume or number of exercises, but sometimes just hitting the first movement and then leaving will at least give you some feelings of ease that you are following your typical schedule. You can’t control what life gives you, but you can control yourself and at least keep fighting in one form or another. The universe will never care that any of us were here, but you can fight you own fight and that’s enough for me sometimes. Last week I was about 75% done with my normal workout and just finished as set and decided I was done. I was just done with training for that day, and that’s fine. The key is that I went in there and did something for a while, plus I skipped arm work which who really needs that?

Hormonally

So when shit goes down in life you tend to release a lot of stress hormone (cortisol, epinephrine, etc.). Great thing for acute exercise bad thing for long term health. This stress response happens from things like training, to being scared by something (movie, friend, etc.). So you want to essentially do something with these hormones. Epinephrine (the fight or flight response) causes global vasoconstriction (total body tightening of blood vessels) this makes your heart work harder, unless you are exercising which causes localized vasodilation (greater blood flow to the exercising area). Exercising in this condition allows for the increased heart beat and blood pumped out to be sent and utilized in some area of the body. So doing something in this condition will help the body deal with the stress a bit better and take some pressure off your heart. Not to mention the cascade of recovery hormones that will be released from doing hard training (more resistance training here than aerobic) which help the body recover from stress (growth hormone, testosterone).

Socially

I get by with a little help from my friends. Seeing friends at the gym or having folks that you share the experience of suffering in the gym can help in times like these. This doesn’t mean that we group hug and get all “kumbayah” on this, but they can help focus you and get you to work through it with a group. The strength staff at EKU have been kind enough to not bring up what I’m working through, still give me shit about my training inadequacies (read: calves), and let me go psycho on inanimate objects and shout at it afterwards (barbells). Sometimes this just allows a great escape from what ails you. I’ll always remember one of my best friends deadlifting 600lbs. for the first time will we had Everclear’s “father of mine” blasting through the system. How amped and intense he would get when that music would play was both terrifying and beautiful to behold. I never asked him why that music amped him up like that, I had my ideas, but I didn’t need to know. It simply was and he used that emotion to do something positive with it.

Wrap up

Maybe this was all a catharsis or a rationalization for poor coping behavior, but I know what works for me. As they say: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. So when you aren’t feeling up for it, when life has kicked you in the teeth, get up and get after it. We might not be able to control what has happened to us or the people we love, but we can channel this emotion in to something or at the very least afford us a momentary escape from it. Thanks for reading this and if there is anything you would like me to write about please comment on this post.

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