Finding Mental Peace Through Exercise
Updated: Jun 29
I have always been an “in my head” type of person. This has made me more susceptible to moodiness, mild depression and just general malaise. Over the years I have talked to doctors and tried various medications in search of that sweet spot where everything is okay all the time. Well, maybe that works for some people, but it never has for me. The only thing that has ever worked for me on a consistent basis is exercise, working out. Much harder than swallowing a pill, but the results have been undeniable. In this post I want to share with you how I have managed to find my peace in piles of steel and cables.
I played sports when I was a kid but didn’t get introduced to “fitness” until I was 19 years old. I was fortunate enough to meet some guys who were into lifting weights so they took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. In the gym I was awkward and definitely felt out of place, but my boys were patient and encouraging so it didn’t take long for me to get the hang of things and start seeing some real results. When I gained that first ½ inch on my arms, I was hooked. All of a sudden I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger was an achievable goal. While I never got even close to that kind of size, those first few months of this journey put me on a path that I would follow the rest of my life, ultimately leading to a successful career as a health and fitness professional.
I would be lying if I told you I have been working out steadily for the last 32 years, because I haven’t. I have fallen off the wagon more times than I would like to admit. My first hiatus was after about 7 years of steady lifting. It was during that time away from the gym that I noticed the mental effects. For all those years when I was working out my brain had been healthy. I was positive and forward thinking. I had energy and a genuine lust for life. After about a year of just working and skipping the gym, my mind started to turn dark. Life was a daily slog with no enthusiasm or endgame. I waded through that swamp for a little over 4 years before things took a turn. Fortunately I was presented with a unique job opportunity which included access to a health club. I dipped my toes back into the iron pile and slowly but surely the poison of melancholy started to drain from my mind and body once again.
Since then I haven’t taken more than a few months off from working out. What always drives me back is that unmistakable cloud that starts to form in my head when I am away from the gym for too long. When I maintain a regular exercise routine it is like I spray my brain with Teflon. Stress, worry, self defeating thoughts, they all stick for a minute, that is unavoidable, but they quickly slide off and disappear into the steps of a stairmill or the “tink” of a weight plate. It has been a long time since I struggled with any emotional issues and I have the gym to thank for that.
If the grind of life is sucking your soul, or you struggle sometimes to deal with stress, worry and sometimes the pain that comes to all of us, gym therapy just may be able to help. You don’t have to train like an Olympic athlete, you just have to be steady. Consistency is the name of this game. You can choose to let your brain float in the ugliness, or you can let the mantra like hum of a treadmill bring you back to a place of peace. Nothing bad can come of putting in some time at the gym, it is all positive outcomes. Give it a try and find out just what the heck Zen really means. Good luck!