Ask a lot of people who are into fitness why they train and you’ll get an answer that refers to mental health. There’s been a massive shift in recent years from people training purely for aesthetics to people training for how it makes them feel.
Exercise is a great stress relief, moving more literally releases endorphins, it can improve confidence, possibly get you outdoors and getting fresh air. So yes training can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health.
Viewing training as what your body can do and something that makes you feel better makes exercise a positive action rather than a form of punishment, where you train to eat more or change your appearance and size.
What exercise isn’t though, is therapy. It can be therapeutic of course it can. If I’m a bit stressed or anxious going to the gym or for a run can help alleviate the symptoms. If i don’t train for a few days I can feel the difference to my mood, largely because I actually enjoy the time I’m running or lifting, it makes me feel good, is a break from whatever is going on and a chance to blast some music and focus on me.
But exercise can’t replace therapy or solve actual problems. If training is literally the only thing keeping you sane or making you feel better it’s time to look at the issues exercise is acting as a sticking plaster for. The issue when you get to this point, is if you can’t train for whatever reason, you end up feeling terrible. When you feel like training through an injury because that would be better than how you’d feel if you took some time off, or rest days sound like a terrible idea because even though you’re knackered and burnt out a day off would make you feel guilty.
The benefits of training for mental health can’t be denied but we always need to remember that for it to be a benefit it needs to complement our life rather than dominate it, which means knowing when to rest even if you really want to train, when to pull back, when to take it easy and then appreciate what you are still able to do when you can train.
Week 4 of Project 40 kind of consisted of rest.
After a decent start where my nutrition was in a good place and I’d trained consistently on Thursday I found myself with the worst headache, I originally thought it was a migraine. It’s definitely a cold though and I’ve been laid up all weekend trying to recover.
When this happens it can feel like progress stalls a bit which is frustrating, but it’s important to remember that rest is vital too and pushing through won’t always bring positive results in the long term.
So I’m starting week 5 still feeling a bit off colour but hoping I’m past the worst. This week I’m away from Thursday and so super busy in the first part of the week so I’ll have to be mindful that I can only do so much, but balance and being realistic about things was something I wanted to get better at anyway so here’s my first test.
Today we head back to indoor classes. That means more than just doing classes again, it means a change to routine, sleep patterns, activity levels, how I plan my week.
I think we have all wondered over the last few weeks about our fitness levels, how we would feel in the first few classes back. We’ve all looked forward to seeing people again after such a long time.
Remember this week however, if you are back in the gym doing classes, whether as an instructor or participant, that fitness levels will improve. It is however bound to feel a bit tough at first, but that’s ok, because it will feel like that for all of us.
What I think we need to focus on this week, instead of ‘getting back to where we were before’, is making sure we don’t over do it and making time to recover as well.
There is bound to be a bit of an urge to go for it, and for instructors, you’ve no choice but to teach all your classes. I think it’s worth remembering however that when we fist started doing classes we probably built up to the levels we were at when Lockdown hit. Since then there’s been over a year of upheaval and it will take a bit of time to ease back in to feeling ok with our previous levels of activity. You might have noticed if you’ve gone from working from home to back into the office, just that change to your day can actually be pretty knackering.
Enjoy your classes this week, but rest and recover too.
I’ve picked up an injury. Well of sorts, I think its more over use as I have been doing a lot more running / cardio classes with gyms closed and my knee (which isn’t without issue at the best of time) and hip are feeling it.
Here’s the weird thing though. I can rest.
Do I want to rest? No. I’ve not trained since Tuesday and I’m itching, training is as mcuh something I do for my mental health as physical health.
But because I am not teaching I can rest. Under normal circumstances resting for me would be only teaching classes which would still equate to around nine hours exercise a week. Looking at it you can see why instructors struggle to get rid of persistent niggles!
There have been many negatives about gyms being closed but the one positive it has bought me is the importance of rest, and not my weird instructor concept of rest but actual proper recovery, the sort I would advise others take.
This is something I want to take with me when I’m back to training in gyms when they reopen. I’m curious if anyone else has learnt anything fitness wise they want to remember?
Today I am sticking to one of my 2020 goals and doing nothing.
It may sound odd to say that but at the start of the year I had a Saturday when my classes hadn’t started back yet and my plans were cancelled last minute so I had a random day off with nothing planned. As in I didn’t need to set an alarm, get out of my pajamas unless I actually wanted to, where I could sit and watch TV aimlessly all day. I realised I needed it. I have a lot of roles and as such am on the go a lot, I start early and finish late most days. I look after myself and generally feel fine for the business – but taking a day off made me realise how beneficial that rest was. I made a commitment at that point to take one full day off a month, to guard that day with my life against anything.
I’ve had a stupidly busy January, to the point where the last week or so I’ve felt exhausted and actually achy and crap. My February is even busier, I’ve lots of exciting things coming up but that also means it will be non stop. I need today.
Goals can be personal to you and won’t always be what people expect. Going hard is good but knowing when to take a pit stop is equally as important.