Workouts For Mental Health
by Dave Draper Iron Magazine
A workout in down times is like a life preserver to a drowning man. It’s a relief to the overwhelmed, a release for the overwrought and an elixir to the weak and weary. Workouts breathe life into the hollow and hopeless form.
Health and fitness through lifting and the right eating is a lifestyle sought by a fine slice of passionate people. They are few and they are strong. They find delight in training as they build and balance their bodies, minds and souls. Sharing disciplines, sacrifices, grunts and groans, distinct joy is evident among those who are devoted to the cast-iron cause. And a dust of rust adds fine flavor, tone and certainty to their deed.
My life, I confess, is a mess when my workouts are not in order. As if this was not enough, I find it difficult to determine which came first, the mess or the workout disorder. You can be sure I dedicate many dynamic afternoons to attempting to sort out the mystery only to slip into the gym out of frustration, have a monster workout and totally forget whatever it was that puzzled me in the first place.
By golly, I think we’re getting somewhere.
Don’t you love it when your training clicks; you’re consistently arriving at the gym on time, you’re unhurried, you know what you want, can and should do, and the latter three are in sync? The energy is solid, you’re in good repair, the pump is within reach and the equipment is at hand. The weights are tight and your muscles are loose and the groove is easy.
Life’s not perfect, you accept its flaws. You embrace, you focus and flow, you engage. Priorities organize, distractions vaporize, accomplishments materialize. You’re in charge: The first 60 minutes are a solid execution, the next minutes are a bold fight, and the last 15 are a mighty struggle to the end. You walk away without a limp…oohrah…only minor brain damage.
In my fight against stress, doubt, fear and anger, no weapon or defense serves me more effectively than a burly bout with the iron (I still keep a Glock .45 in my gym bag just in case). Wits suggest confronting the disabling conditions directly, but their origins are often disguised, hidden or unapproachable. Through the force exerted during a good workout—and the discipline and focus to apply such force—troubles are often clarified, diminished, resolved or eliminated.
And it’s not by magic, trickery or accident.
The process is multiple. It has something to do with the release of endorphins in the brain that soothe our pain. Then there is the distraction of hefty exercise that frees the subconscious to work on problems unimpeded by our meddling conscious minds. Let’s not forget the fulfillment of real achievement in our daily lives, boosting our confidence and diminishing our doubt and anxiety. Further, we can’t deny the sense of physical power and well-being—the exhilaration—we derive from the mighty expression.
The expression of hefting heavy metal overhead conveys who we are. The act is a declaration and admission, a confession and revelation. Such is the need and desire of the individual aware of his individuality: to speak out through his actions and deeds.
Note: Dropping the weights at this particular moment would be embarrassing.
As lifting weights goes a long way toward neutralizing our enemies and declaring and demonstrating who we are, so does it develop our flesh and bones, our hearts and lungs. Only a whack job in denial or dirty-rotten liar would claim he or she doesn’t want strong, well-developed muscles. Muscles are nifty and might is swell.
Got my gym bag and rosin and wraps and belt and favorite T-shirt; got my water bottle and Ageless Growth and Bomber Blend; got my thick bars and handles and steel-riddled gym floor. I’ve got an occasional heartbeat and a handful of exercises, from presses to curls. I know a rep from a set and I can count to 20 if I have to. I’ve got time; I’ve got the will; I’ve got the guts; I’ve got the love.
Well, at least I’ve got the time.…
Stay warm, stay cool. God’s speed.
Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit www.DaveDraper.com and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.