Coach Caleb’s Corner
The Happiest Place on Earth
Disneyland likes to tout that they’re the “happiest place on earth.” I was there just recently, and yes, it is indeed a happy place and I love it. But I think there are a few other “happiest places on earth,” and I get to work in one of them! The environment at Breakthrough Strength & Fitness is always so positive and supportive, thanks to the amazing community of people who make it their go-to training spot (truly, you won’t find a nicer group of athletes) but also because of how we choose to train.
That’s right folks; the mood altering effects of exercise that are a signature perk at our gym are not by accident. Just like the physical improvements gained through training, benefits for the mind, spirit and character take place because of (and not in spite of) the way we exercise.
It’s now pretty common knowledge that those who exercise regularly experience positive boosts in mood and lower rates of depression. This is attributed to the release of endorphins that occur during training that interact with brain receptors that reduce the perception of pain, and also create a positive euphoric feeling not unlike the feeling we get from taking drugs such as morphine. The strong social support that comes from exercising with others who are encouraging us provides emotional comfort as well, and can really help fight the effects of depression. With all that said, not all gyms or exercise sessions are able to produce these results; as we are often fond of saying “it’s not so much the activity itself but rather how we perform that activity that yields the big benefits.”
I’ve had the dubious pleasure of experiencing several different approaches to training. I’ve been in gyms that ensured we started many a session downright scared and already a little angry about it. The “warm-up” usually consisted of a high intensity cardio activity, punctuated with some challenging and sometimes even injurious plyometrics. Next came some heavy stuff, punctuated by more high intensity intervals to make you more tired and less safe for the next round of heavy stuff. In this environment, those with less skill and experience were either shamed into better shape or shamed into quitting. I ended most of these sessions nauseated and often with a headache. I trained my body I guess, but my mood certainly was not improved much by the exercise.
I believe that we in the fitness profession can do better. A typical training session at Breakthrough Strength & Fitness follows a very specific format that ensures the best possible results; both physical and otherwise. Each session begins with a “Breathing Reset.” This is a form of brief meditation which quiets the mind, relaxes the body and serves as a bridge to move from the focus on concerns outside the gym into a time focused just on training. Then there’s a movement prep section that helps release painful muscle trigger points, facilitates mobility and stability work and performs a type of “systems check” prior to getting into the serious stuff. By the time we’re priming and practicing our core muscle skills and breaking a bit of a sweat, we’re already feeling a lot better than we did at the start of the session. With that on-ramp section completed, the heavy lifting and challenging bursts of activity that follow are a lot more fun; especially because they’re usually superset with corrective exercises and adequate rest periods. We often finish sessions with one last blast of energy system training that spikes the heart; proving that we have yet another gear if we need it! I’m getting so excited just describing it that I want to jump up and get another workout like that in right now!
We all have those days when the last thing you think you want to do is fit in a training session. With my current schedule, I often have to complete all my training sessions for the week on consecutive days. This means that I also go a few days in a row of not training each week. Which day do you think is consistently the hardest one to get motivated for? You guessed it; the first session each week after a few days off! I know that once I’m back at it, I’ll be highly motivated again. As soon as my movement prep is finishing up andmy calluses touch the iron, I’m confident and ready for action. It’s also much easier to challenge myself in the gym on the subsequent days, but that first one back each week can be tough to start. That’s when I rely on that secret formula for a good session.
The thing is, as a coach, I’m a firm believer in what a properly structured training session can do for not just the body, but also the mind, spirit and character of a trainee. I am confident and committed to ensure that any time a trainee comes into the gym with a little a black cloud overhead, they will leave with a much sunnier outlook. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a member utter these words; “Wow! I really wasn’t thinking I was up for it today, but that training session made me feel so much better!” I know from personal experience that it’s a good bet; exercise will make you feel better and the way we structure our exercise matters. A gym can be the happiest place on earth; not in spite of how we train, but because of it!
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