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What Does Fitness Have to Do with Overcoming Obstacles?

If you’re coming over to Strong Inside Out from The Change Blog or Transformational Motivation, welcome! I hope you find the information useful and hope-inspiring! :)

If you’ve ever read the little blurb in the header of this site, you’ll see:

“Empowering you through FITNESS and positive action to overcome life’s obstacles.”

Positive action is a given to overcoming setbacks, right?

So what does fitness have to do with it?

Well I think I’m slightly biased: exercise was crucial to my personal recovery.

It was only when I discovered a positive outlet for all that anger and sadness that I was able to create space for happiness.

And there were some pretty cool benefits that I got from aerobic exercise.

•My memory got a hell of a lot better.

•I started being able to cope with hard news a lot more easily.

•I was able to create new thinking patterns more effectively than I had before when I wasn’t exercising.

And most of all, I was reinforcing the commitment I made to myself: I always wanted to be strong.  Exercising helped me realize the strength I already had inside.

Now I’m a personal trainer and online fitness coach, but I don’t think of myself as just a physical trainer.  I coach people to work out their LIVES as well.

So I wanted to share with you today some of the most important reasons to exercise if you’re going through a tough spot.  No matter what you’re dealing with, I have some cool info and exercise ideas for you here, categorized by issue.

Take action. I promise: you won’t regret sweating it out!

Anxiety/Stress

Are you crazy stressed out at work, routinely deemed a “worry wart,” or constantly going over the to-do list in your head?

You need some way to get all that nonsense energy out of your system so you can chill the eff out!

If you’re feeling anxiety or stress on their own (if you suffer from depression, too, skip to the next category), you’re the perfect candidate for HIIT–high intensity interval training–and sprints.

You need some high bursts of energy that leave you feeling spent at the end.  This mode of exercise will promote better focus, thus leading you to be more productive every day.

Get more done and there’s less to worry about!

Here’s an example workout for you to try:

Do each move for 30 seconds to a minute (depending on your fitness level), and try not to rest in between moves.  At the end of the circuit, rest no more than 1 minute, then repeat.  Do the circuit 3 times and you’re done!

Squats

Push ups

Rows

Burpees!

Sprints are also great for getting the “crazy” energy out.  See this video for more info on doing sprints (an added bonus: they’re excellent for metabolising fat!).

Depression

If you’re feeling low, the best thing to do is just get out.

Though you’re going to feel like it’s the last thing you want to do, going outside and simply walking will likely make you feel a lot better.

Aerobic exercise has been shown to be as effective as Zoloft for mild to moderate depression, and helps tremendously as a treatment for clinical depression as well.

A word to the wise: exercise is a long-term solution, not immediate.  It takes longer to see the benefits for those with clinical depression than it would if you were to take an antidepressant.  Stick with it, however, and you’re bound to feel better in the long run.

More awesome news? The effects of exercise last longer than those of antidepressants.

If you’re feeling blue, I would recommend aerobic activity such as steady state cardio or strength training circuits.

Try to get 35 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week, or 60 minutes 3 days a week.

If you’re starting from no exercise at all, don’t worry.  Work your way up to this regimen slowly. At first, aim for 3 times a week for 30 minutes.  If that’s hard, stay there for 2 weeks to a month, then add an extra day.

The great thing about this is that you can do just about anything that gets your heart rate up.  You just want to make sure that you’re working at a moderately hard level.

You don’t need to be sweating bullets.  You don’t have to be gasping for breath.  You just need to be breathing slightly harder than you usually do, having your heart pump a little faster than it’s used to.

Here are some great ways to just get out:

Run

Walk

Swim

Bike

Lift heavy things

Play with your kids

Get your yogi on

Rock climb

Skip

Row

Elliptical (is that a verb? It is now I guess)

Dance

Surf

Skate

Ski

Snowboard

Do pilates… fast

Jump up and down

… and pretty much anything else that moves you!

Please be sure to talk to your Dr. before scaling down on your antidepressants, no matter how good exercise is making you feel!  It’s a tricky process cutting down on those babies, so be careful please!

Insomnia

Many people cure themselves of insomnia by developing a workout routine.

If you think about having a set amount of energy that needs to get out every day, and most people have sedentary lifestyles in our society, it’s no wonder you’re still awake at 2 am!

You have to find a way to release that energy from your body and your brain.

For this case, just about any type of workout will do, but aerobic exercise has been proven to alleviate insomnia more than any other non-pharmacological method.  I just recommend you do it in the morning.

Personally, when I work out at night, I feel so energized afterwards that I have trouble going to sleep at a reasonable hour.  I find that most people who suffer from insomnia do better with morning workouts, but then again, every BODY is different.

Try morning workouts for at least a month and if they don’t work for you, try switching to afternoon or evening workouts.

The beginning of this routine might be brutal because you won’t be sleeping right off the bat, but the exercise in the morning will help energize the rest of your day.

You want to work up to about 75% of your maximum heart rate if you’re doing aerobic activity. In other words, on a scale of 1-10, 1 being lying on the couch and 10 being sprinting from a bear, you want to be at about a 7.  I deem this moderately hard to hard.  You’re sweating, your heart’s pumping.

Take any of the activities from the list in the Depression section and report back in the comments!

Lack of Self-Confidence

If you’re going through a not-so-keen-on-you point in your life, exercise can help!

I know that I feel more confident during and after a hard workout.

The best thing for you to do is a blend of two types of workouts: something you’re already good at half the time, and mastering something new the other half the time.

For instance, if you’re already good at walking (as most people are), try walking 2 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes.  Always been a runner? Take a jog 2 times a week.  We want you doing an activity that reinforces that you’re good at something; it’s an instant confidence-booster!

For 2 other days a week, try something new you’ve always wanted to before.

Have you always wanted to be a ninja like Izzy?  Try some martial arts!

Always wanted to be a ballerina? Try a Cardio Barre class (or an equivalent because there are a million bajillion versions of this workout out there right now!).

Shifting your focus from yourself (and what you think other people are thinking of you) to mastering a new skill is a great way to take some heat off of you.

The most important thing to remember: take one step at a time and enjoy the journey! Don’t get frustrated if you’re not a master in one week.  Let the process be what it is and take each day at a time.

Tragic Event

First of all, I’m very sorry for your loss.

Unfortunately life throws things at us that are really hard to understand sometimes.

Luckily, working out can alleviate a lot of the pain that comes up when tragic events get thrown at us.

About 3 years ago, I went through a horrible breakup.  I was really scared that I would find myself back in that dark place again.

You know what got me through it? Throwing myself into my fitness, as well as supportive friends and family… and working a lot. :)

I exercised 5-6 days a week just because it helped me work out thoughts in my head.

When my physical body was taken up with activity, I could focus solely on my thoughts; replacing the negative, unhelpful thoughts with positive, more realistic ones.

Take the time to grieve but don’t ball yourself up in a corner for very long.

Get out and move. Get your head into a more positive space.

I find the most helpful type of workout is the least stressful for someone going through a tough time.

Familiar movements and activities you don’t have to think too hard about are great for occupying your physical body so that you can focus on healing your heart and mind.

Try any of these activities:

Running or walking with uplifting music.

Strength training (with music)- stick to basic moves, focusing on how strong the movements make you feel.

Plopping yourself on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical with a good book or magazine- give your brain a break for a little while and just move while you zone out.

Take a cardio class- yoga, dance, obstacle course, etc. Being with people in a supportive environment will help get you out of the dwelling state.

For bonus recovery points, pair up with a positive friend for your workouts, or hire a trainer that you have a really good rapport with.

Having this person around for support as you take action with a positive activity like exercise will be a double whammy, and likely get you out of this low point more quickly.

*****

Hopefully, working up a sweat will help you through your tough times like it did for me.

In the comments below, tell us how you’re going to create space for happiness in your life:

What kind of exercise are you going to do this weekend and why?

Looking forward to reading about all the “crazy” energy being released this weekend! :)

Now, how can you help give someone strength who really needs it today?

Have you left your inspiration of strength on Facebook yet?

The Facebook contest is still going strong with some amazing tokens of inspiration already contributed!

I removed the requirement to tag yourself in the photo because something’s a little screwy with that function right now. :/

In case you missed it, here are the details for the contest:

As motivation to start inspiring others, I will be giving 3 randomly-selected participants a free copy of Make This Your Moment!

To participate, follow these directions…

On the Strong Inside Out Facebook page, I’ve posted this image:

Here’s the instructions to get in the drawing to win a free copy of Make This Your Moment:

1. Go to the image on Facebook by clicking here.

2. In the comments, leave a token of inspiration to give strength to someone who needs it today.

This year, the Strong Inside Out community will get stronger, bigger, and more supportive than ever. Let’s kickstart this year with an inspirational bang!

Three winners will be selected at random on Friday, July 20th at 7 pm PST and notified via Facebook. Woo!

I can’t wait to see what inspiration you have in store!

photos in order: The U.S. Armytopgoldshanon wiseAlyssa L. Miller, Pink Sherbet PhotographySander van der Wel

6 Responses to “What Does Fitness Have to Do with Overcoming Obstacles?”

  1. Graham says:

    I used to be a fat dude. I didn’t realize I was such a fat dude until looking back on it, though.

    Also looking back, I was miserable, had low confidence, and really wasn’t happy. It took me close to 3 years to make a full transformation to a spot where I am comfortable with the new, healthy lifestyle, and have really given up on that guy I used to be.

    The crazy thing is that everything in my life is better. EVERYTHING!

    • Amy says:

      Congratulations on losing the weight, Graham! So awesome!

      I used to weigh 20 pounds more than I do now… without muscle. I wasn’t overweight, but I had absolutely no tone and I was really unhappy with the way I looked in clothes.

      Since changing the way I think about my life, my body changed, too. When we commit to ourselves, we don’t commit separately to the body or the mind- they are one. I truly believe that exercise can be just as important as medication or therapy… though I would never recommend giving up one for the other. :)

  2. Erin says:

    Hi Amy. Thanks so much again for your inspiring blog. I read it daily as I’m sincerely trying to change. I sit here again, another morning watching TV and reading blogs rather than getting out to exercise. I’ve only been up for 30 mins and I’ve already defeated myself. How did you power through that? I’m sure you’ll say just get out and get started but I find that so difficult for some reason. I know that exercising will make me feel better but my mind blocks me from even getting started so I feel defeated and frustrated with myself and give up before I’ve even started. I know it can be done – I can change myself. BUT, I’ve been in this rut for the last 15 years (if i’m being truly honest) and I cannot figure out a way to get out of it. I have no reason to be depressed. I have no reason to be unhappy. Yet….those are the two emotions I feel on a daily basis. I became this girl in college. Ever since I put on the freshman 15, then ultimately the extra 30 lbs that I continue to carry around, I’ve been depressed. I’m successful. I have a great family. But I’m unhappy because I can’t fix myself. Did you just dive right in to exercise or find that getting professional help was the step first?

    • Amy says:

      Thank you for opening up here, Erin.

      I think what you’re facing is more of a resistance than anything. You know you can change, but the process is quite difficult.

      To tell you the truth, I started small… like, really small. I started by walking to the grocery store instead of driving. I started by lifting 3 lb weights in my house with moves I found in magazines. I started by reading up on nutrition (thought that was more confusing than anything because magazines are WAY skewed on the info they publish).

      Yes, I will say, “Get out there,” but start small. The littlest actions can lead you to really big results!

      And most of all, believe it’s possible. You can do this, and you are not alone.

      I’ve got a treat of a post coming out for you tomorrow… :)

  3. Paula says:

    One thing that has remained in my routine is exercise. I follow an at home program of one kind or another and it has been so wonderful during the rough patches in my life. I know if I am really angry kicking it during exercise brings peace. I see you mentioned HIIT and I’ve read a bit about these types of workout. As an instructor, what is your take on Turbo Fire or Insanity? I’ve been mulling over these 2 programs without deciding which. Any opinion?

    • Amy says:

      Hey Paula!

      I haven’t gotten into either of those programs so I can’t tell you for sure my opinion. I think, as long as you listen to your body and have fun doing it, give it a shot! :)

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