I’ve been starting and stopping this post for a long time, but after a friend shared the Facebook post below, I went back and found it in my archives. I think it’s time we talk.
How often do we see the posts about the gym being therapy? A quick Google search and you’ll find tens of thousands of these kinds of memes:
For some people, these are supercalifragilistically true. They can go in, hammer out a solid workout, and go home much better. I’d go so far as to say for a lot of us, this is often the case. Work driving you crazy? Gym. Significant other have you at your wit’s end? Gym. Avoiding cleaning your house? Gym. Bored at home? Gym. This is what makes us good athletes, teammates, and coaches. Regardless of the day, we get to the gym and put in the work. But what happens when the gym simply isn’t enough?
The vast majority of us have lives outside the gym so much so that should we decide to up and walk away from Strongman/Powerlifting/CrossFit/Oly tomorrow, our bills would still get paid and we’d be okay. Again, the dedication we show to the sport sets us apart from others. We’ve also all undoubtedly had times where the gym isn’t able to put out of our minds the shit of the day. Regardless of the hype from our teammates, the volume of our death metal, or the rage inside us, we leave the gym as pissed—if not more pissed than—when we came in. Like the original post up top said, if our lives aren’t in order, our training is going to suffer.
Sure, we use the gym as a coping mechanism, but sometimes we need to talk to someone. Sometimes, medication is the answer. I have a hard time with the, “Prescriptions are bullshit; the iron is my antidepressant” logic, yet you’ll put any supplement from Joe Blow the Backdoor Steroid Bro in your body. “I don’t need therapy; my coach is my therapist.” NAH S/HE SURE ISN’T. Our coaches aren’t paid or trained enough to pull us through a mental health crisis.
Let me be clear: I’m not talking the TV portrayal of mental health. Sure, some people will experience mental breaks, but there are far more day-to-day mental health concerns I see in our community. Depression (ex: loss of interest, irritability, hopelessness). Anxiety (ex: restlessness, insomnia, lack of concentration). Eating disorders (ex: extreme over-/under-eating, excessive cardio, extreme weight loss/gain). I’ll stress that these are just examples. Lots of us track all our food, have days where we can’t focus, and occasionally rip our teammate’s a new one for seemingly nothing. These are things our coaches can handle, but patterns of behavior like this are beyond the scope of our gym fam, and that’s okay.
So what? My bottom line here is that the gym is always going to be there. The iron isn’t going to change. Taking time to help yourself is a integral part of your training, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I’m not saying everyone needs to find a therapist or get medicated. It can start by finding things outside of the gym. Maybe it’s meditation, sewing, or volunteering. Finding ways to deal with the stress of real life without the gym will, in my opinion, ultimately up our performance in the gym. We’ve all heard that our minds give out well before out bodies—why not nurture the mind and allow the body to follow, then?