Exercise and the Therapist…

by Jim on March 30, 2013


This blog is about a therapist–a person–who is going to, at least this blog, share about himself and his journey back into exercise. Exercise can be scary for some, not at all interesting for others, and there’s “nothing but exercise” for the die hard exercisers out there.

For me, and this was back in the day, I “hit the gym” more than most and I focused on what’s called anaerobic exercise–that is, weight lifting. I was at the gym 6 days/week, and about 2 hours/day, and it was evident that I spent time there. (It was during this time that I was an ACE Certified Personal Trainer…you can see my evolution into therapy and what I’m doing now on my “About Me” page).

As time passed, and truth be told, when I found  psychotherapy school, it was psychotherapy, and learning about myself, which  became much more important…and…I thought that my metabolism, as fast and strong as it was…would last.

It’s here where I’m going to admit to you (disclosure), that I “rested on my laurels.” For those who don’t know what that phrase means, “rested on one’s laurels” means that I thought that I had accomplished so much that I could keep what I had (the great body) without continuing to pursue the course of exercise.

So there are two major learning points here:

One was that I thought that my metabolism would continue to run like a bullet train, and the Second point was that I thought (in my own arrogance) that I could rest on my laurels.

I was wrong.

Fast Forward a number of years to this past February when a friend said that he had joined a gym and that he wouldn’t be able to stay too long for coffee as he wanted to take this new aerobics class at his new gym. In that very moment I knew, and this was what I call a direct knowing (which is slightly different than intuitive knowing  or intuition), I knew that I was going to take that class with him.

What my friend didn’t know was that I already belonged to that gym, and as with many people, while I had the gym membership, and I wasn’t using it. So before I went to meet my friend at the local coffee house, I packed my exercise clothing, too.

DIGITAL CAMERAThe class was incredible. It did what I call: kicked my ass. I know I usually don’t use those terms in my blogs, but there it is today.  After having rested on my laurels for so long, for the next two days after that class, I literally couldn’t sit or get up from a chair. You see, those muscles (the gluteus maximus (my butt), and the hamstrings (the large muscle group on the back of the legs) were SO tight, that I had to fall  into a sitting position, and shove myself up from a sitting position with my arms.

For many people, it’s at this point that they would stop the exercise, thinking & saying something along the lines of “It’s too much,” or,  “I can’t do it,” or “It’s just too hard.”  But what I knew from my training days was that this was an illusion. I knew that I needed to do more of this so that I could stretch  those muscles, have them loosen up, so that with that flexibility, I would have my range of motion back.

The illusion  was that it would be too hard and I couldn’t do it. The truth is that I’m now taking that class 3x/week, plus another type of class (which is immediately after the first class) at least 1 or 2x/week in addition to the first class. Another illusion that I was had was that I didn’t have time for all this new exercise.

This is how many, many people leave themselves out of their own lives, they say that they don’t have time to do something for themselves. What this is in it’s starkest form is called self abandonment/self neglect. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here…if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of others.

I want to be clear about something. One of the things that I tell my therapy clients is that if they’re depressed, anxious, or addicted, that exercise really does help. I tell them that it helps elevate the mood, it helps create a structure, and it clarifies thinking and focus (this last part means that there’s a genuine reduction in stress, anxiety and worry).  After being on my own personal exercise regimen now for about a month and a half or a couple of months,  I can confirm to you my own personal experience.

  • I’ve experienced my mood to be elevated, not into a “euphoria” but into a really solid space of connectedness with myself.
  • I’ve experienced more clarity in my thinking and my stress has gone down.
  • I’ve experienced more structure in my life.

So far I’ve focused on the internal elements of the exercise because, for me, that’s where the real WIN is. Just those three bullet points above are worth it for me. Even so, I don’t want to omit the external events, either. Both the internal change and external change have real world implications. Since the beginning of my exercising:

  • My eating habits have changed, for the better. I’m simply choosing more nutritious foods. It’s a bit weird because when I say choosing, it’s like my body is asking for different foods…and I’m obliging.
    • The real world implication is that my arteries won’t clog as fast as they might with what I’d been eating.
  • I’ve felt better in my body.
    • The real world implication is that I won’t have the level of body issues that I might have had, and I’ll be more comfortable in wearing shorts in the summer, for example.
  • My sleep is better and more restful.
    • The real world implication is that I have more energy and less fatigue throughout the day.
  • I’m now beginning to fit into the one size smaller pants that I’ve kept and (in disclosure) hadn’t yet given up that I’d fit into them again.
    • That already is the real world implication, my waist size is starting to shrink.
  • My aerobic capacity has increased.
    • What this means is that I can put out energy for a longer time.
    • The real world implication for many people is that I could play with my kid for a longer time. I could walk uphill without feeling wheezy.

How long will this exercise continue? I don’t know. I know that in the past, exercise helped me greatly, and, that’s my experience again today. When I recommend exercising, I don’t necessarily mean to exercise at the level of intensity that I”m now doing. It’s intense. And this level isn’t for everyone. I am pushing myself to a certain limit, and I know when to keep going and when to back off. This is a very important piece–know your limits–only do what you can, and do no more.

I guess I’m writing this piece to let you know that I’m doing what I “preach.” I’m also writing it so that if you’ve been contemplating some sort of change in your world…whether it be starting to exercise, or to write, to dance, to do something that gets you going towards what you say is your dream or what you say your goals are, that you can. That’s it…You Can.

(Now get going!)



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