When the Fitness Process Makes You Mad, Make Use of the Feeling
Sometimes people think I’m mad when I’m working out. Most of the time, I just LOOK like it thanks to a pretty intense "game face" & some serious furrows between the eyes. At other times, I really AM aggravated. Most of us like to think that getting fit is quite a straightforward process: “Exercise & eat right.” In reality, it’s immensely complex & largely mental. One unexpected experience that just about everyone faces as we try to change our fitness level turns out to be anger.
Does that sound strange? Maybe you’ve been lucky enough NOT to get mad in the process of getting healthier, but I have and so have many, many clients I’ve collaborated with over the last decade. We get angry at ourselves for putting off fitness for so long or for stopping when we’d just gotten a groove going. Justifiably, the critical looks or comments from others—in the gym or even in our own families—royally tick us off! We rage when we face a health condition that we might have avoided. We seethe when we hear people standing around sniping about other people’s bodies. During the process of getting more fit, we can run into lots of reasons to feel a touch of fury.
Like any negative emotion, anger holds the potential to drag us down or wake us up to the need for change. We can find its silver lining, but first, we have to ACKNOWLEDGE it if it’s there. If you’ve entered into a wellness routine, and you find yourself constantly annoyed or angry, then exploring why will help... because once you KNOW, you can address it and/or use it to power yourself toward improved fitness.
Need some ideas to either temper or make anger work in your favor? Maybe these will serve as some jumping-off points.
Allow Anger to Be Fuel.
Anger is a double edged sword that can paralyze or motivate. In really simple terms, Freud called depression “anger turned inward.” Some research supports this, finding that those who turn inward and turn anger on themselves experience more severe depression. Anger can obviously also lead us into tension, fights, and stress. But acknowledged and examined, anger can fuel change. If we stay conscious and don’t let it morph into ongoing blues and futility, anger can fire us up and spur us to tackle all of the sometimes tedious daily actions it takes to become/stay fit. And here’s a cool bonus: Exercise helps to DISPEL stress & anger, which also might just help keep it from snowballing out of control & becoming more destructive than productive.
Go on a Mission.
When it comes to health, do you know what you stand for? Personally, I believe in striving for balance in spirit, mind & body; finding the edge to which I can safely push workouts; radical self-acceptance & celebration of ANY effort I make; and JOY in the pursuit of health. If you know WHY the heck you exercise, put certain items in your shopping cart, go to bed at a particular time, etc, it will ground you when you get mad, feel judged, hate the fact that you’ve got to do this daily, or face other issues that grind your gears fitness-wise. You will power ahead, alongside the anger, knowing what truly matters to you.
Be an Example.
One thing I often tell clients is this: When you start caring for you, you’ll become a role model whether you planned to or not. You might not realize it, but people start to notice when you start to feel better. Never mind weight, they’ll see your vibrance & confidence, notice your habits & decisions, and seek your advice. So, when anger threatens to stall you, let it serve as a reminder that others DO see the great things you’re pursuing in the name of great health— then channel your anger into continued effort. You now have a reputation to uphold.
Prove ‘Em Wrong & Represent!
For most of us, nothing instigates ire more than someone doubting our ability to accomplish something or underestimating how kick-butt we really are. Think of Rocky Balboa running the dank, early morning streets of Philly til he could sprint the mountain of steps to the art museum & ultimately... well, yikes, you know what Appollo Creed looked like at the end of that movie. In my own recent history, I noticed that midlife was making me REALLY mad—less because of physical changes and more because of the judgments I sensed in society, connected with what some assume middle-aged & older people can or cannot do. (You’ve noticed?) At one point, I decided to start ignoring this as much as possible and reveling in glee when I do a set of military pushups that people around me don’t see coming. (Yep, that was a bit of a brag, but listen, EVERYONE who exercises regularly has something to brag about, some victory or ability that’s been hard earned. One of my beautiful 70-ish clients planks long & perfectly like nobody’s business!) But you don’t have to do pushups or planks or 50-mile bike rides to “represent.” Who do YOU want to be? Represent that, regardless of assumptions.
Anger is SUCH a normal emotion. Not a pleasant one. Not one we readily accept in ourselves. But SO normal. We may as well make the best of it, and on a good day, make it work in our favor fitness-wise. Keep on crushing it, baby!