One of the biggest changes I’ve made recently, and one that everyone can benefit greatly from, is that I’ve been going to the gym again. It’s no secret that exercise has a lot of benefits, and there’s a great deal of information out there explaining them.
So instead of boring you with the obvious, I’m going to break down a few of the lesser known effects that I’ve discovered over the past couple weeks. In addition to all the physical and health benefits of exercise, here are a few of the mental effects I’ve been noticing and how they might help you in unexpected ways.
You’ll learn focus and mindfulness
I’ve been running, and I’ve been lifting weights. They’re the classics. They’re the forms of exercise that I’m familiar with. They can also be grueling and stressful at times. When I’m running, sometimes I can let my mind wander and I have time to think about my problems. But when I really push myself, all I can do is focus on the next step. The next breath. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.
The same goes for lifting weights. With every set, I’m entirely focused on the rep that I’m doing in that moment. I’m thinking about controlling the weight, flexing the muscle that I’m targeting, and my breathing. And maybe the song or podcast that’s playing. But it definitely doesn’t allow me any time for outside thoughts. I don’t think about my job. I don’t think about my bills. All that exists is that rep. That moment.
This is an invaluable lesson for life. It teaches you to live in the present. If you’re working out right, there is no time to think about anything else. It will bring you peace, through mindfulness. Some of the stronger spiritual experiences I’ve had, outside of prayer and meditation, have been in the gym. Once in a while a worship song will come on while I’m lifting, and I’ll take a moment to be thankful for the able body I’ve been blessed with. It motivates me to push myself even harder.
You’ll feel more positive
Exercise releases endorphins. I did a little bit of research, and I found out that the word “endorphin” is a combination of the words “endogenous” and “morphine.” Endogenous means that it’s manufactured in your body. Morphine is a powerful painkiller. When you exercise, your body releases a natural painkiller. Some people call it a “runner’s high.”
I remember hearing somewhere that Tylenol is able to help not only with physical pain, but mental and emotional pain. I don’t know how true that is. I’m not a scientist.
But I do believe that exercise has that ability. I know that after a good workout, I feel much better. Happier, more positive, and ready to take on the world. It helps my mindset in everything that I do. If I’m ever feeling depressed, or anxious, I know that a workout will help. Assuming I’m able to drag myself to the gym.
Is there something that’s gnawing at you right now? Something you’re anxious about? Something you’re upset about? There is a good chance that a workout will give you a little more clarity on the subject. It’ll help you feel better, and it’ll give you a more positive perspective on the issue.
You’ll learn to push yourself
Once you start working out, you start down a path that never ends. I know, that sounds intimidating. It sounds like a futile effort. But it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. After every workout, you’ll be a little bit better at working out. You’ll also want to get even better at it. It’s an addiction, but one of the most positive ones that you’ll ever develop.
You’ll start to set goals. You’ll have games that you’re constantly challenging yourself to win. Maybe you’ll want to run that mile a little faster next time. Or maybe you’ll want to run two miles instead of one. Maybe you’ll want to bench press another fifty pounds. No matter what goals you reach, you’ll always want to reach a little further.
This is another amazing lesson for life. If you get to where you want to be and then stop, you’ll get bored. You’ll wish for more. When you’ve learned to push yourself in your workouts, you’ll learn to push yourself in your life. You’ll want to reach higher. It might be a better day job. It might be no day job. Your own business. The freedom to travel the world.
What can you do today?
I know what you’re thinking. All of this sounds really cool. You want to know how to get started. Some of you have experience already. You’re a weightlifter, or a hiker, or a rock climber. If you are, that’s great. I’m preaching to the choir. I like that.
But some of you reading this article are new to it. Or maybe you used to exercise and have been skipping a lot of gym days, like I was. For those of you getting started, or restarted, my advice is this:
One push up.
Or five jumping jacks.
Or a jog down the driveway and back.
Start with baby steps, if that’s all you can force yourself to do at first. It will be difficult in the beginning, if it’s something you’re new at. But after that first workout, you’ll push yourself a little further on the second one. And a little further on the third. If you keep at it, you’ll get addicted. And it’ll change your entire life.
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