Is there a connection between fitness and happiness? If so, what is It?

“Dude, you are like, the most positive guy I’ve ever met. It’s kinda gross.” My client jokingly prodded in between gasping for breath.

Confused, I chuckled in shock, having never thought of myself as an overtly positive person. I said something to the effect of, “Good! It’s 7 fucking AM! How excited do you think you’d be to squat that shit 20 times if I sauntered in here like Eeyore?”.

When my clients walk in the door, it’s their time. It doesn’t matter if I got dumped the night prior, it’s all about them. Not always successfully of course, but that’s the goal. I think a big part of being a good coach means putting your own shit aside. It helps that I love what I do. So even if I was having a rough day, seeing my clients puts me in a good mood.

There’s a stereotype trainers being these peppy, hyper positive creatures whose lives are always wonderful and don’t know what being sad means.

Part of this is probably because most people only see coaches “putting their own shit aside”. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily (especially when compared with the fat-shamer drill sergeant stereotype). It’s just not the whole picture.

That said, I cringe at being associated with a hyper-posi image because it’s just not who I am. And because I don’t want to convey a false image of, "I have everything figured out”.

To clarify, I’m not writing this to talk about how I’m soooo selfless and great at ignoring my emotions blah blah blah. I’m writing because I want to pull back the curtain a bit to clear up some misconceptions I may have accidentally perpetuated:

  1. The idea that if you’re not constantly happy there’s something wrong with you = BS.
  2. The idea that because someone appears to have the fitness thing figured out they have no problems. Also BS.

I can only speak to my own experience. So I dunno about other coaches, but I actually got into fitness because it was waaaaaaay easier for me emotionally than being in new social situations.

I got into working out precisely because I felt like I couldn’t figure out ANYTHING else, and by “anything else” I mean dating.

There’s basically a mathematical formula to getting stronger.

  1. Show up to the gym multiple times a week.
  2. Try to add more weight to the bar, or reps.
  3. Keep repeating steps 1-2.

That seemed soooo much simpler for me than navigating conversations:

“What the hell do I talk about? I can haz conversation? What should I say? What if there’s an awkward silence and I start overthinking everything like I always do? I’m doing that right now aren’t I? Shit. Fuck. Shitfuck.”

Getting good at fitness won’t solve all of your problems.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a great teacher for many things.

If you pay attention, fitness provides an awesome metaphor to put you in a better place to deal with many of life’s struggles. There are many lessons I’ve learned through lifting that go way beyond the gym.

And here they are:

The Journey:

Everything is a process. Reaching a goal is often underwhelming. Enjoy the ride. You’ll get there faster anyways.

Self-honesty:

200 lbs is always 200 lbs. Either you lift the thing or you don’t. It’s hard to argue with that.

Humility:

Having ego in the weight room is how you get hurt.

Patience:

Achieving anything in the weight room requires patience. This shit takes time.

Persistence:

Getting better means making lots of mistakes and navigating lots of obstacles, whether the obstacle is in the gym, or the obstacle is getting to the gym.

Focus:

Long term focus on a goal, short term focus on the weight in your hands. Both of these are necessary.

Asking for Help:

This sort of falls in line with humility. If you don’t know something, ask for help. You don’t get extra credit for riding solo. You’ll always go farther if you have help.

Dealing with discomfort:

Lifting weights is uncomfortable, well if you want to get stronger and more muscular it is. As cliche as it is, that “growth happens outside of your comfort zone” stuff is true. Getting used to physical discomfort can carry over to other areas of life.


Nobody has it all figured out. Nobody is happy all the time. Personally, I don’t even think that’s a healthy goal.

In “Why We Do What We Do”, leading social psychology researcher, Ed Deci says the human experience isn’t just about being happy. It’s about experiencing the full rainbow of emotions. Why else would you watch scary movies or listen to Adele?

We don’t always even want to be happy! Sometimes we need/want to be sad, scared, angry, etc.

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Sometimes grieving is necessary. Sometimes crying feels really good. Woooooaaah sometimes...you get a good feeling...sometimes.

All of that shit is NORMAL.

We ALL struggle. If you’re struggling, no matter how specific the problem seems to your life, I would bet my left foot there are people who know how you feel -- people who are going through, or have gone through, the same struggle.

And ya know what, even if I haven’t been through what you’ve been through, I do know what it’s like to feel like you’re struggling alone, like you have no one to talk to. So I have your back. I’ll always lend a listening ear if you need one because nobody should ever have to struggle alone.

I mean it. My email is [email protected] I’ll always respond to you ASAP.


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Posted on Mar 10, 2017