Exercise Literally Saved My Life!

I had no idea what lie ahead on that fateful day in late March 2011. I went to work that day just like I had been doing the past 10 years. I worked in the natural products industry. I loved my job. I felt fulfilled by my job in health. However, at the end of the day, I was without a job. The economic downtime was in full swing. And I was the latest casualty. What was I going to do? I had 4- and 6-year-old boys. My wife wasn’t working. And I had a mortgage that was suffocating.

One month later, I realized the inevitable. My marriage was in disrepair. It had been so bad for so long. I left my wife and filed for divorce.

A few months later, still unemployed and, at age 51, living with my parents, I made a decision that would change my life. I would pursue sole custody of my boys.

A few months later I was forced to sell my home. I sold my home, but had to pay $34,000 to do so.

My fall was meteoric to say the least. I went from living in a million dollar home on the beach in Southern, California to being broke and living with my parents in pursuit of a job and custody of my two little boys. And all of this happened within a span of months.

It was the perfect storm. What would I do? An unforgiving economy coupled with an unforgiving judicial system for appointing sole custody for loving Dads made for a seemingly prodigious mountain to climb. I had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was a financial mess. I was clinically depressed. I felt suicidal.

What did I do? I went to the gym. I went early and I went often. And it saved my life. It really did.

Dramatic Impact on Mental Health

So many people fail to realize the profound impact exercise has on your general health. The traditional benefits of exercise cannot be understated. If you want to feel better, have more energy and even live longer, exercise is the very best medicine. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are undisputable and yours for the taking, regardless of age, sex or physical ability. In fact, according to mayoclinic.com, exercise:

  • Controls weight
  • Helps to combat health conditions and diseases
  • Improves mood
  • Increases energy
  • promotes better sleep
  • Significantly increases libido
  • Can be fun

That said, I believe exercise has its greatest impact on mental health. Exercise decreases stress hormones, including cortisol, as well as increases endorphins. And endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals. When they are released through exercise, mood and mental outlook are dramatically boosted naturally. This is often referred to as a “runner’s high”. Additionally, exercise releases adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine, chemicals that work beautifully together to make you feel good – very good! My daily endorphin push was crucial for me.

From a clinical perspective, endorphins are defined as hormone-like substances that are produced in the brain and function as the body’s natural painkillers. During exercise, endorphins are released and this can produce feelings of euphoria and a general state of wellbeing. Endorphins can be so powerful that they actually mask pain. Physically active people recover from depression much more quickly. Physical activity is strongly correlated with good mental health as people age.

Exercise Therapy

In fact, studies show that people who exercise regularly realize a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression. “Exercise Therapy” is not yet widely accepted, but this treatment is free and has no side effects. Compare that with antidepressant drugs which cost Americans $10 billion each year.

The phenomena that exercise is crucial to good health — both mental and physical — is nothing new. As early as the 1970s, observational studies showed that Americans who exercised were not only less likely to be depressed, but also less likely to become depressed in the future.

Interestingly, in 1999, Duke University researchers demonstrated in a randomized controlled clinical trial that depressed adults who participated in an aerobic exercise routine improved as much as those treated with sertraline, the medication marketed as Zoloft. This drug was earning Pfizer more than $3 billion annually before its patent expired in 2006.

Subsequent trials have repeated these results, showing that patients who follow aerobic exercise regimens see improvement in their depression comparable to people treated with medication. To be fair, most of the exercise trials have been narrow. However, despite limited data, the trials all seem to indicate that exercise boosts mood and reduces depression. In fact, exercise not only relieves depressive symptoms but also appears to prevent them from recurring.

My exercise routine included a combination of cardio and resistance training workouts. The endorphin push I referred to earlier is typically felt during aerobic exercise. However, resistance training may also produce the same results. Do what’s best for you. They key is to alleviate those depressive symptoms any way you can.

Many of the ancillary benefits exercise has on mental health are often not widely regarded. However, I have personally experienced the following psychological and emotional benefits above and beyond what has been previously stated:

  • Promotes increased self-esteem: Accomplishing short- and long-term exercise goals can significantly improve self-confidence. It is very gratifying to not only accomplish exercise goals and objectives, but you will also see dramatic improvement in physical appearance, which is another confidence booster.
  • Provides a positive diversion: Exercise, especially going to the gym or an exercise class, places you in a positive, upbeat environment. It provides an outlet where you can remove yourself from the negativity that consumes you. This negativity will only feed anxiety and depression.
  • Allows for more social contact: Exercise is, by nature, social. A trip to the gym or an exercise class promotes social interaction. The most subtle smile, greeting or conversation can dramatically lift your mood and minimize depression.
  • Provides a healthy outlet: People that are depressed must channel their activities in a positive way. Don’t turn to alcohol or recreational drugs as a way to forget about your problems. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. It works! Rarely does anxiety or depression go away on its own. In fact, symptoms can get worse if you don’t address depressive symptoms with positive energy.

Additionally, exercise improves circulation which can also minimize depressive symptoms. When blood pumps faster, circulation increases which promotes feelings of alertness and energy. Furthermore, when your body looks better, you feel better! A legitimate physical regimen will help you lose weight, will increase your muscularity and even makes your skin look healthier. In fact, you will just plain carry yourself differently. It doesn’t take long before people start complimenting you. I don’t care who you are. When you look in the mirror and like what you see, you naturally feel better. This helped me considerably when my depression was at its worst.

As previously mentioned, the importance of exercise cannot be understated. Exercise is not only important for your heart, but also for your head as well. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. People who exercise experience the restorative power of exercise and this has been verified in clinical trials that have used exercise to treat anxiety and depression. Exercise was truly the best medicine for me. It can be for you too.

Your world opens up

My world literally expanded when I became fit. I said yes to more things, I felt capable of more and I started to push the boundaries of what I thought I could do. Fitness can take you places too – I’ve been to Scotland and crossed from the East to West Coast on foot in a two-day event; I’ve run up (and back down) Snowdon in an event called Man Versus Mountain and I’ve run the London Marathon 3 times which is basically like running through a massive street party with an electric atmosphere. I’m also taking part in an epic event next year called the Arctic Circle Race, which is a 160km cross-country ski race where competitors are self-sufficient. It’s a 3-day event and will easily be our biggest challenge yet, full of unknowns. We’re doing it to raise £10k for Alzheimer’s Research (you can support us here if interested).

Confidence and resilience

When you become fit, you go through a lot of emotions and usually difficulty, both physically and mentally. Getting fit requires you to dig deep, connect with your why and continue even when you find something challenging. Your mind will tell you to give up, convince you that this isn’t for you, or sabotage you with negative thoughts. You overcome all that and prove your monkey brain wrong – this is a huge confidence boost and develops resilience. If you can get used to being uncomfortable, this is a skill that can be applied to other areas of life, such as work situations or life problems like financial difficulties.

The feeling of being fit

Ultimately, there is nothing like the feeling of being fit and strong. I maintain a consistent level of fitness, which means I exercise regularly, move often, pay attention to my sleep, have non-negotiables around my nutrition that mean I maintain a good body composition and have the energy I need to do what I want in life. It is paramount to my happiness that I feel fit. I’m not interested in the aesthetics of fitness, purely the functional and the mental. It leaves me fit for the rigours of running a business and ready to face the challenges life throws at me.

What’s your Health IQ?

If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared. Why not talk to us and see how we can help.

Blood testing

Blood testing is available via Thriva and you can use codes BODYSHOTBASE or BODYSHOT10 for all other tests.

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

6 Ways Exercise Can Save Your Mental Health

How Exercise Saved My Mental Health

Learn how exercise can better your mental health.

My Running Story

I played basketball in high school, but when it came to conditioning time, I hated it.

I hated running!

I use to dread the 4 little words…GET ON THE LINE! Which meant the whole team had to line up on the end line and run down the court and back under a crazy short amount of time. (short to me anyway). I was never the fastest. If we didn’t meet our time, we ran it again. I also dreaded the mile, the 400, and anything that involved my 2 feet getting somewhere faster than my body would allow.

It wasn’t until college that I started running. My friend dared me to not gain the Freshman 15 by challenging me to run 1 mile four times a week, for the whole school year. 1 mile felt so long, but I did it! AND I started liking it. I also lost 15 pounds instead of gaining. It was great!

Running then became my outlet for everything. Whenever I was going through a hard time, I ran. Whenever I was mad, I ran.

One day I felt overwhelmed (probably somewhat depressed) with life, crying on my mother’s shoulder, and she said:

“You can’t control everything that happens to you or what other people do, so you have to focus on what you can control. Just pick one thing you can control, and start focusing on only that thing!’”

So I did, and that thing was running!

Running has been a constant in my life for the past 10 years, and I feel like it has saved my life. I started out running just 1 mile then in 2012 I finished my first full marathon. It was an amazing experience. One I may not repeat, but amazing all the same. I continue to run today and challenge myself by training for all different races because it is a great outlet from life.

When I became a mother, it was my saving grace. After having each one of my children, I suffered with postpartum depression and anxiety. So, after each child, I signed up for a race. It was a double whammy: I’d lose the weight and feel happy again.

I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety, and running continues to be that outlet. When things get overwhelming, I run. #itsbetterthanbecominganalcoholic

Now, I’m not saying you have to run, but I highly encourage exercise, for everyone, but especially if you’re depressed or anxious and here’s why:

1. It’s in your control.

When it comes to anxiety and depression, you often feel like you’ve lost control of your emotions and your life. It’s easy to feel this way.

However, exercise is something YOU can control. It can be whatever you want it to be.

I can run 3 miles or 5 miles and I can run it as fast or as slow as I want. I don’t have anyone telling me what to do, or pressures to worry about, no kids demanding my attention or time. I just listen to my body and go!

2. You have more energy.

Sometimes I am so tired I don’t want to work out. Depression and anxiety are energy suckers! I day dream about my bed all day and the fastest way to get to it!

However, when I work out, I get more energy. The nights I don’t workout, I’m falling asleep by 9:00. When I do workout, I usually get about an hour of something extra done around the house and then go to bed around 11:00. It just gives you more energy.

And as a mom, I’ll take all the energy I can get.

3. Happy Endorphins.

It’s true! Running or exercise releases happy endorphins. You may not feel this way during the exercise, but it’s happening!

When you exercise you release a chemical called Serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate your mood. Higher Serotonin levels increases your happy mood! I have often come back from a run a completely different person than when I left. #Happypeoplejustdon’tshoottheirhusbands (name that movie).

4. You feel healthier and stronger.

Everyone strives to be more healthy. Exercise just makes you feel healthier. Like you’re progressing to a healthier you.

Your body becomes stronger because you’ve pushed it beyond it’s normal limits and it adapts to those limits, and it feels good. You feel good about yourself and your self-esteem and confidence increases!

Pair it with some healthy eating and you’ll definitely shed a few pounds.

5. It’s a break.

When I run, I just forget life. I just concentrate on me and my body and forget everyone else. It’s like I’m fighting the world when I push my body beyond it’s limits. It’s like I’m telling myself that I can do this; I can beat the world.

6. Sort through emotions.

Not always, but sometimes, I am able to think more clearly and see things in a different perspective. I’m able to sort through my emotions without all the distractions around me.

Whatever it might be, find an outlet that works for you. Something that helps keep you grounded, uplifts you, and can go to in times of need. You could start by running. Here are some tips on how to start.

Related: 9 Tips for Beginner Runners

Related: The Best Running Quotes from Successful Runners

Related: 10 ten minute Workouts for Busy Moms

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Success Stories

Steve Cook – 80lbs lighter and off arthritis medications!

Steve Cook of Whitefish was ready for a life changer and boy did he get what he was looking for with the One2One 6-month Optimum program. At the age of 60, and the heaviest he had been at 270 pounds he jumped aboard the One2One boat with his coach Teckla, and has been transformed over the last 6 months. Steve uses the word “reborn” explaining how he not only notices the physical changes that come with losing over 80 pounds, but now he has more energy, gets better sleep and says his mind is sharper and he’s off his arthritis medication. Steve enjoys cooking colorful foods now and riding his bike to pick up his weekly CSA of fruit and vegetables. Congratulations Steve and Teckla! Steve’s wellness and strength coaching took place at our location in Whitefish and Whitefish Therapy & Sport Center.

Muffie Thomson – No more achy knees!

Muffie has come to life with 16 lbs of weight loss!
Muffie did our One2One Synergy program 3 month program with Coach Deb. Before the program, she felt aches in her knees and was disinterested in strength training. She had been working on her cardio fitness, but it was really through the group atmosphere she gained more confidence in strength training, and started seeing immediate results. Muffie reports making better choices with nutrition, self-care and hydration! The group helped make accomplishing her wellness goals fun and interesting. Congratulations on your success; we love seeing that big smile!

Joe Akey – Skittles & Coke No More! Down 38lbs!

Joe Akey lost 38 pounds with the help of the One2One Weight Management program and his coach Teckla. Before the program Joe had low energy and had bad indigestion with terrible eating habits. His normal lunch was a bacon cheese burger with a couple of sodas. Because of the One2One program, Joe has changed his eating habits for the better. He now enjoys healthy food and has energy to play with his kids. He try’s to set an hour a day aside for exercise. Joe also say’s at the end of the day, he feels 1000 times better. Way to go Joe and coach Teckla!

Other Sucess Stories

“Making life style changes can be very challenging! Participating in the One2One helped me to get started on a journey to better health and to keep me moving forward. Sure I slipped, but my One2One coach helped me to identify strengths and gave me new tools – She was there to help me hold myself accountable to my goals.” – Sharon D.
“My One2One coach helped me to identify strengths and gave me new tools – She was there to help me hold myself accountable to my goals.”— Cheryl H.
“I’ve seen so many changes in myself in such a short period of time I find it hard to remember the old me. My biggest obstacles were negative self- talk and setting unrealistic goals. My coach helped me achieve attainable goals and most importantly believe in myself.” – Karen B.
“With the help of my One-2-One Wellness Coach, I have been able to develop an exercise program and dietary changes that fit my active lifestyle. The App to track food and activity helped to keep me aware of how much I was eating and exercising, which helped me stay motivated to stick with my plan and reach my weekly goals. At the end of the 16 week period, I will have surpassed my long range goals, and have developed exercise and diet habits that will stay with me, hopefully forever.” – Kathy Y.

Success Stories: Oliver Karger

“I wanted to be associated with a company that I could not only trust, but one which also had a high level of quality content within their courses.”

Where did your initial interest in fitness and nutrition come from?

My earliest memory of fitness was joining my dad on his weekend runs at the age of 10, where I would try to keep up with him for as long as possible as he completed laps of our local path. However, I can say that my initial conscious entry into the world of fitness was during my first year at university when I wanted to stay fit and keep my sanity between studying for exams at the end of the year! Whilst living in Sydney Australia after university, I noticed the large number of people who pursued a healthy lifestyle and were recreational ‘athletes’. Seeing this inspired me to study in Sydney and qualify as a Personal Trainer.

I worked in a variety of gyms and studios over the next few years before deciding to return to university to gain a masters degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology in 2004. I then began coaching football in the USA for two years before returning to the UK, where I continued to work in football for a number of years as a coach and performance analyst whilst also staying in the personal training arena. I eventually started working for myself as a trainer combining all aspects of my experience to work with a wide variety of clients ranging from professional athletes, overweight adults and children to teaching PE in primary schools.

Why the Future Fit School of Nutrition?

As a personal trainer, nutrition is an integral part of working with my clients and I found that Future Fit’s Nutrition Diploma was perfectly designed for me to work in greater depth with them. In addition to helping me work with clients, the diploma provided useful information on sports nutrition which I was able to apply to my own training for marathons and triathlons and also use with the football teams that I coach.

My current role

Since completing my Nutrition Diploma I have been able to provide my clients (and colleagues!) with a greater depth of knowledge in the world of nutrition whilst also working in California on America’s top weight loss program, where I dealt with an obese population ranging from 8 years of age to adults and families. After initially holding a position as a personal trainer I changed role, moving into the clinical and therapeutic side and working as a Behavioural Coach.

My future

My future plans are to continue to work specifically with obese individuals in both a physical and clinical environment whilst also having the opportunity to educate children on healthy eating and the pursuit of an active lifestyle.

While the before-and-after photos flooding your Instagram feed are great, weight-loss success is more than dropping pounds and buying smaller clothes. Sometimes, it can even be an inspiring path to self\-discovery. And that’s something that the show Extreme Weight Loss honed in on when it aired.

If you missed out on the series (reruns now air on TLC), here’s the scoop: Trainer Chris Powell travels the country to bring his expertise to the men and women who needed to lose more than half their body weight. Each episode focuses on the year-long journey of one person who trains with Powell and his wife and fellow trainer, Heidi (check out the Powell’s cool new weight loss tool, the TRANSFORM app).

The result? Ugly cry-worthy stories of real people getting real results through hard work. In case you need a little inspo (or perhaps and ugly cry?), we bring you some of the most incredible stories from this seriously addicting series.

Jacquelyn McCoy

Heidi and Chris Powell

BEFORE: 365 lbs
AFTER: 148 lbs

“In 2010, I was the heaviest and most unhealthy I had ever been. I wanted to change, but the task of losing the weight felt overwhelming and impossible. I had accepted that this was just the way I had to live—until it interfered with my greatest dream of being a mom. When I was accepted on to Extreme Weight Loss, Chris and Heidi Powell helped me make changes to lose weight step by step. It was no easy task, as I was going from couch potato, emotional eater, and sugar addict into an intense exercise regime and an eating program that was a drastic change. After a lot of hard work and dedication, it paid off. And I was not morbidly obese for the first time in over a decade.

“The dream of having children one day was my constant motivation and it is what kept me going through the obstacles. After the show was over, finding balance was very difficult. I went through a lot of trial and error and mental work, but after awhile I found focusing on nutrition and movement (and ignoring the scale) kept me healthy. Almost six years after my year with Extreme Weight Loss, I am still down more than 150 pounds. The greatest part is that I am now a healthy, active mom to a toddler and am seven-months pregnant with my second. I am so grateful to have realized my dream of motherhood.”

Related: Exactly What Mama June Ate To Go From 460 Pounds To A Size 4

Sara Murphy

Heidi and Chris Powell

BEFORE: 245 lbs
AFTER: 109 lbs

“I was always disgusted with how I felt and how I looked. I hated to see myself in pictures and hardly ever looked in the mirror. I even did my makeup in my car’s rearview mirror because it was the smallest. I knew that if I didn’t do anything about my health, I would end up bedridden or dead. Now, after Extreme Weight Loss, diet and exercise are a regular part of my life. I can definitely tell when I am not eating well or exercising by how my body and my mind feels. Due to food allergies, I eat very clean. I have learned fresh fruits, veggies, and protein are best for me. I used to let the scale own me. But once, I stopped weighing myself daily, I actually began making healthier choices and listening to my body.

“I feel what has helped me stay on track is surrounding myself with like-minded people who have had struggles with weight and strive to stay on track. If I am super-busy, I find doing quick cardio spurts makes me feel good and clears my mind. Also, if I get off track, I can tell how it affects my body. I feel like losing weight has made me more confident overall. I fight for the things I want instead of just staying in the background. I actually feel younger than I did 10 years ago.”

Ramp up your weight loss with these 10 strength moves:

Jackie Rodriguez

Heidi and Chris Powell

BEFORE: 266 lbs
AFTER: 144 lbs

“Maintaining a healthy weight is important to me, and though it can be a daily struggle I never give up. I truly believe that forgiveness was the key to my weight loss transformation—it began from the inside out. It wasn’t until I stepped outside of my comfort zone and faced my past that I became lighter both physically and emotionally. I am so grateful for the life-changing lessons that set me free and led me to authentic joy and happiness.” (Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women’s Health’s 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)

Related: These ‘My 600-lb. Life’ Success Stories Will Blow Your Mind

Hannah Myers

Heidi and Chris Powell

BEFORE: 310 lbs
AFTER: 149 lbs

“I decided to finally begin my weight-loss journey after my husband and I had a conversation about starting a family. Getting pregnant at my “before weight” was difficult and dangerous. Because parenthood was so important to my husband and me, I made losing weight and getting healthy my number-one priority. The biggest change I made was my nutrition. I went from eating extremely large amounts of unhealthy food twice a day, to five small, healthy meals a day. Never skipping any of those five meals was incredibly important. It kept me from ever getting overly hungry. However, on the rare occasion that my schedule was out of my control, snacking on cucumbers kept me from making impulsive food choices. Losing more than 100 pounds forced my husband and I to get to know each other again. I changed on the outside and transformed mentally. Losing weight had so many positive effects on my life, but it also forced me to revisit some painful memories and emotions. While I’d love to say that losing weight is possible just by eating better and exercising, the truth is that transformations are done from the inside out.”

Be an insider.

Guest article by Syahrul Naem

At 25, I experienced my first major anxiety attack. My inability to cope with the demands of schoolwork and my personal insecurities got the better of me and I was at my lowest. It didn’t help that I was staying in a college dorm, away from the comfort of home and family. It took me about a week or so to recover and sort myself out. In that period, I kept to myself and my only form of solace was heading to the gym, where I found the strength (pun intended) to pick myself up.

It has been more than a year since I picked up my first dumbbell and it has undeniably helped me get to where I am now, physically and mentally. I’m not saying that working out has completely removed my anxiety issues but it has definitely proved to be a useful coping mechanism. More than just a temporary remedy, the benefits of having a good workout at any time of the day motivates me to live the best version of my own life. Here’s what I’ve learned in my journey towards mental and physical wellness.

1. Keeping a healthy lifestyle cultivates discipline.

I’ve always prided myself on having the discipline and motivation to work hard on something that I love, be it a hobby or a school project. But I do have days when procrastination gets the better of me. Since starting this fitness journey, I’ve learned that the idea of discipline doesn’t need to be a rigid one. Being disciplined is to exercise some flexibility and be accountable to oneself. Much like how you cannot force yourself to feel positive in an instant, discipline requires you to give and take and have some self-assurance that if you skip a workout, you have not failed entirely. I know, the guilt burns (and sometimes enough to get you out of your idle mode). But know that rest days are as important for your body to be in optimum condition.

2. It’s a journey.

Being healthy is a passage with its own set of milestones, just like in our regular lives. As we get better at something, we naturally push ourselves to be even better than before. Tracking your progress and constantly aiming to improve help to keep the momentum going. Smashing those personal records not only gives you a boost in self-esteem, but is also an affirmation of all the hard work that you’ve put in. For me, I keep a note in my phone tracking my personal records, and looking at my progress over time helps motivate me.

3. A fitness journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Having friends that work out together helps (though it isn’t necessary for those who prefer some alone time like me), especially on days when you need that extra push. For the gym-goers, having a ‘gym bro’ to spot you helps you get through that excruciating last rep. For the runners, having a pacer helps motivate you to maintain your timing (hearty post-run meals are discretionary of course). So if you need to find a spark to light this journey, join a friend who has already started!

My anxiety has definitely improved with time. Whenever I feel negative about myself or if something is bothering me, my best solution is to sweat it out at the gym. I also find myself reflecting on the day’s activities during my rest periods. That kills two birds with one stone! Emotionally, I feel much happier and less stressed after a workout. I believe that when your fitness regime becomes a part of your life, it becomes an activity that you’ll look forward to every day!

How has exercise impacted your life? Inspire us with your story at [email protected]

7 Ways Working Out Changed My Life

Six years ago, I was about 5’6” and 120lbs. A lot has changed since then. I went from that prototypical skinny kid who was always picked last for basketball games to becoming a strength coach featured at places like Men’s Health, Golf Digest, and Men’s Fitness. Certain things in my life changed forever… For one, I look better (thank God)! But that’s only one side of my transformation. Instead of giving you the predictable “fitness makes you look better speech,” I want to share how my dedication to fitness changed my life in ways that have nothing to do with fitness. The skills I’ve gained in the gym carried over to everything else I’ve done outside of it.

Everyone’s story is different, but as you read this, I invite you to think of your own experiences with fitness. You might just realize how far you’ve come in all areas of your life.

I Built Consistency

When I started my fitness journey, I used the StrongLifts 5×5 system. The central tenant of the program was working out three times a week with a day of rest in between. At the time, I was teaching English in South Korea so I had to find a gym with the correct equipment AND navigate the transit system to get there. Nevertheless, I rarely missed a workout. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I knew exactly where I would be after work. Rain, heat, snow, wind, and even illness couldn’t stop me. I’d plan my life around fitness — a Monday workout meant no staying out late on Sunday, and a Friday workout meant less craziness afterward. But that’s really the “secret” to success in life, isn’t it? Picking something, committing to it, and staying consistent until the finish. I’ve noticed people don’t really like hearing that; they want the “quick fix.” But there’s nothing quick about gaining 20lbs of muscle, losing 10% of your body fat, or going from sedentary to benching 275lbs. It takes time and consistency. And I owe the gym for developing my belief in consistency and hard work.

I Developed More Control

Fitness showed me the immense control I have over my life (the same control we ALL have over our lives, really). Sure, there’s a lot about myself I CANNOT change. But there’s a tremendous amount I can. Around the same time I started my physical transformation, I set out on a journey towards personal development. I wanted to change the parts of me I considered negative and cultivate the positive aspects of my personality and character. I didn’t give into the, “that’s just how I am” mentality. I was seeing my body transform so why couldn’t I transform my self-destructive thoughts and behaviors? I believed I could, and over time things changed. Now, when confronted with obstacles, I feel far more self-assured that I can develop the skills, habits, etc. to succeed. Sure it takes time, but I learned from fitness that it all starts with us believing that we can do it and putting in the effort to make it happen.

I Revamped My Social Circle

As I changed my body and took control of my own wellbeing, I started to notice that the people around me didn’t have the same ambitions. They were stuck in the same place and showed NO signs of improving in any aspect of their lives. Think about it: How many people are truly better off than they were a year ago? Most people look the same (or worse). But remember this powerful fact: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Over the years, I started spending more time with people who had a positive influence on my life. Even if they hated lifting weights, they still pushed their lives forward unapologetically and shared my love for personal development. Surrounding myself with great people became a natural extension of what was already going on physically.

I Started Thinking Long-Term

I notice that a lot of people suffer from a “cram” mentality. They live a life of poor habits and then impatiently demand quick results. “I need to lose 15lbs in two weeks! How do I do it?!?! Help plz!” I’ve learned, however, that if you eat the right foods, do the right training program and stay consistent for a year, you’ll get results. “A YEAR?! I DON’T HAVE A YEAR, ANTHONY!!” To that I say, the year is going to elapse no matter what… Suck it up for 12 months and you’ll be exactly where you want to be. Life is similar. Improving yourself isn’t a series of a-ha moments; it’s a diligent and gradual process of destroying old habits and paradigms, and building new ones. It takes time and humility, but hey, spend the time and you’ll get there. And if you’ve transformed your body, you will have experienced – firsthand – how powerful that mentality is.

I Developed More Confidence In Myself

I don’t think “looking better” helped me feel more confident. To this day, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt unconfident and thought, “Oh wait, never mind… I have muscles! Confidence restored!” To me, it seems kind of insecure if I have to rely on my physical appearance to feel at ease. Instead, I think confidence comes from knowing you’ve conquered a challenge before, or that you can prevail over your fears. That comes from inside. That comes from shattering your comfort zone and thriving in discomfort. I believe working out helped me learn that lesson. Look, I know it’s hard to walk into the gym when you’re a complete novice in fear of looking silly; I know it’s hard to admit when you don’t know something and have to ask for help; and I know it’s really embarrassing to ask for a spot when you’re benching only 115lbs. But doing those things will eventually make you stronger. And THAT’S how you build real confidence, in the weight room and in other areas of life.

About Anthony

Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert at Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and helps guys get fit for their wedding at GroomBuilder

How Fitness Changed My Life

When I was 18, my mind set was that I would go to a great Christian college, meet a great Christian guy, and have a happily ever after. Of course, I now see that this was a completely false conception. However, this is the life that most Christian college students feel that they will have when they graduate high school. That is not the case for most people. Unfortunately, everyone is going to go through trials of some sort and deal with things on their own that they do not want to deal with.

I still, and will always, remember the second semester of my freshman year. That semester was when I realized that this world really was not perfect, or pain free. I stepped out of my Christian high school bubble and ended up seeing reality. That semester, I ended up being in a relationship that left me feeling worthless and destroyed. My family was also going through a pretty tough time with my brother. To top it all off, I was betrayed by one of my closest friends.

You might be wondering how fitness comes into all of this? When I was going through these different circumstances, I always felt very anxious and depressed. I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like I could not breathe, or I would be walking through my day just full of anxiety. I finally decided that I would take this feeling of anxiousness (and even a little bit of anger) to the gym.

I always loved working out, and participated in multiple sports in high school, but freshman year I started to learn how to weight lift. For me, weight lifting and intensive cardio is the best way to release stress and anger. When I get in the gym, I channel all of my energy into my workouts. It is scientifically proven that exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins are a hormone that releases a positive feeling throughout the body. So during my workout, and after, I feel like a whole new person. It clears my head and it makes me think positively again.

I am now 21, and I still work out almost every day. I have become both physically and mentally stronger from simply hitting the gym every day. I believe this can change anyone’s life. It just starts with moving your body a half hour each day! As soon as I realized this, the gym became my therapy.

Fitness changed my life

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