Lift Your Spirits!
It has been well-documented that exercise can have a positive impact on your mood. However, the focus has generally been on aerobic exercise like running or cycling. Lately there has been a lot of talk about the link between weight-training and reduced depressive symptoms and anxiety. A few articles about this caught my eye late last year as, at that time, I was lifting dumbbells and barbells for the first time in my life!
One article cited how studies have shown that resistance training can have an impact on the neuroplasticity of your brain, or the ability for your brain to change, e.g., producing new brain cells, blood vessels and increasing the size of certain regions of the brain. Also, the other reason it can help your mood is apparently due to the parallels with mindfulness…when you are lifting weights, you are forced to focus and there is little scope to think about anything else.
I didn’t know about any of these additional benefits on your mind when I embarked on my first personal training journey last August. As I was trying to get in shape for my friend’s wedding, my focus was all on how it would make me look on her big day! That was what motivated me to jump out of bed at 6am twice a week for weights sessions at 6.30…
Looking back now, I am reflecting on what I got out of this 4-month experience:
- Patience! Unlike when I started running and my body-shape started changing quickly, the impact of weights is more gradual. One of my friends told me she thought when she started lifting for the first time, she expected to get Jennifer Aniston arms in no time. I have to admit I had similar thoughts. For women, it takes a while to build upper body muscle, so you need to stick with it. By the time the wedding came around, I had some mini biceps but an improvement on where I started out!
- Focus: The PT had me on baby weights at the start and moved me up slowly. When I got to the 4th session, it really began to get hard and I can fully understand the “mindfulness” like qualities. You are completely engrossed in getting the weights up and down correctly (and in my case without falling over or dropping them on yourself!), that you literally cannot think about other things.
- Variety: I talk a lot about running and spinning so it was good to try something new and mix it up a bit. Most exercise I do has been about leg strength and changing the emphasis to my arms was out of my comfort zone. I would say to anyone looking to get into exercise of some sort but not sure what would suit them, try different things out. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it? Well, then you can always try something else.
- Discipline: I had committed to 2 sessions per week for 4 weeks and paid upfront, which was incentive itself not to back out. I did this solidly for 4 months without a break. As the mornings got colder, I really had to push myself. I literally had to have everything packed the night before and get out of bed without thinking about it. I also knew the PT was there waiting for me so I couldn’t let her down.
- Support: Having a personal trainer teach me how to do the different weights and machines in the gym was brilliant for motivation and preventing injury as I literally didn’t have a clue! She also set targets for me and checked in every 4 weeks to see improvements.
Although the role of a life coach is not to teach or advise, I could see some similarities with personal trainers. Namely helping define a plan of action, set goals and encouragement/ support.
I finished with the PT the last week in November and since then, I do Strength & Conditioning classes when I get a chance. I would highly recommend giving even a simple weights class a go. You can reap the physical benefits if you stick with it. And as per the recent research, it can have a positive impact on your brain and release endorphins like other forms of exercise and overall make you feel better. Win, win!
If you have any sort of exercise goal and want some guidance with it, just give me a shout. Elaine x