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The Mental Health Benefits of Bodybuilding

July 18, 2020
Mental Health Benefits of Bodybuilding

A few years back I wrote a piece about how bodybuilding massively benefited my mental health.

With the lockdowns and closure of gyms, I’d like to revisit said post;

Have you ever stopped and wondered where time went?

It seems only yesterday I entered the gym for the first time.

For those who know me, know that when I am not with my family or at work, I can be found in the gym.

For some my choice of downtime seems bizarre, weird, and not at all conventional, what ever the fuck ‘conventional’ is.

However, recently I have been reflecting on what has been the pull of the gym for these past 28 years?!

Why after so many years do I find myself lost when I miss a training session??

Is it just about being sexy?

Of course there are the obvious physical benefits, and I am not going to lie, they were the reasons I started in the first place, and still very much a part of the reason till this day.

After all don’t we all deep down want to look and feel sexy 🙂

However, bodybuilding goes further than the physical.

In reality, without bodybuilding I would have lost the plot a LONG time ago!

I recently completed an exercise where I was encouraged to look back on my life, and my work, and project into the future. The aim of this exercise was to highlight my lows and more importantly highs of life.

However, my first attempt saw me focusing on the lows, ALOT, too much in fact!

I asked myself the question

‘Did my life take the course I thought it would?’

NO! Was the answer.

In reality, does any ones?

Has yours?

At first it was upsetting.

In fact it was a mighty kick in the balls to be honest.

On reflection however there are many positives.

For one I would not be writing this post, if I weren’t in the place I am today, and the funny thing is, when I look back at every high and EVERY low, one thing remained the same……

I was always in the gym.

In fact I would argue I was in the gym MORE when life seemed unbearable, and there have been a few moments when it’s felt FUCKING unbearable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m for sure as shit not holding a pity party now, nor inviting you to play the worlds smallest violin for me.

But I want to get REAL with you.

I cannot impress on you enough how much bodybuilding has seen me through life’s struggles.

If it weren’t for that time in the gym, the ability to switch off from the outside world, the momentary selfish act of pushing out reps, I really don’t know how I would have coped.

Ever felt like your world is falling apart?

Bodybuilding brings with it, self confidence, you walk with your head up, you feel great, even when deep inside your world is falling apart.

When it seems like nothing is going right, and like EVERY decision you’ve made up to that point in time was, well, pointless.

For me that’s when bodybuilding, transcended the act of physical activity and lifted my mind, body and spirit up out of the every day hustle and bustle.

Of course you can google the benefits of physical exercise, the impact increased testosterone has on alleviating depression, the release of dopamine and serotonin into the body and the euphoric feelings you get from pushing yourself in the gym.

But until you’ve FELT its impact it really is hard to explain.

Have you ever felt like life is just BULLSHIT????!

Have you had a day where you just want to punch someone??

Please don’t, trust me, it doesn’t help!

Well, so have I.

My wife would back me up on this.

To many I seem laid back, like nothing bothers me, and you may think I have had an easy breezy life just from my demeanour.

But honestly, there have been times I’ve struggled too.

Several years back I was so stressed I was pissing blood!

Yeah, not something I would recommend.

Thankfully it was circumstantial, and not the big C like the Doc postulated.

I say this, for no other reason than, to encourage anyone who is not exercising, to START!

So that if you too, feel like I have in the past, to start looking after yourself, NOW!

I’ve been there, and know how it feels

And I say this, because, it’s bodybuilding that has provided me:

  1. Space
  2. Clarity
  3. Time
  4. Energy
  5. Direction
  6. Motivation
  7. Health
  8. Strength

So where do you begin?

Simple.

At the beginning.

STEP ONE

START.

For those of you that are single or without a partner, the first step is easy.

For those who have a significant other, I would highly recommend talking to them, let them know you are going to start training.

However, don’t be a dick!

Yes, it can seem selfish, I need 1 hour a day to train 4,5,6, times a week. it’s about finding time for you, but not to the detriment of your relationship, done right, this will only make it stronger.

STEP TWO

Join a gym, I have known many guys feel intimidated about going, some who feel they have to train first to get to a level before they can go to the gym, don’t, from an old dog like me, trust me, there are largely 2 types of people in the gym:

1. Those who couldn’t give a fuck if you are there or not, they have their own issues and are there to train.

2. The ‘he trains regularly’ gang, keep going regularly and you’ll earn their respect. and that’s the same if you’re 60lbs wet or 400lbs dry!

STEP THREE

Diet!!!!

Perhaps the biggest thing you can do for yourself outside the gym is educate yourself on diet, it’s really not that hard, I will start you off:

  1. Reduce the amount of sugar you consume
  2. Reduce the amount of premade meals and processed meats
  3. Supplement where needed, protein is enough to begin.
  4. Eat colourful food

That last one doesn’t involve skittles, by colour I mean veg and fruit!!!

STEP FOUR

Motivation, do what ever it takes to keep you motivated, for me over the years it has taken the form of:

  1. Motivational videos on YouTube
  2. Les Brown,
  3. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes
  4. CT Fletcher <- one of my favourites!!!

Whatever it takes.

I took years before I was open enough to do this, but trust me, it helps!

STEP 5

Learn from the pros, I cannot impress on you enough this penultimate one!

Train smart, follow guys, girls who know what they are talking about, in my earlier days, my body was seemingly unbreakable, and I asked it to do many things, that now I wouldn’t dream of.

Here are a few guys I would recommend following:

STEP SIX

The final and most important one, DONT QUIT!!!!

There is one more resource I can recommend my first audio book and the one that I still use today, especially for getting up at 4am

Mel Robbins the 5 second rule.

Listen to this, it will change your life.

You have to make the act of going to the gym habitual, then the above book will definitely help.

So there you have it, hopefully you now have a different take on bodybuilding, its not all fake tans and speedos, for all the bravado and copious amounts of advertising dollar at its core it really is a platform to look better and more importantly feel better.

When this current madness is over, and the gyms are open, do yourself and your mental wellbeing some good, start training, start looking after yourself.

I’d love to know your opinions on this.

James

The Conscious Bodybuilder