There were times in my early 20’s when I would cry in my room for no reason at all. I had zero awareness of my mental health. I felt guilty as I knew there were others worse off than me but I couldn’t control it. I didn’t understand why I felt that way and how to fix it. Why are we afraid of the monsters lurking under our bed? Do we fear what other will think? We seldom talk about them often pretending they don’t exist. Some view their recognition as weakness.
I recently completed a Strongfit seminar with Julien Pineau. It is incomparably the most impactful piece of learning I have ever participated in during my 28 years. The strange part was it didn’t really hit me until I was on the plane home. I unearthed some challenging personal questions over the weekend. Through the course a lot of these were answered. The course also bonded several of our coaching philosophies with one overriding theme. It was truly amazing. A considerable part of the course was the connection between mental health and exercise, The effect exercise has on our mental state and nervous system and how they’re inextricably linked.
I train to make myself feel good both mentally and physically. I think a lot of people start training or doing CrossFit for a specific goal or outcome such as a holiday or a wedding. Often that focus (consciously or otherwise) shifts from the outcome (bikini) towards chasing that positive feeling. We chase that endorphin and serotonin release (the happy hormones).
We train because it’s good for us, it keeps us healthy but also it keeps the mind fresh and strong. Now I train to help my mental health. This is something I have struggled with for a long time. I was embarrassed by my poor mental health and pretended that I was perfectly ok.
The more I evolve as a human I realise the importance of working on your mental health. The importance of actively battling against your monsters in anyway we can. I am not a medical professional but I can offer myself to others to simply listen and to help them both inside and outside the gym. I genuinely care about helping people. It is my passion. It’s what I will do for the rest of my life. I recognise my struggle in others and want to extend my hand in help. If we can be the catalyst for a positive change for someone then we have achieved our goal. But we can only begin helping people if we are ok with helping ourselves. The first step to helping ourselves is to realise something is off.
It’s vital to talk about our monsters. Even if we don’t think they are a big deal. I still find it tough to talk about all things mental health. I tend to use exercise and WODs to beat myself up. To almost punish myself into feeling good. I’m slowly trying to teach myself to love myself when I train.This was evident in a workout on the StrongFit course. It was a sandbag carry for max distance. When you cant walk it any further, find something inside to hold on and keep going. When you drop the bag then you’ve got to walk all the way back. I got pretty emotional during realising anytime I dropped the bag, I never thought I wasn’t going to do it, but I used self hate to get me to pick it up again. “Pick it up you piece of shit” “Don’t stop moving you fat fuck”. It wasn’t till the next day I realised that a lot of my motivation when working out is self hate. Punishing myself for any bad done, any negative feelings. It was a crazy experience. What was even more that I spent a week thinking about it to the point I did it again. I was scared that I use this self hate so made a pact with myself to be one with myself and accept myself. I carried the bag 1k unbroken all through positive talk and breathing. Focusing on myself and that im not perfect but hey, who is. Training doesn’t have to be a negative experience. We don’t have to suffer in misery, anxiety & pain to achieve some endorphins. Have you ever finished a workout & only focused on the negative? “Ah I could have done better there, or I missed that” Training can be such a positive experience especially when we can make the connection between that and mental health. The ‘money’ is in recognising this through the workout not just afterwards when rushed with the happy hormones.
The realisation that exercise can have such a transformative impact on your mental health (& life) has really changed my outlook on training, coaching, management & relationships. I have started to focus more on how I feel rather than the outcome. Worrying less about my times/numbers and more on being in tune with my body. Feeling my blood flowing, my heart rate increasing, my muscles burning.
This evolving understanding has also catapulted my coaching. The coaching profession is truly magical. It’s difficult to put into words. Connecting and helping others through challenge when vulnerable is so special. The endorphins we all get from exercise I also get from coaching. It’s addictive. Becoming a coach and investing in my craft has helped me immeasurably as a person. I’m so grateful to have found this walk of life. I don’t know where I’d be without CrossFit 353. I’d bet my monsters would still be winning the battle & influencing my self talk. I’m not sure the monsters ever fully go away. Now when they re-emerge I try to face them head on. This is an ongoing struggle. I find it tough to balance life and everything it throws at me but i’m recognising my frailties, working to improve them & being honest with myself. I think if we can recognise it then we are on the right path. I ain’t perfect, i never will be, but I’m going to keep battling the monsters head on. Sometimes I love other people more than myself. I now know I’ll be able to have a deeper and more meaningful impact on others if I can first love myself. I suppose that’s what life is, that constant battle against yourself. The old saying “you vs you” couldn’t be more apt.
I’ve been truly blessed with the people in my life, I don’t always show my appreciation but I do love you all. From my family to the incredible tribe of 353, you have all helped me in ways you will never know over the past 6 years. You have given me the most unique opportunity in the world to be on the front line helping people everyday. Having the smallest positive impact on someones day. Building relationships and making connections. For that I will be eternally grateful.
If you too have monsters and are in the trenches, give me a shout! I’m always around to grab a beer or a coffee, just reach out and i’ll be there. Try and remember we are all battling. The more we can show love & compassion to each other the better this world can be. No one is perfect, we all fuck up, recognise your mistake, own it, and move on. We can get through anything together and remember there is always someone who cares and that is willing to listen.
Peace and Love
Coach Gaz x