No blood, but sweat and tears

Posted: May 31, 2011 in CrossFit, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Weight Loss
Tags: , , , , ,

So it’s official: every female to come to the home box for CrossFit has cried. I was ready to again today; the first few times I was pretty close to hysteria.

Now, it’s not that Gary makes me cry, but for the fact that he tells me how I need to fix things, and I want to cry because it’s already so damn hard. Today, my ankle, near the Achilles tendon, was making me wince whenever I got into the wrong position in a squat or stepped on it wrong while walking the treadmill. I was so ready to give up on my next-to-last round, but there he was, watching my ankle to make sure I wasn’t doing anything to hurt it, so I couldn’t quit. He just told me I could do it instead of giving me permission to quit, which is what I wanted.

So when he told me to keep control of the bar on the down side of the press, I whined, “I’m doing good just to do this.”

I’ve also been known to yell and otherwise be bitchy during my workout. It embarrasses me, but I was glad to find out I was in good company in the family garage gym.

And after looking around the internet, it seems we’re not alone. Shelah Miner, in her blog Shelah Books It, says in a post called “Emotional lability and exercise“:

I’m not normally much of a crier. That’s not to say that I never cry, but it doesn’t happen all that often. I’m more likely to tear up when I’m pregnant, or as I’ve recently discovered, when I exercise. Now that I’ve traded techno for podcasts to accompany my long runs, I’ve found myself getting misty-eyed several times over the last few months.

Misery, or at least emotional lability, loves company. Natkita of Natkita’s Blog got there, too, as she says in her post called “Crying During a Workout, & Other Ridiculous-ness“:

I’m about 5 minutes into the workout and I’m totally bringing it, feeling confident that I’m actually doing the moves right for the first time since starting TurboFire. My HR is way up there after the 1st repeat of the first drill (high intensity activity burst)…then comes the “rest” interval, and Chalene says something about telling yourself “I have more in me”…and I got a little choked up and teary-eyed. Then at the next rest interval, she said something similar, and it happened again…I’m sure you can guess what happened on the 3rd rest interval…

This emotional response during exercise crops up in various online forums; for example,, Yahoo! Answers and Calorie Count all have members asking if they’re alone and why they are emotional (and they’re not just girls, either). The standard answer seems to blame endorphins. I’m not sure I buy that, and I can’t find any scientific research on it. The reason I don’t buy it is that endorphins are naturally produced neurotransmitters that work on the same receptors that opiates do. They generally are responsible for the “runner’s high” and reduction of pain and negative feelings. Of course, it could be yet another example of how some bodies respond one way to chemicals and others respond differently.

What you do hear, though, is that exercise, usually more body-mind type exercises, can help you release pent-up emotions. If you’re stressed about something and holding it in, exercise may give your mind an opportunity to purge itself of those emotions. MSNBC ran a story on it called “Moved to tears: Workouts and waterworks” that states:

[S]ometimes exercise may release a surprising slew of pent-up emotions, according to fitness instructors and psychotherapists who have seen or heard about clients crying …

“We use our bodies to physically tense up against pain or negative experiences,” says Karol Ward, a therapist in private practice in New York City.

“Then someone is in a movement class doing downward dog and that emotion can come to the surface,” she says.

In response to reports of workouts that bring on the waterworks, Ward published an article earlier this year in the IDEA Fitness Journal to educate fitness instructors on how to respond when clients melt down in class.

The full citation for the article references is Karol Ward, “Motion and Emotion.”  IDEA Fitness Journal 1 Mar. 2007.  Probably the most important thing for coaches in it is her recommendation to stay “S.A.N.E.,” an acronym for stop, acknowledge, normalize and evaluate.

  • Stop: Don’t try to stop the client from crying, but stop the activity for the moment.
  • Acknowledge: She recommends mirroring the client’s feelings to let them know that you, the coach, understands and accepts the emotional response.
  • Normalize: Reassure the client this isn’t unusual.
  • Evaluate: Decide whether the client has recovered enough to continue.

Sounds easy enough; the coach just has to be the supportive adult and not let the tears phase him. Good job, Gary; that’s pretty much sounds like what you do.


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