I am, admittedly, an emotional person. Actually, this tendency toward over-feeling is one of the things that makes regular movement so valuable to me; it helps process those emotions through my body. After all, emotions are a combination of mental behaviors (thoughts) paired with particular, measurable physical responses – every single emotion is expressed in the body in some way! (http://www.chemistryislife.com/the-chemistry-of-emotions ; http://www.humanillnesses.com/rBehavioral-Health-Br-Fe/Emotions.html) For sure, the sweat and deep breathing of a hard workout can be a good way to siphon off excess tension, not to mention the feel-good endorphins that are released after sustained exertion, but it is also true that too much emotion can wreck a workout and even contribute to injury and illness.
When we have lots of emotions going on, we humans don’t always think clearly or make sound decisions. It’s not always easy to listen to the signals of the body and pay attention to them with focus when there is so much else going on in the head. Most athletes know the exuberant happiness associated with winning and the crushing sadness of defeat; however if they contemplate or anticipate these emotions prior to their event, they could be pulled completely off course by not only losing focus but also by altering the body’s own environment through chemical changes! A version of this happened to me a couple of weeks ago actually.
On the day of my event, I had big emotions, mostly excitement, perhaps a shade of apprehension, and heart-lifting inspiration. The event was Senior Olympics Track and Field, and when I arrived I could barely contain my grin as I looked around at all the amazing people who had come to do amazing things. Some of the athletes were amateurs like me and some were international competitors in their events, all mixed in together. I wanted to meet other athletes, I wanted to try things I had never tried before, and I wanted to watch everything! I mean, how often is it that a person can watch an 80-year-old champion do the high jump? (That’s Ed in the picture below coaching me on how to run up pre-jump).
Of course I had to watch and talk and learn! It was so inspiring and my heart felt so warm! So I rode those emotions and let them drive me….right past my warm-up time. Oops. Yes, I failed to warm up adequately because of being excited and so got hurt in my very first event. It would have been much worse, actually, had I not listened to the wisdom of my informal coach-for-the-day, my daughter Shima – I wanted to limp through my other events just to get the medals and the competitive high for my ego, but she assessed the situation with a cool head and advised me to rest my injury and enjoy the day. Note to self, that is another important function that we do as trainers and coaches, to give an objective and realistic analysis of what is appropriate for each client, each day, without being influenced by the emotional state of the person whether that is over-the-top enthusiastic or under-the-bridge depressed. In this way we also can help shift these big emotions through the energy we direct to the activities at hand; in fact one of my favorite things about being a trainer is seeing someone leave in a good mood after they came in feeling down. And though n0t as thrilling, it is equally important for me to be able to recognize over-enthusiasm and help to focus it without losing the positive drive.
Back to my personal lesson, IT WAS A WONDERFUL DAY, ONE OF THE BEST EVER, AND I HAVE NO REGRETS. I will, however, make sure to keep my emotions in check in the future, focusing them in a positive way to get the job done and not skipping any steps that I find less than thrilling (ahem, athletes, I’m talking to you about the tedious or boring things you don’t like to do, like warm-up and stretching). I will listen to my body and determine with a clear head what it needs; if I cannot do so, I will seek out the opinion of another professional. I will direct my thinking with intention and my self-talk with words that are upbuilding and empowering but not unrealistic. If you do the same, before long you will be using your workout to change your willpower instead of using your willpower to change your workout. Now, who wants to join the Olympics with me next year?