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Crying Is Not Breathing

Recently, during one of my workouts, Joelle, our newest rockstar of a trainer, said to me..."Crying is not breathing!" Since I was under load, close to failure, and trying not to break form...I silently cursed at her under my breath (ok...maybe NOT so silently) and worked through my emotional moments. Since that day I have been using this phrase often, and have been giving much thought as to what it truly means.

"Crying is the shedding of tears in response to an emotional state."

The act of crying, theoretically, is thought to be, among other things, a form of nonverbal communication used to elicit altruistic behavior from others. When lifting weights, we often will experience discomfort, which brings with it some very powerful emotions often associated with crying. Now in the 25 years that I have been working with people on fitness and health, I have seen very few people actually break into tears, but have always worked around emotions that ARE displayed during what is often a very physically taxing experience. There are many reasons for changing how you may react during these moments.

"Act not upon your emotions, lest they act upon you."

The quote above is one I learned during my many years of kung fu training. It is very applicable to what we do here at Strength, and should be something practiced during every session. What we are discussing here is the art of stoicism, which is the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings or without complaint. During our sessions together you are going to experience something uncomfortable, but we will NOT refer to it as pain, because pain is a sign of something amiss, like when you put your hand on the stove...(don't tell me I am the only one to have done this). Exertional discomfort, however, is expected during strength training, and though you may not like it, it IS part of the experience that you must endure, to get the result that brought you to us in the first place. When you physically react to "pain" vs. exertional discomfort, some very interesting things happen, both physically and mentally. When you react to pain, the typical physical response is to tense the facial muscles and hold the breath. This only creates more tension in the body, which causes you more difficulty achieving momentary muscle fatigue, which is what you are aiming for. If you stay relaxed, and breathe correctly, you will be able to withstand the very difficult 10 seconds of this arduous process. Additionally, when you react to pain, you start a very complicated thought process that will make you believe that something very undesirable is happening, when in fact, it is not. You aren't experiencing an injury, or overworking, or causing your body to "break down". You are simply reaching fatigue, which comes with a very powerful burning in the muscles, an increased heart rate, increased cardiovascular demand, dilated pupils, and an urge to run screaming from the building. Simple.

"It's not that we don't care, we just don't mind."

We care deeply how you "feel". We want you to have a safe and effective workout. We won't

even judge you, should you break into crocodile tears, before, during, or after your workout. But...when you are exercising please observe the following, for we offer the Worlds Best Workout and expect you to follow our direction to make it so...

  • Please keep all communication to the moments before, or in between exercises. We really do want to know how things are going, but not while you are under load. If you need to communicate to us, set the weights down.

  • Keep your head and neck in a neutral position so as to avoid unnecessary tension.

  • Always breathe. Never hold your breath. Breathe in a relaxed repetitive fashion, and when we ask you to breathe, it should sound like "Ha, Ha, Ha" (no...not like laughter)

  • Put up with as much discomfort as you can, avoid looking at us as if to ask if it is time for you to stop, and try not to ask us if it is time for you to stop. If we have fallen asleep, or aren't paying attention, then we need to try something different, but this likely hasn't happened (as in ever), so you should attempt to continue until muscle fatigue, or until we ask you to set the weights down.

The most important thing to do while under load, and using good form, is to breathe. Always remember...Crying is not breathing.


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