I have a love affair with my gym. She’s not much to look at: a rubber track and weight room in a dank basement, but appearances aren’t everything. She’s there on my best days and on my worst days. We never fight, and she doesn’t care what I look like as long as I give her my full attention for a few hours a week.
I was talking with a fellow gym goer recently (the gym and I have an open relationship). He mentioned that whenever he is facing something frustrating, he goes to the gym. The gym is his form of therapy, and if I think about it, it’s my stress release too. So, I’d like to present my list of seven reasons the gym is better than therapy.
Note: I’m joking. If you’re facing serious problems, talk to someone and face them, don’t just vent at the gym. But, for smaller stresses, the gym can be one of the best therapists money can buy.
#1 – The Gym is Cheaper
A typical gym membership costs about $300 a year. If you go to a therapist, once a week for $100 an hour, that’s $5200 per year. If anything, the gym is a discount stress-reliever, far cheaper than paying someone to hear you talk.
Another benefit: the gym doesn’t charge for the hour. If you need ninety minutes to sort out a particularly stressful day, she won’t mind and she won’t charge you extra. If you want to go a few times a week, or even twice on the same day, that’s fine too. In some places, gyms are even open 24 hours, so you can resolve stress at any time of day.
#2 – The Gym Won’t Give Advice
At first, this doesn’t seem like a benefit. The reason you pay a therapist is to get advice on your problems, right? But, sometimes it can be. Many times you go looking for advice, you really just want to think. You want an empathetic ear to hear your worries while you think about what to do.
I can’t say the gym is empathetic (she’s pretty unfeeling). But, she doesn’t give you advice. So if you want to think a situation over for an hour before coming to a decision, she’s patient.
#3 – You Won’t Get Fat
The gym does double-duty. She helps you keep your stresses to a minimum, and she keeps you in shape. That’s the kind of package deal you can’t get lying on a couch.
#4 – Free Drugs (natural, of course)
When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins. These chemicals are associated with feeling happy and relieving pain. Your body also releases endorphins during an orgasm and when taking cocaine. The extra endorphins often result in a “runner’s high,” a feeling of well-being after exercise.
#5 – Breathing Exercises
Your breathing affects how you feel. Try to stay angry after taking ten, 15-second breaths. Although some therapy may do breathing exercises, the gym is a constant breathing exercise.
If you’re lifting weights, you exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it back down. When you’re running, you need to keep a constant breathing pace in line with your steps. Match your breathing with the up and down of a push-up and you’re practically meditating.
#6 – Focused Distractions
Sometimes you just need a distraction. After a stressful day with work, friends or family, you need to take your mind away from your problems. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be hard to pry your mind away.
If you’re looking to be distracted, most therapy is definitely out. Talking about your issues isn’t a good way to take your mind away from them. But the gym can provide an outlet, forcing you to focus on something else for an hour.
#7 – Little Wins to Rebuild Your Confidence
The gym gives you plenty of opportunities for little victories. Every time you do a little bit more, run a little further or last a few minutes longer, you’ve won. Those little wins rebuild your confidence after a setback. Stewing in your problems is a recipe to trash your self-image. If you can get a few more victories under your belt, you can feel better about yourself.
Your First Session
The gym takes a bit of time to get used to. If you haven’t been in regular sessions for at least a month or two, your time spent with each other might make you feel worse, not better. You need to get comfortable with your level of fitness so that frustrations outside the gym don’t translate into frustrations because you’re out of shape.
The best part about the gym is that you don’t need a reason to go. Just shoes, a pass and thirty minutes.