How Fitness Supports my Mental Health
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Fitness, hmm what can I say about fitness?
I started lifting weights early, about 11 - 12 years old, fitness has always been a part of my life. My big cousin Michael (Rest in Heaven Cuzzo) used to make us work out when I was even younger than 11. He used to make us bench bags of rice, curl gallon jugs of milk, do push ups, and he was strict about it. Back then we were breakers, like break dancers, and for him to do the things we wanted to do we had to be strong. At 11-12 years old I had a couple neighbors who were older and use to make me work out with them in the front yard. I was working out by Jr High and I was a really active kid, wether it was boxing in my front yard, basketball, football, riding bikes, or riding skateboards I was always up to some activity.
Early on I was diagnosed with a heart murmur and asthma, I was a really sick kid all the time, and at one point at about 7 or 8 years old I almost had open heart surgery. But my stepfather believed that I could mentally fight against these illnesses by utilizing physical activity. He used to tell me I can fight through anything if I put my mind to it, he pushed me to be more physically active, and started with me playing baseball. Slowly but surely between baseball and breakdancing I started to feel better and I also became a pretty good athlete/breaker. As I got older my heart murmur stopped bothering me and my asthma rarely impaired anything I needed to do.
As I approached high school I started playing football and was benching 225 for reps of 10. My freshman year I was lifting with the lineman as a 140 pound outside linebacker. I worked out at home, I worked out at school, I worked out with the team, I ran track, I ran the streets, I ran from cops, I wasn’t the best athlete, but I was a hard working mother fucker. Anyone who knew me back in high school knows I wasn’t the biggest guy, but I was one of the fittest and strongest. That work ethic in fitness stuck with me and though I was a bit of a knucklehead coming out of high school, fitness was a pretty consistent part of my life journey.
I know that early on fitness helped me with my mental health. There was something about putting everything I had physically into a work out that helped me deal with all the tough parts of life. I can clearly recall some of the toughest times in my life where if it wasn’t for my physical activity I’m not sure mentally how I would have dealt? By the end of my Junior year in High School I had 2 kids, I worked 2 - 3 jobs, stressed the fuck out going no where, but I believe that my work outs helped me maintain mentally through some really hard times. Ill save the young father stories for another blog, but even now to this day, I know that my grind is a direct reflection of my fitness. I need balance I can’t be too heavy either way, at some point I have to bring balance to my physical and mental lives.
The benefit to all of this is that my physical activity has lead to a certain amount of youthfulness. Today at 47 I know I can jump into pretty much any basketball game, soccer, I snowboard, I mean you name it? I might have to stretch lol, but I can hang, I might not be the best, but I can play. I know many my age who wouldn’t even think about jumping into any game, but because I have maintained a certain amount of fitness in my life I am still pretty active. The last 10 years I found CrossFit which challenged me physically in an extremely positive way. Nothing like putting everything I got into a CrossFit WOD (Work Out Of the Day). Then CrossFit lead me to Olympic Weightlifting, I ended being pretty good at that as well. Before I knew it I was competing at masters levels winning silver in worlds in 2015 and 2 time national champion in 2018.
On the flip side, most of my physical gains translated to a level of mental toughness that I utilized in my life and career. Oddly enough when I’m on top of my physical game I have had the most successes in my career. In 2015 I became director of the year killing my numbers at work, which lead to an expansion in my role and in 2018. In 2018 I hit numbers in my region never seen before at my level and I know for a fact because I was well balanced between my Mental and Physical fitness. It’s been interesting for me, I know that sometimes I fall off physically because I need to sacrifice time for work or life, but I always know that I have to make the fitness time back, I can’t fall off too long, not because I’m getting fat, but because I know mentally I need the balance, and that my ultimate success is dependent on my physical fitness.
I’ll admit it’s been great to be able to stay in shape, yes it has many perks, I stay looking and feeling younger and healthy. Some funny truth is that I used to dream as a kid about being a buff boss with tattoos. I used to dream that I was so big and bad looking that no one would ever want to fuck with me. I feel like I make that dream happen everyday, young me would be proud of who we become, ain’t no one fuckin wit us anymore (might be another blog as well, lol)! I appreciate who I am today so much because it has allowed for me to have enjoyed so much of life. There have been times I know I’ve let so many people down because they felt I could have been a body builder, or a better athlete, but truth is for me it’s not about looks it’s about my mental health. Fitness is my outlet, the pain and suffering helps to build mental toughness, and the grind helps me with the patience needed to grind thru life.
My point of this blog is to share not just the advantages physically of being as fit as possible, but the mental stability it can support for some of us. I always tell people, find your thing, doesn’t have to be lifting weights, it can be walking, golf, tennis, basketball, yoga, biking, hiking, etc… The lists of activities go on and if you focus on one, not only can you become pretty good at it, it can support your physical fitness, along with supporting your mental health. So get out there find a ting and go Thrive, plan for it to be a lifestyle, and in time the rewards will be beyond your physical looks, but more about your overall well being.