• Jeremy Edge, LPC

The Gym and Counseling: How Going to the Gym is Similar to Going to Counseling



How do you feel about the gym? Take COVID-19 out of it for a minute and the gym can be a great place to exercise, socialize, and de-stress. It can be a place to escape, rock out to your favorite Spotify station, and improve your physical health. But the gym can also be a source of stress and tension.


It can be intimidating if you are new to the gym. If someone is unfamiliar with how the machines work or unsure on the correct form when lifting weights, they can become frustrated and even get hurt. A gym is a place to improve your health and wellbeing, but if not used correctly, it won’t be effective. From cardio and weight machines, free weights, and spin and aerobic classes, gyms have all the tools anyone will need to improve their physical health. When used correctly, the gym is a perfect place to reach your physical health goals.


If we want to work out effectively with weights and machines, at some point, we have to learn. We must learn how to properly use the machines and equipment. We learn by seeking guidance from someone who’s done it or is an expert. A personal trainer, coach, or that jacked dude who looks like the Rock can help us know the best way to utilize the equipment at the gym. Until we learn from them, our time in the gym will most likely be ineffective and frustrating.


When we do learn how to use the gym equipment, it’s freeing. We are free to use the equipment in any order or combination with other machines to achieve our physical health goals. How many sets/reps, how much weight, and the amount of rest we give ourselves during exercise all determines the outcome of the workout. All those details are up to you. But the baseline of starting workouts is knowing how to properly use the equipment.


Deadlift Mental Health


The gym is similar to counseling. A counseling session offers you the space to improve your mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. Counseling gives you a break from your day to day and gives you the space to better understand yourself, others, and work through challenges. Like exercising at the gym, counseling is difficult and what you put in is what you get out. And the benefits are huge.


Like a personal trainer, a counselor can help you learn different tools to improve your health. A counselor will create an individualized plan to help you specifically improve on the areas that are most important to you. Think of it like improving your deadlift. You might not want to improve your chest or arms, but you really want to improve how much you can deadlift. A personal trainer will help guide you in how specifically to do that. You may not need help in every area of your life, but you might want help in a few places. For example, if you want to find ways to manage anxiety, stress, depression or work through relationship problems, a counselor can help guide you in doing so.


Feel the Burn

Another thing the gym and counseling has in common is effort. You have to put in the work to get results. If you only walk slowly on the treadmill or lift light weights and never break a sweat, you won’t see much progress. You have to push yourself and work hard. It’s the same thing with counseling. If you don’t engage with the counselor, think about what’s being discussed, and take action outside of sessions, you probably won’t gain much. But, if you are vulnerable, honest, and courageous enough to engage in the counseling process, you will improve your mental health.


The Building Muscle Process


We physically tear our muscles when we exercise. Our muscles are stretched and broken down when we work out. But the muscle grows back stronger than before. It’s natural to get discouraged when you are really sore after a workout. You are tired and your body hurts to move. That might be enough to discourage us from working out again. But if we don’t push through that struggle, that pain, we won’t become stronger.


During a counseling session, hard emotions may come up. Uncomfortable memories or feelings could surface that are painful. And if we stay in that place forever, we will become more discouraged. However, counseling helps work through that pain. Sticking with counseling and working with a therapist you trust can help you work through that emotional pain and experience strength on the other side. Just like building muscle, improving our mental health takes effort, some discomfort, and trust. Trust that through this tough process, improvement and healing awaits.


Picking the Right Machine


Maybe you want to feel less anxious. Maybe you want to improve your relationship with your spouse. Maybe you have a hard time controlling gaming and screen use. Or maybe you just want a safe place to problem-solve life’s challenges and gain insights along the way. Counseling is a place for that. Seek out counseling if you would like to learn the tools to strengthen your mental health.

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