I was in the middle of a particularly grueling HIIT workout the other day when—seemingly out of nowhere—my instructor told the class to vocally cheer. “Let’s hear it, you guys—make some noise!” they exclaimed, hoping everyone would enthusiastically shriek out words of encouragement as they’re dying through some dreaded jump squats. (This is of course the point where one person yells “Wahoo!” and then the trainer has to ask the class again to really yell.)
I actually tried it—as in, I yelped out a solid “Woo!” while tackling a series of explosive lunges—and I’ve got to tell you that it was cathartic. Typically, I’m the silent sufferer in a workout. I am pouring sweat and undoubtedly grimacing, but I don’t say anything out loud or make noises, save for the occasional curse word in moments of serious need (which, by the way, science backs up by saying swearing during a workout boosts performance). I’ve always chocked the cheering exercisers up as a rare breed—a person who is finding way too much joy in brutal workout moves than normal.
But apparently, there’s actual an psychological reason to let out a little “woot woot” when you’re suffering through your squat routine. “Using motivational cues, validation statements, and high energy cheers can be beneficial during high intensity group training,” says Hillary Cauthen, Psy.D., CMPC and Association for Applied Sport Psychology representative. “Encouraging statements are great during group exercises to help change the momentum and energy in the room. The endorphins are flowing, high arousal level, and it will produce the psychological energy needed to keep individual arousal levels at the optimal zone to perform their best.” Then there’s the aspect of camaraderie and social support that arises when a group of strangers starts randomly cheering together. “Hearing cheers from instructors and classmates increase the social connection, enjoyment, positive self statements and belief in completing their goals,” says Cauthen.
And of course, trainers are all about it. “Who doesn’t love a little cheer?” asks Amanda Kloots, personal trainer and founder of The Rope, The Dance, and The Body. “Think about it—a hoot, a holler, a woo hoo! They bring energy into the room, it makes people around you perk up, and it lifts your spirits. It brightens your mood and brings joy to your workout.”
Colette Dong, an instructor at Fithouse, agrees, saying that you should let it out rather than abide by the cultural norm to be reserved and chill. “We shouldn’t be afraid to use our voices in all aspects of life and your workout is no different,” she tells me. “If anything, it’s the best time to get loud and scream because it’s (hopefully) about something positive and exciting. Manifest your excitement and I guarantee it’ll help you get through that intense push and maybe even enjoy it.”
Hey, I’m all for anything that’ll get me through a minute-long burst of burpees—so I just might become the woo-hooing Homer Simpson of the gym.
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