Have you ever worked so hard while working out that you burst into tears? Yeah, same. In my life, it’s not just one isolated event, either. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve cried in a SoulCycle class, well, I’d be able to afford to take a whole lot more SoulCycle classes; but, I’ve also found myself weeping in hot yoga, Pilates, dance cardio, and one particularly intense run down the West Side Highway in New York City.
Though I’ve always felt a little over the top when it’s happened to me in the past, it’s actually an incredibly common occurrence that has everything to do with the mind-body connection. “As breathing, living, emotional beings we’re all susceptible to holding in feelings. These built-up emotions cause tension in our bodies that can be hard to release,” says Amanda Jenny, a trainer at SLT, (which in case you’re counting is another class that has brought me to tears). “It’s not uncommon for a high intensity workout, where your body and mind are brought to exhaustion, to open the flood gates. It’s often the perfect storm: you’re in class, the energy is palpable, the song that’s blasting triggers something emotional, and your body feels like it’s got no juice left in it, and that’s when the tears start flowing.”
According to Janine Delaney, PhD, a psychologist and fitness expert, your brain and body are essentially feeding off of each other when any sort of intense, workout-related emotions come on. “It’s very normal to cry during a workout. There are hormones and endorphins released—similar to when people run and they experience what they call a runner’s high, thought that’s the opposite of crying,” she explains. “With any sort of exercise, there tends to be some sort of emotional connection. Your mind is picking up what your body is feeling, and your body is picking up what your mind is doing and vice versa.” So, keep on scrolling for three of the most-common occurrences when the floodgates tend to open for people during a workout.
You know when you see people burst into tears toward the finish line of a marathon? Well, that’s their exhaustion emoting. “When your body gets tired or your mind gets tired, then you start to be compromised, and you start to feel different sorts of emotions, good and bad,” says Delaney, noting that this can happen during something as intense as a marathon or a triathlon, or even just in a new cardio workout that you aren’t used to. “It’s okay to feel that way, but you don’t want to turn that into something negative and then leave your workout in a slump, because it brought on all these emotions.” If these types of emotions start to come on during a workout, do your best to embrace them, breathe through them, and let them go, so that you’ll be able to walk out of your workout feeling like a superstar.
Certain modalities, like yoga and martial arts, ask you to look within and take emotional stock by way of meditation. “Any sort of exercise that’s therapeutic or involves introspection or self reflection can sometimes bring people to get emotional,” says Delaney, and that’s okay. We could all use a good emotional release once in a while, and if it happens in the middle of a yoga poses, so be it! Just breathe through the feelings and keep on flowing.
If you’ve ever started to get emotional in a particularly difficult workout class, you’re not alone. It can be endlessly frustrating when you’re trying to do something and your body just won’t cooperate, like when you’re in a Beyoncé dance class the choreography feels impossible (been there), or the yoga teacher comes over to adjust you one time too many (been there too). Just remember: Every single person in that studio was a beginner at some point, no matter how perfect their headstand practice might be. “Instead of using it as a negative to get yourself frustrated, be proud of yourself that your’e going outside of your comfort zone, and just try to give yourself some credit and use it as a positive,” says Delaney, who recommends taking some time to mentally prepare yourself before going in to an intimidating workout. And remember, even if it’s making you cry now, it will (probably) make you laugh later.
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