Growing up, I loved sports. I played youth sports for years, but I could also tell you anything you wanted to know about professional sports. However, I hated actually putting in work to get better. My family has videos of me in tears getting ready for youth baseball practice. As a hefty kid, I despised any sort of workout.
I grew older, and I began to appreciate the little things more. By the time I was in middle school, I began to understand why my coaches were pushing me, and I grew to appreciate it. COVID-19 hit when I was in 8th grade, and at the time, my brother began to prepare to play college football. One day, he asked if I wanted to go do his workout with him, and I never looked back. From that day on, I lifted and worked out consistently all of quarantine leading into my freshman year.
I directly contribute my athletic success to my work during quarantine, as that is what started my drive and desire to get better, but what others couldn’t see was my internal improvement. As I lifted more consistently, I began to love it and love the way it made me feel. I became happier and more confident when I was working out. I believe one of the best weapons to combat mental health struggles is exercise.
Science even backs up this claim. In a study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, daily exercise decreased depression by 26% which is as effective as antidepressant medication. It’s also proven that exercise releases endorphins and chemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid in your brain, all of which contribute to feeling happy, confident and ultimately less anxious and stressed.
In my life, I’ve simply noticed that when I lift less, I’m not as happy. When I’m consistently working out, I feel that I’m at my best. The weight room is a sacred place for me, my escape from reality, where I can go and forget about all outside distractions that may be weighing me down. Competing against yourself every workout in order to be the best you can be and break your own personal records is something everyone should be able to enjoy. For as long as I’m in my workout, nothing matters except me and the bar, and that’s a feeling I’ll forever cherish.
I don’t know if it is the feeling of walking into a room with physical confidence in yourself or the feeling after you hit a new personal record, but something makes working out a drug of some sort that once you start it, it’s hard to go back. Obviously since I am a football player and a member of the powerlifting team, I have to work out to better my craft, but I encourage any and everyone to start exercising even if you don’t play a sport to improve both your mental and physical health.