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Astromuscle

Self consciousness, depression and weightlifting

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Hey guys so I have a question for you all.

I suffer from depression, especially in this season. Just want to be up front about that.

I hear so many guys talk about the gym being their home, their getaway from things. They feel strong and powerful there, even when the world is less then kind. I really want the gym to be that place for me...

When I'm in the gym though... I feel inadequate, like I don't belong. I hear about the endorphin rush people get. I have never felt that. 

I'm familiar with the term "ego lifting" and it's not a out I want to fall into but when I have a 145lb bench crash down on a 6th rep to the safeties and I have to do the roll of shame while the guy next to me is benching 460lbs I can't help but feel a little lesser in comparison. I can't even imagine him being my size, and even if he did never can I see him feeling how I feel.

Further, and I am smart enough to know it's counterproductive, I cheat on my diet when my mood swings too much because at least it's something. I don't think I'd go so far as to say I binge usually but I will have something bad. A donut, chinese food instead of my planned dinner...

Does anyone feel like this. I feel like every gym goer who's gone as long as I have (I'm going on about 3 years now) always looks fucking fantastic, and is loving every minute of the gym. I think my coach is getting frustrated about it to which makes me feel worse but if I give up it's just another thing I failed at. 

Did anyone ever feel like this, struggle with these feelings and of so how did you pull out of it? Any help would be greatly appreciated

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Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve felt exactly the same way, and have sabotaged my own progress in the ways you’ve described.

Honestly, I think it all comes down to your mindset. It’s easy to have a closed mindset where you believe you’re stuck in the same body, with the same thoughts and feelings every day. It’s easy to tell yourself that your inner world sets the standard for your outer world; when you feel like you don’t belong, you act like you don’t belong. For me, I used to skip a week of training and stop following my meal plan when I started comparing myself to others and felt crap about myself. I convinced myself that I wasn’t like them and so I stopped acting like them. And when you act like you don’t belong, you don’t make the progress you want to see, which in turn solidifies your inner story, which again manifests in your behaviour. It’s a cycle.

Conversely, there’s amazing strength that comes from a mindset of growth, openness, and abundance. Instead of comparing yourself to others and feeling bad that you don’t measure up, see their achievements in terms of the battle they’ve fought with themselves. They went through the exact same fight with their own inner monologues, and measure their results not against others but against their own progress over time. They understand that everyone is capable and worthy, and that action—that is, focusing on doing better than you did yesterday with training and nutrition—leads to feeling like you belong. Not the other way around.

You too are worthy and capable. You can do better than you did yesterday. You can feel better by doing better.

I hope this perspective is helpful!

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I have felt the same way going to the gym though not because of depression, to be honest. It's now been a couple years since I went to the gym, but when I was going, I found that timing for when I went was very important, as were the exercises I was doing. I don't mean that physically either. If I was there when the gym was full, I was like you, so I tried to go when it was empty. Something else I did was make sure I had headphones in so I wouldn't be aware of others there until I actually saw them but even then, it made it easier not to keep looking.

 

Quick question about your coach. Has he ever gone and actually done anything to help with your form or anything? The reason I ask, and I'm certain many on here will confirm this, is that improper form can deaden any potential gains and many coaches/trainers anymore don't really seem to know or care if your form is correct, so I was wondering on that part. I never worked in person with a coach, so form was never something I could turn to others for but I have found some very good trainers on YouTube that explain how to make sure you have good form even if you are training yourself.

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I was always the guy that had trainers saying "Hmm... works for my other clients." It sucked. What sucked even more was when I actually went to WORK as a trainer, and the manager guessed I'd been working out for 2 years. It had been 8.

Keep at it, but explore. There are SO many ways to go about workouts. What's worked for me is evolving a very intuitive style. I'll go in with a general plan, but then I'll test the waters. Every workout, I look for this: What move, given my current mood, skill, and physical configuration, can I really push the shit out of today?

Sometimes I'll go in meaning to deadlift, and squat instead. Sometimes I just linger on chin-ups the whole time. Sometimes things actually go according to plan. But for me, a good workout means that I've pushed the shit out of something. When I do that consistently, I actually do see significant progress. But also, that's when I feel like I really belong.

As a corollary to waterfrog, yes form is important. But at the same time, you have to actually push the shit hard. Really hard. Sometimes an extensive focus on form can end up with something that looks technically correct, but isn't actually doing much for you because you're not pushing hard. I call it "weighted interpretive dance." Get the form AND push it hard.

You may also have a coach who's no good for you. There are a lot of styles out there. I've definitely worked with people who end up making me want to push less hard. Shop around. Or go on your own. For me, when I'm not accountable to anyone else, I put in more effort. If I'm working with a trainer, and I don't go 100%, it's a "fuck you" to a trainer than maybe I don't like. But if I'm working solo, then not going 100% is all on me. Maybe I'm weird like that.

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One technique in particular that I really like, especially for a lift I don't feel solid about, is something I picked up from Westside: lots of sets of 2-3 light, fast reps.

For something like bench, pick a weight that's easy, say 50-70% of your one rep max. Do 2-3 reps of it, quickly. Get a really nice hard push on it. Rest only a short bit, then do it again. Maybe 15 sets of this. You can treat it as your work sets, or as a really long warm-up to a couple heavier, higher rep sets after, depending on how you feel.

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I do agree with you AlMacArthur, I just meant that form should be the first focus because heavy weights with bad form is much more likely to cause injury and not be that beneficial. Very true that you do have to actually push yourself to see gains, that I'm not disagreeing with, just that form is as, if not SLIGHTLY more, important as pushing yourself.

 

As for pushing myself, I tend to go to hard or not nearly hard enough if I don't have a partner. Very bad situation for someone like me that has trouble socializing in person.

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You may have a medical issue. Have your testosterone levels checked. Low testosterone could explain both your lack of progress and your depression.

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13 hours ago, Jaypat said:

You may have a medical issue. Have your testosterone levels checked. Low testosterone could explain both your lack of progress and your depression.

I'm not sure if that's recommendable. Human biology is complex and complicated, and muscle building can't really be traced back to just testosterone, there are a variety of factors at work there and testosterone is just one of them. It's an indication, sure, but it would also be easy to just point at that number and feel even worse. If you eat well, and aren't suffering from anything, 99% chance your testosterone levels are healthy enough for your body. Getting caught up in averages and feeling worse because your number of abribratry male sex hormones is lower than someone elses seems like a worse outcome than the small amount of gratification you'd get if you found out your testosteron levels are normal. It's not worth the hassle, IMO, and could only lead to more problems. 

As for how you should go about tackling those issue's, it's hard to say. I know it's easy to say "Well, just focus on yourself and don't think about other's too much." and it can be difficult to follow up on that, but I still think it's the best advice here. Setting results that can be achievable for you, and learning to appreciate what you do achieve is an important first step. If your coach is being impatient with you, remember that he should only be there to help and challenge you, if you find him to be demoralising, you could think about seeking out another personal trainer who can better see the goals you have in mind. 

Also consider talking to someone about those issue's. Internet forums can't replace face to face validation, and I certainly don't have an idea what I'm talking about when discussing human psychology. Males seeking out therapists for body image related reasons is less uncommon then you'd think.

I hope you can find some peace in 2019. 

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8 hours ago, AdonisObsessed said:

I'm not sure if that's recommendable. Human biology is complex and complicated, and muscle building can't really be traced back to just testosterone, there are a variety of factors at work there and testosterone is just one of them. It's an indication, sure, but it would also be easy to just point at that number and feel even worse. If you eat well, and aren't suffering from anything, 99% chance your testosterone levels are healthy enough for your body. Getting caught up in averages and feeling worse because your number of abribratry male sex hormones is lower than someone elses seems like a worse outcome than the small amount of gratification you'd get if you found out your testosteron levels are normal. It's not worth the hassle, IMO, and could only lead to more problems.

I'll have to strongly disagree with you *if* Astro has thought of consulting a doctor.  They're there to help, and they have much more knowledge about depression and its causes than most of us.

As someone who's dealt with depression for 25 years and only finding some relief in the last few of them, I would *absolutely* prioritize figuring out the cause(s) of your depression, a problem that's usually a chronic drag on your overall well being.  To be sure, it's at least not doing your weight training any favors.

I'm a case study in just how much of a long pain in the ass tackling depression can be since depression is a symptom of so many conditions and sometimes idiopathic.  I've tried all sorts of diagnostics and treatments: metabolic and endocrine panels; on-and-off talk therapy; light box therapy; four different psychiatrists; probably half the SSRIs and NRIs available; running; weight training; swimming; meditation; religion.  Nothing worked for long or at all, and nothing seemed to be physically wrong with me either.

My psychotherapist of all people (who is a PhD and not and MD like my primary care docs and psychiatrists over the years) struck gold when he'd noticed how extra tired I was for weeks in a row and asked me if I'd ever been tested for obstructive sleep apnea.  Nope, I said, and why would I be?  I was a string bean!  He asked if I snored.  Well, yes, I said.  And did I ever get drowsy driving?  Um, yeah, it'd happened.  Then you need to be checked, he said.  What's more, one of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is intractable clinical depression.

Sure enough, a doctor's visit and a sleep study later, I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea, and it's likely I'd had it since I was a teen.  After finally getting good sleep via a CPAP machine for six months, suddenly talk therapy and a medication worked rather well.  It may really suck that it took that long to get to the bottom of the physical causes of my depression, but living with it under control after all this time was still worth the trouble.

Astro, if you've never discussed your depression with a therapist or a doctor, I'd encourage you to do so.  It's likely they'll indeed want to run basic blood work (including testosterone levels, but other panels included) and perform a routine physical with some targeted examination, narrow down any physical issues you might have.  If you snore or have other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea (especially drowsiness behind the wheel), be sure to mention them to your doctor.  If you share sleeping space with someone, I guarantee they've watched you sleep (HOPEFULLY not "Paranormal Activity" watch you sleep, in which case you have a bigger problem than depression.  Get out of the house!).  Ask them if you snore and if they've noticed you snorting, gagging, or simply not breathing for extended periods.

You also said you get depressed around this time of year, so you may be suffering from Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.), which can be treated with phototherapy.  Your doc can help you figure out if it's worth a shot.

It's possible your doc and any therapist you try will recommend seeing a psychiatrist at some point.  If so, take the time to find a board-certified psychiatrist, which can be a surprisingly difficult search; don't settle for an MD or DO without the certification, and don't settle for a PA or nurse practitioner.  It could be that if you need medication, you may just need a little prozac that your primary care doc could provide, but if your depression doesn't react to single medications, a certified psych is usually better at coming up with effective combination therapies and following your progress.

But if you're resolved not to seek professional help, then in addition to the other suggestions above, I'll throw in cross training as an option.  This site being what it is, it's a safe bet you're more interested in hypertrophy and strength training.  I totally get that.  However, it's tough to do something year in and year out when you don't feel like you're getting anything out of it.  If you can find an additional physical activity that you enjoy more, not only can it improve your fitness for weight training (depends on what you do and how fit you already are), it can also soak up some of the dullness clinging to your weight training.

Anyway, all the best to you.

 

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I have to echo what ryoso said. If you’re suffering see a doctor. You might be surprised at what they turn up. I was and it made all the difference in the world to my workouts. There wasn’t anything wrong with me that wasn’t easily treatable and the results were life changing. If anything I’m upset I didn’t say something to my doctor and find out years earlier.

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