Welcome to Weightlifting

By Michael Mitchell

As a young man struggling with alcoholism, tobacco and marijuana addiction, while the pressures of daily life were being compounded by an undiagnosed mood disorder and poor self-esteem, I needed a solution. Welcome to weightlifting.

Through prayer, planning, plus the upside of OCD and AD/HD, I literally quit drinking and smoking cold turkey and became hyper-focused on nutrition, supplements, and weightlifting. The results and feeling of progress were addictive. Within 10 months I had gone from a stick figure to a small linebacker. Gaining 60lbs of weight (with a good amount of muscle), I went from feeling gross about how I looked to feeling okay. In retrospect, I’d now call it replacing compulsions and addictions with compulsions and addictions.

However, over a decade later, I still use weightlifting for the benefits of the endorphins, stress management and relief, better sleep, nutritional aid, and help with looking at myself in the mirror every day. (Depression can sometimes be overlooked when having other distractions, but when you hate your appearance, it can often confront you at the most inopportune times.) Fortunately for me, through years of learning about proper technique, supplementation, nutrition, the ins-and-outs of different training methods, neurotransmitters and the all-important sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, I have become somewhat of a master of my domain with regards to managing my moods, energy levels, and body composition.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no perfect system. And from my experience, all of the nutrition, exercise, supplements, understanding of how the brain and body work, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, efforts to keep stress levels low and circadian rhythm strict will not free you from the reality of anxiety, depression, mania or addictions. But they’ll all help substantially – especially when used in conjunction with each other. Exercise for me was and is the catalyst to keep them all in line. It’s been incredibly effective for a lot of people that I’ve either mentored through addiction, or personally trained when I was a trainer.

Here’s what I recommend. When it comes to weightlifting, start with your own body weight (calisthenics) and focus on the primal movements: pushing, pulling, lunging, squatting, rotating, walking/running. Why I don’t recommend steady-state cardio like treadmills and elliptical machines is that they’re generally bad for your joints, hormones, metabolism, lower back, muscles, and bones, while also being ineffective for fat loss, muscle gain, or a good time. (Check out Cardio’s 8 Dirty Little Secrets…)

Here’s the word of caution. If you are new to working out, and you to start with determination and a game-plan, and it’s effective initially, the differences you can feel and see can be exhilarating. Almost addictive. But if you work out too hard, too long, and too often, you can short-circuit your central nervous system and be more susceptible to depression, irritability, aggression, and anxiety, while throwing off your good sleep patterns and food choices – all the problems weightlifting used to dispel. Too much of anything is good for nothing. That should sound familiar to anyone who’s experienced addiction.

With that being said, if you’re struggling with emotional eating, addictions, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, OCD, AD/HD, low self-esteem, low self-confidence or just boredom, welcome to weightlifting. It’s worked for me.

Michael Mitchell 2Michael Mitchell is a certified personal trainer who specializes in nutrition, supplements and natural methods of improving health and wellness. Having experienced and overcome many obstacles associated with mental health and addiction, he is committed to inspiring people through his own example. His first book, Drug Free June: A Hypomanic Episode, is soon to be published.

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