How setting fitness goals and pushing yourself physically helps process grief
By Eileen Spatz

my son in heavenGrief is one of those mysterious processes that no two people experience in the same way.  It is often unpredictable, punching you in the gut at the darnedest times, keeping you humble to its power to level you to a puddle of tears in an instant.  Who knew that my decision to join So Cal Boot Camp would end up actually helping me in the never-ending grieving process that relentlessly invades every facet of my life.

I signed up to try So Cal Boot Camp with meager expectations and a lot of trepidation.  It looked really intimidating from the outside looking in.  I am a 59 year old woman who, in nine month’s time, lost both my son and my life partner—the most important men in my life.  No matter how strong a person I used to think I was, absorbing those two hits so close together left me literally sitting on the floor in the corner of my room in the middle of the night sobbing and screaming in the tones of a wild animal.

One day this summer, gazing at the reflection in my bathroom mirror in horror, I decided I was not going to blame menopause or anything else for the results of my bad choices.  Another grieving mama, who also lost her son, had posted an invitation to try SoCal Boot Camp for free, so I figured, why not check it out.

Within that free trial week I spotted yet another grieving mama in the ranks, and felt a sense of camaraderie as we greeted each other with that special heartfelt knowledge of a pain that cannot be conveyed in words.  We just know it.

To my surprise, and pleasure, I have discovered over the past month that by setting concrete goals with the help of Diane (one of So Cal Boot Camp’s fitness & nutrition coaches)—and seeing my mortifying “before” pics which really fueled motivation—I am not only thoroughly enjoying the sweaty, grunting, grueling sessions, but that my mood is definitely brighter.  Pushing myself beyond what I thought I could actually physically do at my age gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I also conjure of visions of my boy cheering me on, “Keep going, Mom, you can do this!” as I march from station to station with purpose.

There is ample scientific evidence of the physiological effects of exercise, in addition to its positive impact on mood. Even though I have been going to another San Clemente gym regularly for ten years, I can honestly admit I never pushed myself enough to ever really experience the effect of increased serotonin like am now in boot camp.  With the great mix of cardio, weight training, and strenuous floor exercises, along with the peppy pace that keeps us moving and our hearts pumping, I finally understand that “runner’s high” I had always heard about.

Research into how rigorous exercise helps people battling depression is extremely promising. According to an article from the American Psychological Association, author, Kirsten Weir, states that, “As evidence piles up, the exercise-mental health connection is becoming impossible to ignore.  And according to James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University, “Exercise is generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder.”

People decide to take on the challenge of getting in shape for various reasons.  For me, it was clearly vanity.  No way was I willing to accept that extra blubber as something I had to live with.  Who knew that in those 40 minute sweat-fests I would also be processing my grief? Sure, the grieving process will continue on ad infinitum, but in a not insignificant way So Cal Boot Camp is giving me a great new tool to smooth out the dark valleys—and flatten my tummy in the process!
If you are interested in learning more about So Cal Boot Camp, please click here.