Strength Training Through Depression

Strength Training Through Depression

By: Cydney Bushue

Strength training when you are depressed or feeling low isn’t as easy as many people make it out to be. Getting up, getting dressed, or even doing something as simple as brushing your teeth can feel nearly impossible.

There are days when getting up and moving feels like one of the hardest things you can do.

If you are looking for a quick list of things that can help you get up and stay consistent with lifting here you go:

Table of Contents:

  1. Make small consistent changes
  2. Don’t wait until you feel motivated
  3. Get an accountabilibuddy
  4. Keep track of your progress and set goals
  5. Don’t be hard on yourself 
  6. Get some sunshine
  7. Sleep and nutrition are just as important

Make Small, Consistent Changes

Start by adding a simple exercise or movement to your daily routine every few weeks. This could be something as easy as taking the stairs at work or adding a few minutes of bodyweight movement to your day.

It’s important to keep these new goals small. The easier they are, the more likely you are to stick with them.

Hold yourself accountable and do what you can to ensure that your goals are being met and that these changes are becoming permanent.

It’s incredibly easy to say things like “I’ll just do it tomorrow. One day off won’t hurt.” Doing things like this can easily derail your progress and make you lose track of getting active.

Once you’ve gotten into the habit of being more active, you’ll find it gets a little bit easier incorporating it into your everyday life.

Remember, objects in motion, tend to have an easier time staying in motion

Don't Wait Until You Feel Motivated

Waiting until you’re in a good mood is only going to prolong reaching your goals and could potentially make your mood grow even worse.

Completing your small tasks might not be the cure-all and fix everything, but it adds a small accomplishment to your day. Many times, you end up feeling better about your achievements.

If you feel like you’re struggling more than usual, start setting yourself up the day or night before. This can make it easier to get things done the next day.
You can set your workout clothes up the day before. Or you can write motivational, positive sticky notes and put them up on your mirrors. Prep an easy to eat breakfast for the next morning.

I find that sometimes the hardest part is getting ready and getting to the gym in the first place. Making things simpler and less chaotic helps me feel less stressed and pressed for time. 

Get an Accountabilibuddy

An accountabilibuddy is someone who you can rely on to help you stick to your goals. They can do things like text to make sure you ate your meals or drank your water. They can also be a friend who’s willing to accompany you to the gym and help you get a good pump in.

I found that having someone there became a fundamental part of me sticking to my new fitness lifestyle.

People tend to underestimate the power of someone else helping hold you accountable for your actions. When I started my powerlifting journey, I had a friend that went to the gym with me 6 days a week. Having someone with me that I knew made it so much easier to go. I didn’t feel as embarrassed about what I was doing. It felt more like I was hanging out and having a good time. 

Plus we were both on the learning curve and it felt good to get started on getting healthy together. Neither of us was intimidated by the other. But he was always good to text me and ask when we were meeting up and how I was feeling about everything. Had it not been for him, I would most likely have given up. 

Keep Track of Your Progress and Set Realistic Goals

There’s an acronym in the fitness community called S.M.A.R.T. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

  • Specific: Versus saying you’d just prefer to get healthy or have a certain body type, start making specific goals. For example: if you’re trying to lose weight, you would say something like you’d like to lose 50 pounds. You want something that’s narrowed down so you have a goal to strive for.
  • Measurable: Give yourself a measurable goal. For example: You want to lose weight, how are you going to track that? You’d weigh yourself. Keep it logged and keep track of your progress. You can even do things like taking photos or measurements of yourself.
  • Attainable: Set smaller goals to keep you interested, It’s great to have long term goals, but it helps to have something smaller and more easily achievable in a shorter time frame to keep you looking forward to something. For example: Your long term goal is to lose 50lbs, you would start off by saying you’d like to lose 15 within the next couple of months. 
  • Relevant: How is this goal relevant? Maybe you're attending a big party or taking a vacation to the beach and would like to look good for it. You could also be doing this just to feel better and more comfortable in your own skin. Give yourself a solid reason for doing it. 
  • Time-bound: Give yourself something within a reasonable time frame to accomplish. Instead of saying “I’d like to lose 50lbs in 8 months” you would start on a smaller scale and say something like “I’m going to start by losing 3 to 5 pounds in 2 weeks. 

Don't be hard on yourself

It’s easy to look at the scale or look at your lifts and say things like “I’m not making any progress and I should just quit.” Some people don’t realize that these can be things that fluctuate. There are a lot of factors that come into play when doing strength training or dieting. You might not have slept well. You could be holding on to water weight. You could be stressed. Allow yourself some leniency. 

This isn’t me saying go overboard and skip 2 or 3 workouts a week or start sneaking snacks several times a day. Accountability has to come into play.  But if you’re at a birthday party and you have a small slice of cake, or if you cut an exercise from your workout, it’s ok. It’s part of life and no one is perfect. 

Get Some Sunshine

Don’t worry,you aren’t a plant, but you do need some of that good ol’ vitamin D.
A lot of positive feelings have been associated with getting some fresh air and getting moving.

Honestly I feel so much better when I take a few minutes after my workout to just sit outside and listen to the birds chirp or the cars pass by. Sometimes I’ll even take a few of my exercises and do them outside. 

Sunlight naturally improves your mood and you get the added benefit of some extra vitamin D. Plus that natural lighting is great for some selfies. 

Rest and Nutrition Are KEY

Every fitness and health blog hits on this point, because that’s JUST how important it is.
Your entire life is predicated by what you eat and how you sleep.
Nutrition is SO one of the most anabolic things you can do when it comes to weight training, but it isn’t always easy.

When you go grocery shopping, never go hungry. You’re more likely to impulse buy foods that aren’t healthy and overall reduce gut-health. If you feel good physically, then you are more likely to feel good mentally. 

f you don’t like cooking you can invest in pre prepped meals that you can just pop in the microwave if you don't feel like cooking that day. Another idea would be to cook yourself some meals in bulk so you can save them for those low energy days. 

Sleep, like nutrition, is easy, but also incredibly difficult to do.

I can not stress this enough. Getting good quality rest is so important. It improves your mood, your weight, your lifting and so much more.

Some really simple and easy to implement tips are:

  • Activate the eye comfort shield on your phone
  • Set a sleep alarm that cues you to start winding down
  • Draw, doodle or write to get intrusive thoughts off your brain
  • Don’t drink caffeine within 4 hours of going to bed
  • Meditate to slow down heart rate and thought processes

If you are looking for a bit more information on nutrition read THIS article from our team.

Final Set:

At the end of the day, your primary focus should be trying to make yourself happier. Make your goals, stick to them. Do things that you enjoy and make time for yourself. That’s all that matters.

IF you are looking for any more tips on helping build a bit more mental resistance on tough days, HERE is a great article.

What tips do you use to get you through training depression and sadness? Let us know in the comments down below.


If you are looking to follow and learn from some amazing people and powerlifters follow the links below or read this article for some great stories. Or if you are looking for programming, you can find one of our free programs here or you can reach out to one of our team members to see how to take your training to the next level.

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