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Emotional Residue: Robbing your Gains

The topics of my blog posts are usually about working out, eating well, and interesting snippets about my training or my routine. Mainly focused on the idea of performance in the physical sense. How to become a better athlete through training or eating better or even having a certain mindset going into training. Today however, I am taking a step back, way back into some pretty philosophical territory, so if you do not feel like thinking or even worse… feeling, then you need to exit the vehicle now.

As a Counselor-to-be, I spend a lot of time dealing with emotions, feelings, and helping people to understand themselves better. I help them reflect upon their lives, situations, and decisions that may have gotten them to where they are now. I have dealt with issues such as divorce, suicide, eating disorders, death, alcoholism, drug problems, and cancer. I have helped people pick the pieces of their heart up after a nasty breakup and slowly but surely rebuild and move on. You see, that’s the thing about being a counselor. You willingly put yourself in the trenches with people who are at their worst, help them untangle the dilapidated mess they are in, and follow them along their path of healing. It is a very rewarding path in life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are some downsides to the job. One downside in particular is that, as a counselor, you tend to have a lot of mental baggage related to the job. This is called “taking your work home with you”. It is almost a sentimental residue that develops on your heart and soul after being so frequently entrenched in the emotionally dense world we work in. This sort of “extra baggage” can rear its ugly head in your life if you do not have a way to purge it from your system. Think of it as a mental hangover that screws with your feelings. You can feel angry or sad or confused about situations your clients are going through, and you may feel guilty about your own life and your own decisions. If not kept in check, it will negatively affect your counseling ability as well as your personal life and the people around you.

So how do I normally get rid of it? Well, what works for me is talking it out of my system. I vent it out through conversation and am able to eventually clear my mind. This past week however, I was inundated with school work and it was truly the week from hell. It was a multipronged attack on my emotional state. One day it was child suicide, school crisis teams, and eating disorders, and the next two were all about dementia, death, and alcoholism. We were getting pounded. I would leave Providence College in a haze that didn’t seem to go away. I decided to go to the gym and hit the PR that I was scheduled to do for deadlifts. I warm up and I start to ascend in weight. My normal progression of a plate, a few reps, a plate, a few reps and so on and so forth. Nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that I haven’t done for years. Today was different though, my body did not feel like my own. The weights were heavy, my form was terrible, and I had no explanation why. I was useless. I was only operating at about half capacity at best and I was concerned. I drove home and sat in my truck in the driveway and, for the first time all week, I was completely alone. I sat there and I just let myself feel the emotions that were in my head. I got a rush of anger, I yelled, I laughed, I cried. If anyone was around, they would have called the cops or a couple of priests to throw some holy water on me. It was as if I was emotionally backed up and needed to get it all out of me. It worked. I hopped out of that truck and felt like a new person.

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, as a Professional Counselor To-Be, I have the necessity to rid myself of any emotional residue that builds up in me on a weekly basis. Consider it my personal mental and emotional weekly maintenance regime. I need to do it. That being said, if you are not in the field of mental health, you do not normally let yourself go through this process. People will go months, years, or their entire lifetime not letting go of things, not truly expressing themselves, and not giving their heart/mind/soul a break. You see, feeling emotions is not for the weak or the “womanly”. You are not a tough guy if you cannot express yourself when feelings start coming up. Being able to fully express what you are feeling shows a certain level of emotional intelligence that separates us from the other animals on this planet. As much fun as it would be to throw my own feces and eat with my feet, I think I will stick to walking upright and bathing.

Though, if you are a gym rat and need a down and dirty, no fluff reason as to why you should do this then listen up. You are robbing yourself from your full potential in the gym. Holding onto things that bother you, or that you think about constantly is robbing you of gains. Consider it this way. If you were to never sleep how would you feel? You would walk around in a haze and not have the energy or physically be able to perform. The same thing goes for not letting your mind relax. You need to purge yourself of this emotional residue that you have been building up for years and you will be amazed at the level of clarity and balance you feel. The closest thing I can think of to how it feels when you get it all out is when you have this AMAZING idea, you know the “million dollar” idea? Well it is like having that having a post-it note on hand to write it down at the EXACT moment you think of it. You are able to fully express it, empty your brain of it, and feel confident and comfortable. You give your mind the chance to cleanse itself of that Idea because you expressed it. It is no longer the center of all of your thoughts and you can move on with a clear head and put your focus elsewhere.

So bottom line is to express yourself. Give yourself time to feel things and you will be amazed at how much better you feel dropping off some of that emotional baggage you may or may not have thought you had. This is a real performance enhancing procedure. One that is completely legal, and will actually heal and nourish your body, mind, and soul. Give it a try and let me know how it works out. Hell, if you need someone to vent to I am always open so drop me a line at and I will be glad to help.

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Sam Brown CPT (

Certified Underground Strength Coach

Certified Personal Trainer

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