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The 8 Emotions of Exercise Part 1: Anger


The views expressed in this article are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of Body Twenty Global


To me emotions are fascinating. As a Mental Skills Training Professional, I consult athletes daily about how they could perform optimally from a psychological perspective. Together we have conversations and do exercises so that they can be as focused and confident as possible while performing on the sports field. Managing one’s emotions is a very important factor when it comes to performing optimally. Have you ever seen someone perform or behave badly at their job, on the sports field, or in the gym because their emotions got the better of them? Of course, you have! That doesn’t have to be you though.


In this series we’ll discuss the eight core emotions, how you can understand them, and how you can use them practically when it comes to you work life, social life, and health life.


Always remember that while many emotions are unpleasant, none of them are bad, all of them have their place in our lives, and all of them can be useful if we understand them properly.


Emotion #1: Anger


Anger is viewed by most in society as a “bad” emotion to have. I disagree. Many great things have been accomplished in the world by people filled with passion and just the right amount of rage. Considering sports, for example, you don’t have to go far to find that the secret to great performances by sporting legends such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Roy Keane and many more was their ability to access and control the angry side of themselves. Let’s see how we can apply that in an exercise environment like the gym or the Body Twenty studio.


The 4-Step Process


Angry outbursts typically follow this four-step progression: (1) A loss of perceived control which leads to (2) an attempt to regain control. If that control still can’t be regained, (3) frustration sets it. If this frustration is allowed to grow, it will most likely be followed by (4) an assertive outburst. Let’s look at an example of this unfolding at the gym as we use James as an example.


1. Perceived Loss of Control: James struggles to lift the weights he used to lift because he skipped gym for two months due to injury.

2. Attempt to Regain Control: Despite his struggle he pushes himself to finish the last 5 reps of an exercise he used to do easily. He fails.

3. Frustration: No matter how hard he fights, his muscles are just too tired to do those last 5 reps.

4. Assertive Outburst: James throws the weights on the floor, grabs his towel, and storms out the gym before completing his exercise goals for the day.


Obviously, the way James handled himself in that situation is a great example of how not to do things.


Anger is as useful as a Chainsaw


Now that you have an idea of the process in which anger manifests in your mind, let’s look at how we can correct James’ error.


Before we do though, lets look at how anger is useful in a gym environment. In a 2017 study, Sport Scientists from Bangor University discovered a relationship between anger and gross muscular force. This suggests that people who work out while feeling angry can lift more weights and get more out of their workouts. Anger also always brings a sense of certainty. Think back to the last time you were really angry at someone. Chances are high that you were also extremely certain of the fact that they had wronged you and that they absolutely had to apologise. That same certainty can be a very powerful motivator in the gym. Imagine doing a difficult bicep curl, filled with the anger which increases your muscular force, and filled with the certainty that you are strong enough to complete those reps. You’d probably perform really well.


Anger is a tricky emotion though because it’s so difficult to control. That’s why I often compare it to a chainsaw. A chainsaw is very effective at cutting wood. There are very few tools that could do a better job, but you wouldn’t use it to cut a cake, nor would you trust it in the hands of someone not trained to use it. Anger is only useful if used in the right context and by someone mature enough to control it. Learn to control your anger by understanding the 4-step process and by making the necessary behavioural adjustments in each step. Here’s an example of what James should have done when he got angry at the gym:


1. Perceived Loss of Control: James struggles to lift the weights he used to lift because he skipped gym for two months due to injury.

2. Attempt to Regain Control: Despite his struggle he pushes himself to finish the last 5 reps of an exercise he used to do easily. He fails.

3. Frustration: No matter how hard he fights, his muscles are just too tired to do those last 5 reps. Feeling himself getting angry, he stops training, puts the equipment back on the rack, takes a moment, then goes to do an easier exercise.

4. Assertive Outburst: James takes all the frustration from moments before and turns it into certainty. “I may not be as strong as I was two months ago, but I’m gonna smash these exercises as best I can until I’m there!”. He plays anger-inducing music through his earphones and puts everything he has into the rest of his workout. When his workout is finished, he does calm breathing exercises as he sips his shake and reflects on a great workout.


If you have any questions or concerns about your anger, let me know at daveroeb@gmail.com and let’s set up a meeting to chat.


Be sure to look out for part-two to this blog series on the eight core emotions next week. In the meantime, let us know what you thought of this article. If you have any suggestions for future articles, drop us an email at moreletavillage@body20.co.za. We’d love to connect with you.


Keep Growing


Dave Roebuck

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