On Training Through Grief

This month we lost my brother at age 53.  His death came as a shock as he kept bouncing back from illness. In a blink, my big brother that taught me how to ride a bike was gone. Grief and the grieving and healing process are unique to each person.  Some look to religion for comfort, others process through the stages of grief and the benefits of therapy.  Some people seem to bounce back quickly and compartmentalize their grief, others may never be able to let go of the pain and loss.  With so many iterations, knowing how to train, where and what to train, and even if it’s “appropriate” to train can be an emotional rollercoaster for us athletes.

There are a few thoughts and observations that I’ve had throughout the process that I hope and believe may help you, in a time of need, find your way through the process a little easier. 

  1. Everyone grieves differently, and that’s okay;
  2. Everyone has a different grieving process and time to heal;
  3. We have different coping strategies;
  4. It’s okay to ask for help and to let people know you’re struggling;
  5. It’s okay to honor your grief and listen to what you body needs or wants;
  6. We are not selfish for wanting to take care of our bodies and to exercise;
  7. It’s okay to honor those lost by living life to the fullest;
  8. It’s okay to take time for ourselves to either just reflect or to simply clear our heads.

To get a professional’s perspective, we spoke with Sonya Rencevicz, MSW, LCSW, a Psychotherapist and former competitive athlete, “Athletes use physical pain as information for dealing with their bodies.  They have trained themselves to check their emotions at the door and focus on the business at hand.  While this works well for training and competition, it can seriously backfire when it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Like certain training regimes or competitions that have pushed us beyond our limits, the process of grief, when flowing in and out, teaches us about ourselves.  If we listen to our hearts the way we’ve been trained to listen to our bodies, the emotional pain is showing us what areas of our hearts and souls need comfort and restoration” she says.

Regardless of your grieving process, please consider that in the immediate days and weeks your brain may not be 100%.  If you’re feeling foggy or fuzzy, but still want to get your bike workout in to feel better, then perhaps riding the trainer inside is a better choice today.  It only takes a second of fuzzing out while riding to swerve into traffic.  If you’re going for a run, then ask your friend to keep an extra eye out for you so you don’t cross the street without looking first.  It may seem simple or embarrassing to do these, but in the past month I’ve used these strategies because I know it helped me stay safe.  If you are going to lift weights, then take a friend with you or a trainer to help “spot” you.  It’s not the time to go for max lifts or to lift heavy weights over your head.  Swimming can be incredibly therapeutic and has been shown to allow some to engage the same brain waves as meditation, however if you’re not a strong swimmer, you may simply get frustrated and need to take time away.  Given my athletes that I work with, most feel better keeping their routine and their workouts, but we modify them as above. 

Sometimes in grief you lose all motivation to move.  If that happens, then really try to get out for a walk.  Walking outside has been shown to have incredibly therapeutic effects, and we need to keep moving to bring fresh oxygen to our muscles and to process some of those grief chemicals in our brains and bodies. It doesn’t have to be fast, long or sweaty, and it can be inside too, but do try to move.

And above all else, know that you are not alone.  I appreciate so much the condolences and support that I received this past month, and my friends and athletes would not have known had I not told them.  Grieving is a process we will all go through at some point, and it will always be a little easier with support.

Yours in Health,

Coach Clare