Finding Happiness in the Gym

Dear Readers,

I wrote this for my other blog. GYM MOMENTUM but I think there is enough carryover for me to share it here as well.


Source: Finding Happiness in the Gym

I was 6 years old during the 1972 Olympics. I remember sitting on the living room floor with my mom watching the men compete.

The Japanese dominated followed by the Soviets. I remember watching Kato and Tsukahara on High Bar and Nikolai Andrianov and Nakayama on floor.

Clean lines matched with power.

I was struck with awe. I was hooked. I wanted to do that. I wanted to fly.

I asked my Mother how they got so high. What kept them in the air so long? My mother, who was once a gymnast, tried her best to explain the physics. How speed transferred into power.

nikolai_andrianov_08When she left the room, I took the pillows off the couch and put them on the floor. Standing on the back of the couch, I stretched my arms up in my best imitation of Andrianov standing in the corner. I jumped down hit the springs and executed my first front tuck overshooting the landing zone of pillows taking out a coffee table in the process.

A few years and a few thousand hours of training later, I stood in the corner of the floor. I raised my arms in my best imitation of Peter Kormann and executed my opening pass. As I finished my routine I looked over at my coach. He smiled and shook my hand. My teammates gave me High 5’s. I looked toward the crowd and saw my parents smiling. I was invincible. I could have done my routine 20 more times that day.


It was at that moment that I realized what kept them in the air so long. It was Joy.

I try to carry that Joy into my life every day. With the children I coach, I want them to see that I love what I do. With coaches I work with I want them to see that I love working along side them. When I am teaching a clinic I want all the coaches there to know that they need to share the joy of teaching.

When it comes to making yourself happy, you need to learn what works for you. Once you discover this, everything else tends to fall into place. Here are some things to help you find your happiness.

1. Remember That You Are In Charge of Your Own Happiness
You have two choices in any job on any day: Make the most out of what you are doing or Change what you are doing. Either way, your happiness is up to you and no one else. Remind yourself of this anytime you’re feeling stuck.

2. Don’t Obsess over Things You Can’t Control
It’s good to know how Greece’s economic troubles might affect U.S. markets or that your team just got their butts kicked at the last meet. There’s a big difference between understanding these larger forces and worrying about them. Doc Massimo told me once, “control the controllables.” Happy people are ready and informed, but they don’t allow themselves to fret over things that are beyond their control.

3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. I had a gymnast who always was comparing herself to others. “Is she better than me? Was that better than mine?” When you feel good about something that you’ve done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from you. It just stands in your way.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

4. Reward Yourself
Working hard is important, but never allowing yourself to take a break is detrimental to your happiness. A Cornell study found that small rewards make people more generous, friendly, and happy. These small “thrills” also made people more productive and accurate in their work. I know going back to work after a vacation can be hard BUT don’t you feel great and motivated? You cannot take a vacation every month but you can give yourself a small reward. Rewards activate the pleasure pathway in your brain, even if they are self-induced. Effective rewards can be small things such as taking a walk during lunch or treating yourself to a coffee at your favorite cafe.

5. Don’t Judge and Gossip
Judging other people and speaking poorly of them is a lot like overindulging in a decadent dessert; it feels good while you’re doing it, but afterwards, you feel guilty and sick. When you’re tempted to speak of someone else in a way that might be negative, just ask yourself if you’d want someone saying the same about you. Not only is it rude. I have NEVER heard of people gossiping when it didn’t get back to the person they were talking about.

6. Choose Your Battles Wisely
Good coaches know how important it is to live to fight another day. As a parent I learned this from my kids. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you unhappy and your team distracted. There ARE times you need to stand your ground. There are times you just need to roll with it. Choose wisely.

7. Stay True to Yourself
Crossing moral boundaries in the name of success is a sure-fire path to unhappiness. Violating your personal standards creates feelings of regret, dissatisfaction, and demotivation. Know when to stand your ground and express dissent when someone wants you to do something that you know you shouldn’t. When you’re feeling confused, take some time to review your values.

8. Clear the Clutter
I don’t need to remind you of how much time you spend at the gym. Your workspace is filled with gymnastics equipment and children. Take a good look at it. Get rid of the junk and old mats you don’t use.

9. Give Someone A Hand
Taking the time to help your colleagues not only makes them happy, but it also makes you happy. Helping other people gives you a surge of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which create good feelings. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused at work and 40 percent more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. As long as you make certain that you aren’t overcommitting yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your happiness.

10. Smile and Laugh More
A study at Mannheim University in Germany demonstrated that we can actually manipulate our emotions by changing our facial expressions. One group of participants held a pen in their mouth horizontally, which forces a smile. When asked to rate how funny a cartoon was, the participants holding pens in their mouths found the cartoons much funnier than participants without pens.
As the study shows, it doesn’t matter if your smile is genuine because your facial expression can precede the feeling. If you find yourself in a negative spiral at work, slow down and smile or watch a funny video on YouTube. This mood boost can turn your day around. Fake it ’til you make it. I remember as a gymnast watching my coach enter the gym. If he was smiling and upbeat I couldn’t wait for training. If he was expressionless or looked angry, I wanted to hide. How do you want your gymnasts to enter the gym for practice? How do they want you to enter practice?

11. Stay Away From Negative People
Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spirals. When I walk into the gym I know I gravitate to my employees who are pretty positive. When a “complainer” gets my ear- I try to set the limits by asking them how they intend to fix their problems. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction. One of my golden rules in my gym (for both gymnasts and employees) is DO NOT COME TO ME WITH A PROBLEM WITHOUT A POTENTIAL SOLUTION.

12. Laugh at Yourself
When you take yourself too seriously at work your happiness and performance suffer. Don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability. Something as simple as laughing at yourself draws people to you because it shows them that you’re humble and grounded (it also keeps them from laughing behind your back). Happy people balance their self-confidence with a good sense of humor and humility.

13. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
It’s all too easy to get caught up in things that could have been different or didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to. Sometimes the best way to pull your mind away from negativity is to step back and contemplate what you’re grateful for.

14. Believe the Best Is Yet to Come
Don’t just tell yourself that the best is yet to come — believe it. Having a positive, optimistic outlook on the future doesn’t just make you happier; it also improves your performance by increasing your sense of self-efficacy. The mind has a tendency to magnify past pleasure to such a great degree that the present pales in comparison. Don’t be fooled. Believe in the great things the future has in store.



About tretrosi2013

Gymnastics Coach, Gymnastics Educator, Part time stand up comic.
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