Studies prove that physical activity can improve mental health, but it’s not just because you’re burning calories and fitting into your favorite jeans. Lacey Stone, trainer, fitness instructor, and founder of BOOTYcamp, explains: “I think it’s really important that people realize how important the mental side of fitness is if they want to be successful long-term.” But that doesn’t mean you have to pack up and head to an ashram for daily yoga and spiritual enlightenment; you can still get plenty of of emotional and mental rewards from your workouts.
To find out how to reap rewards from fitness beyond a good booty, we talked to Lacey. Check out her insights below:
A lot of people approach fitness as a way to burn calories or make their butt look good. What are the biggest benefits beyond just the physical?
If you work out in a group setting, especially at boutique gyms and programs like the BOOTYcamp that I run, classes are designed to create an environment where people are focused on similar goals and have a similar work ethic. So you’re surrounded by a positive community of people striving for the same things, which is quite empowering. Oftentimes, people become friends, and then you’re in this circle of people who are healthy, so rather than going to eat cheeseburgers or get a drink, everyone’s like “let’s get sushi, or go to a spin class.” Success in anything you do is about consistency, and it’s easier to be consistent when the people around you are consistent as well.
Another great benefit is simply that when you work out a lot it raises your endorphins—it’s science. It’s known to be very good emotionally for you, and it kind of gives you a rush throughout the day where you’re kind of in a weirdly good mood, almost like you’re on drugs. (Especially if you have a little crush on the instructor, which is why we all work on being so hot! [laughs])
Another big message behind BOOTYcamp is that doing morning workouts really sets you up for success throughout the day. Meaning there’s no excuses at the end of the day to not go to the gym; you’ll probably eat a healthier breakfast because you don’t want to put crap in your body after you’ve just kicked your butt, etc.. It propels you to make positive choices throughout the rest of the day, and again, if you’re consistent, that equals results.
And also, the key thing that’s the most underrated thing about a healthy lifestyle is that it helps you sleep better. Oh and it increases your sex drive. So I mean it’s just good for you; there are huge benefits other than having a tight ass.
Some workouts—like yoga—are associated with spirituality and holistic wellness. But do instructors have to be explicitly spiritual for fitness to be emotionally beneficial?
No; you don’t have to be like “namaste,” or “i see the light in you, which represents the light in me,” or whatever. There are different types of positivity: I’m very positive but obviously I’m different from a yoga instructor. For me, it’s about team spirit and not making excuses, never giving up, and stuff like that.
You can teach a class without doing that, but it’s studies about positive psychology prove that when someone feels good about what they’re doing, they actually are more likely to continue doing it. So if you want people to be consistent and have the best experience possible outside of their workout then being a positive instructor is the way to go, in my opinion. I think instructors are more popular and successful when they take on a sense of community and empowerment, rather than negativity.
Can workouts replace therapy?
They can be complementary to your therapy sessions. It depends on what you’re going through, obviously, but like I said, working out is very mentally beneficial; the endorphins and being around other people who are looking to do positive things are very helpful for one’s well-being. I do have people who sit down and meet with me in terms of life coaching (I majored in psychology), but when I’m yelling at you with a whistle and telling you to jump around, it’s not the same as sitting down and talking with a therapist about why your mother ruined your life. I have a lot of respect for therapists, and workouts definitely aren’t a replacement for what they do, but it’s complementary and can definitely be very beneficial.
The Biggest Loser shows people getting a LOT of emotional support from their trainers as part of their coaching. Do you think all trainers should help their clients on such a personal level, or is that just a special circumstance?
I definitely think they amp it up for television, sure. But it depends on the trainer. Your body and your emotions and happiness goes hand in hand, and I believe in the job title of “personal trainer,” some people just want to be trainers and just kick a person’s ass, but especially when you’re an adult, sometimes you have your ass kicked and handed to you on a plate at the office all day, so you just need someone there to lift you up. So what I want to do is help lift the person up as much as possible, teach them as much as I can, emotionally and physically.
My philosophy is that if you’re not happy, you’re not going to be successful with your body. A lot of people come to me initially about wanting to lose weight, and once you start losing weight, it’s never enough—you want to lose more and more—because it’s not about the weight, it’s about how you feel; it’s about you being unhappy. And until you address your emotions and why you aren’t consistent and why you turn to drinking to numb things, then you’ll never feel good about your body no matter how small you are.
So for me it’s really, really important that I get to know my clients—what they’re going through, what their schedule is, what they’re sad or happy about in their job, social life, or relationship—so that I can help figure out the most positive route for them.
I’m like Mary Poppins..[laughs]…when the wind changes and I’m gone, you’re good; you can take care of yourself. I’m serious: It’s really powerful when someone can let go and figure out what it is that makes them happy, because when you’re happy nothing else matters, you’re just good to go, and that’s what it’s about for me.
What are your best tips for people to get the most out of fitness and exercise, beyond feeling good physically?
- Don’t make it about the number or the scale. Make it almost like a project to find out what makes you tick and what makes it happy. It’s really important to view fitness as a lifestyle change. A lot of times, for example, your friend group is blocking you from success. Sometimes geting to where you want to be as a human being requires some painful changes. It’s tricky, but it’s part of being overall fit not only with your body but with your mind and your life.
- Get dorky! Plan and track your behaviors. I kept a journal for two years until I really understood my eating patterns like when, where and why (emotionally) I overate. The people who are most successful with their fitness are the people who plan out their week in advance and just go.
- Set out a plan. It takes 90 days to start a consistent habit, so give yourself three months, lay out the foundation, find trainers that inspire you, follow them around town, and you will make it happen. Seriously.
- Say “hi!” to people in your classes so you can create a community of friends with healthy priorities. If someone has a hot body, get to know that chick! Ask her how she does it and work out with her on the regular and pretty soon you’ll have a hot body, too.
If you really want something, you can have it: You just have to mentally focus on what you want, and you can make it happen. People just lose their focus and get all caught up with their social group or other distractions. You can do it.