Inspiration Over Lunch: Exercise And Mental Health According To James Hanley

I’m not exactly what you’d call a gym bunny. I’m not one to check in on Facebook while I’m running and I certainly don’t take selfies while I’m lifting dumbbells. As far as I can tell, the joke of “if you didn’t check in on Facebook, it did’t happen” is still a joke that I’ll choose to laugh at. This is the laughing that gets to happen as I use exercise as a method to take care of my mental health.

Fitness expert, weight lifter and gym owner James Hanley is all too familiar with the online and offline world of fitness. When we chatted about the recent mental health awareness month, he offered some valuable insights into the impact the trending world of exercise is having and where it’s heading.

Considering the world of fitness on the emerald Isle, there’s clearly been a surge in terms of the amount of gyms popping up. Meanwhile, the country’s love of healthy food is getting stronger with artisan butchers and health food stores becoming more than a passing trend. As highlighted by James, people are investing more in their health and have a better perspective of what healthy really is.

When it comes to exercise, the phrase “He’s not the sort of guy who gets ulcers, he’s the guy that gives them” rings true for James. When speaking of how people deal with stress, he says “it basically stems towards three points – you can release stress by shouting at someone/something, hitting someone/something or exercising it out”. Looking at these, it’s pretty clear which is going to have the greatest benefits.

As touched on in my recent posts on mental health, James also hit on the point of not being idle: ¬†“Having an outlet, somewhere that’s not allowing you to stew at home and instead, being able to meet and interact with other people is one of the biggest benefits of being in a group exercise program”. Exercise not only keeps the mind and body occupied, it creates endorphins which means less stress.

Being time-poor is one of the obstacles to effective self-care in today’s day and age. So if you’re in need of a stress-reliever in the form of exercise but your schedule seems too jam-packed, how do you fit it in? Well, getting a notepad is where to start. James’ method of figuring it out involves the following ” From the moment you wake up, write everything down that you did every fifteen minutes for the previous fifteen. It will take some time at first but do it for 7-14 days and it will do one of two things: It’ll validate the fact that you are busy and make you find more time to train. OR it’ll make you realise that you aren’t as busy as you initially thought you were and show you where you’re wasting time, dossing or being otherwise inefficient. From there, all you have to do is make a decision whether what you’re doing is making you happy. If it is, keep doing it. If it isn’t, change something.”

So say you figure out the time, how do you then decide which exercise works best for you? There could be a trend of people lifting weights amongst your friend group, does that mean it’s for you? Definitely not. Likewise if running bores you then keep away. On this note, James’ advice is find something you love and give it 100% – “The best exercise is the one you enjoy the most and can stick to”.

From James’ endless experience of the positive impact of exercise on any given human, the only negative that he considered was what’s happening in the online world of instagram, check-ins and the dishing out of ‘healthy living’ advice by those that consider themselves experts. According to James, “The fitness industry in failing us right now. Influencers are creating a highlight reel on social media and misleading everyone into believing they have everything they want, love their body and have the perfect life.” Married with insecurity and unhappiness, James explained that at times the same people who are dishing out advice (mostly young girls and guys) will delete posts if they don’t get enough likes upfront and censor comment streams for fear that the writings there will destroy their planned narrative. This translates to poor mental health in such influencers real-lives.

In a world where there is a range of mental health challenges, insecurities and unfortunately, still a stigma behind talking about mental health, James offered his advice: “You don’t have to pretend to be 100% all the time. Vulnerability is cool. Not being OK is OK. Talking about how you feel with friends or trusted sources isn’t a show of weakness, it’s a show of strength. ESPECIALLY for guys”.

While mental health awareness month has passed, we still need to keep the conversation going. Got something to share? Hit me up via social media or in the comments’ field below.

If strength training, strong mindset and/or health living is for you then I’d strongly suggest checking out James’ site, social media and if in the area, his gyms. To learn more, you can visit him here.