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How Weightlifting Helped One Writer Work Through PTSD

When personal trainer and former competitive weight lifter Laura Kodari experienced post-traumatic stress, her reaction was to return to the gym and train as hard as she could. She participated in three sports and sometimes attended training sessions twice a day.

“I was using it when I was alive with trauma [training] As a coping skill, but in an unhealthy way. I wanted to be invincible to the invisible threat, so I was training all the time to prepare for the fight. ”

From the outside, the lump seemed to crush it, but in reality, the post-traumatic stress disorder response was fairly normal. It is a hyperawakening of the body and brain. “I wasn’t resting. It was an obsession,” she says. Her body finally caught up with her. She suffered a serious back injury from overtraining and was unable to approach the barbell for months.

Finally, desperately to heal the mind and body, Khoudari talks about how trauma affects the body and how strength training becomes a healing exercise for those who have experienced trauma. I started my own research. The result is her next book, a memoir combined with practical guidance, Lift heavy objects: one person at a time heals trauma..

Khoudari writes that he now has a different approach to strength training. “I train to feel my body, adjust my breathing to the person in charge, and focus on the inner sensations as I move against weight resistance.”

Khoudari’s theory is that this embodied approach to weightlifting can help people living with PTSD develop a sense of security in their bodies. Strength training can also provide certain direct physical benefits. For example, muscle building is associated with improved sleep, and insomnia is a common traumatic symptomatology, says Khoudari.

Today, Khoudari is a personal trainer, a certified trauma practitioner, and trauma-based to others who have experienced trauma and those who work with them: physiotherapists, personal trainers, and mental health people. We provide training.

We talked through Zoom earlier this month about her research and strength training experience as a materialized exercise exercise that helps her own trauma healing and other trauma survivors.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What do you think is healing and empowering about weightlifting and strength training?

I think any movement exercise will be a healing exercise — it’s about how you approach it. Strength training really resonates with me. It’s what I suggest people try for a number of reasons. First of all, we know all the health benefits of strength training. We know that it is good for blood pressure, bone density and posture. This is often traumatic. And feeling how strong you are can be very empowering.

How would you describe how it feels to lift weights as a practice of embodied movements?

While I’m doing it, it’s like meditation, so it’s a mindfulness exercise. So I’m with it whatever it is. It’s like learning to find the joy in my body. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s really unpleasant. And I’m really interested in myself and I’m making time to check in. How I train now really depends on what I need and where I am in my life.There were many yesterday Slow Split squat. For now, the goal of training is to keep moving. I’m busy and very stressed for the next two months, so I want to exercise three days a week to get rid of the pain and really calm down.

Many people are still really struggling to conceptualize the connection between mind and body. Can you explain how the trauma appears physically?

The connection between mind and body is very interesting. People see it as these two separate things, and they have a “connection”, but you know, your mind is in your body. So I don’t really see it as a separate thing. I see it as one. When you feel physical pain, your brain tells you that you feel pain. It is your mind that gets information from your body parts and your nervous system.

Yes, trauma appears on the body. Chronic fatigue syndrome, migraine, fibromyalgia, many autoimmune diseases, and IBS are some of the ways in which it can manifest. You’re doing a lot in your mind when someone is really nervous because you’re stressing you, but maybe your hips are really tight or your shoulders are in your ears Think about it going up. It is your body that reacts to your mind.

Conversely, it may feel a little lighter when you check in and have your shoulders off your ears. By adjusting your body movements, you can improve your state of mind. I think this is much more useful than I say “calm down”.

At some point when dealing with PTSD, he wrote that he felt it was caused by doing yoga. This is surprising because many people see yoga as: Include Careful or embodied exercise. So how do you explain to people that, depending on the approach, in fact any movement exercise can be a trigger or treatment?

The point is that yoga in the way I think most Westerners do is not a particularly embodied practice. In my understanding, the popular super-athletic type of yoga is far from the original yoga, which aims to combine the discomfort of breathing, movement and stillness. What’s really difficult for someone with trauma is actually its tranquility.

[Yoga is] It really helps for many, but not for everyone. And being embodied or moving carefully can actually be any movement, which really has to do with where your focus is.Weightlifting seems pretty natural to me as many coaches give you clues [a movement] You should feel it. That means you are paying attention to your part that is already in motion. If you’re focusing on moving and performing movements, how is it different from focusing on muscles while doing Vinyasa Flow? For me, that moment was when I realized that the one-legged Romanian deadlift was the same move as the Warrior III. So why can’t we focus on Romanian deadlifts like yoga?

I was surprised to read that the general reaction of PTSD is to separate from certain parts of the body or muscle group. You write that it’s a body phrase: “too much, too fast, too fast. I can’t process all this information.” What should trauma survivors, or those who work with them, know about this phenomenon?

Basically, if a person is having trouble contacting a particular muscle group, really pay attention to that part of the body. For example, if you have a personal trainer and you have trouble stretching your hips fully, you can have your hips bridged and held. If they come back to boot camp from doing that isometric hold, dial it again. This shows that the nervous system is really stressed by this.

We absolutely want to work hard, but we don’t want to overwhelm the nervous system. To make these changes, you need to feel good and safe, even if they are physiological.

Can you explain how a traumatized person engages in training as part of the overall treatment of PTSD?

If you work with a really great counselor, you’re doing the story and thought part of working through your trauma, but maybe you still don’t feel safe in your own body, And what you want to do is some bottom-up processing in the gym. It may simply be to collect information and bring it for later discussion with a counselor. So if you’re training and find that you’re feeling very good when you’re pushing, you might be a little scared of how good it is, but that’s really important information. But maybe you make a push move and feel triggered. So you spend time having that experience and then talking about it in treatment, and it really helps.

If your clients are traumatized like you and come to you and are always training really hard, how do you guide them to use their feelings in a healthier way?

If you stay in your body while you do it, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with smashing it. So if someone tells me: “I want to flip the tires!” Then OK.But if they can turn those tires over and see where they are looking, they are out of control of their bodies, I’m going to signal them [check-in with how the movement feels] Instead of checking out for catharsis.

But if I’m signaling you to actually pay attention while you’re doing it, you’re far more by grounding and processing what you wanted to do that action. You will benefit a lot, and you train better movement patterns and your muscles are advanced more than if you are not paying attention and also really overdoing it To be-it’s just exhausted.

I was really impressed with what you wrote about the current situation in which almost everyone has experienced some degree of trauma in the past year’s pandemic.

I think it’s really important for people to think about this when we come back to the gym and life. Yes, not only go ahead and work hard, but be kind to yourself. You may find it more difficult than being in a room full of people exercising. That is what your nervous system is trying to keep you safe. I still don’t understand that it may be safe to be there.

Maggie Mertens is a Seattle-based journalist who deals with gender, culture, health and sports.

Copyright 2021 NPR. For more information, please visit https://www.npr.org.

How Weightlifting Helped One Writer Work Through PTSD

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