Written by Amanda Webster | Photos by Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com
You’re newly single. It’s February. And you’re side-eyeing every RomCom that crosses your path on Netflix. And while we wouldn’t dream of having the solution to this truly awful feeling, what we do know is that even if you’re uncuffed this season, you deserve to go forth into this transitional phase armed with things that make you feel good. Some days that’s probably a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but when the mourning period subsides, we prescribe a healthy dose of endorphins by way of exercise. Read on for the science.
Your brain perceives a break-up as a loss, something that’s traumatic to deal with in the first place, and no doubt an intense source of stress. In fact, according to the Life Change Index Scale, which measures vulnerability to stress, divorce is listed second—first is death of a spouse. As your brain processes the loss, it can also fall into a cycle of withdrawal, as falling in love activates the addictive part of the brain, fueling your drive to send your ex a WYD text even when you know you shouldn’t.
While the cliché remedy of time-heals-all can help ease this desire, studies have found exercise is also an effective way to overcome symptoms of trauma, like a divorce or break-up. By using your brain’s natural processes to your advantage, it may be possible to speed the grief. While the elation of cuddling, kissing, or having sex may be difficult to replicate, behind it is the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that is released during a sweat sesh.
Post break-up, you may also feel a sense of adrenaline. This hormone is naturally elevated after a break-up and keeps us on edge, anxious, and restless. If not managed, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into overdrive, which manifests as symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The answer? Yep, you’ve guessed it: Exercise. Breaking a sweat helps reduce adrenaline.
The friendly hormones and neurotransmitters released during exercise like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine will all help you get over your broken heart. Plus, exercise is also going to protect your actual ticker by regulating its beat as well as raising your HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering your LDL (bad cholesterol).
Heart Mending Movement
To best reap the blended benefits of physical and metaphorical heart health, be flexible with your workout routine, and we don’t mean crawl-back-into-bed flexible. Depending on what stage of the break-up you’re in (and let’s be clear, this can change daily), you may need different things out of your workout. Here’s what worked for us:
1. Can’t stop thinking about your ex? HIIT it.
If you have time to think about your break-up during a high-intensity interval training workout, then you’re doing it wrong. HIIT workouts are designed to keep your mind focused and your body exhausted. With new exercises constantly rotating, you truly won’t have time to think about whatstheirname, and afterwards, you’ll feel a combination of accomplishment and exhaustion. Here’s a great HIIT program that can be modified to be anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, no equipment needed.
2. Angry you didn’t see it sooner? Lift heavy sh*t.
When it comes to feeling like a badass, there’s nothing quite like hitting a new PR on a deadlift or powering through that last biceps curl. Strength training is the perfect workout for those days where you get down on yourself for ignoring the red flags. Along with releasing those endorphins we love so much, strength training boosts energy and overall mood. If you’re looking to get mentally and physically strong post break-up, check out our free 8-week program for super strength.
Side note: Another great workout for days like this is boxing because, you know, punching. Click here for everything you need to know before your first boxing class.
3. Thinking about crawling back into bed? Grab the yoga mat.
During a break-up, you feel anything but grounded. The combination of needing to figure out what your new life looks with the natural increase of adrenaline means you could use a zen-filled morning. Along with helping you disengage from your pain, yoga helps improve heart health by increasing circulation and blood flow. In addition, it can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. For ultra-centering yoga poses to include into your practice, click here.
Remember, each time you reach for your gym kit or tighten up those laces, not only are you proving to yourself that you deserve love, but that you love yourself, too. So hit pause if the phrase “revenge body” ever crosses your mind during your workout. Being there and caring for yourself vehemently during this transitional time is the best thing you can do.