You’re holding Warrior pose when suddenly, tears start streaming. What’s up with body emotions? In exercise, we move in ways we don’t in normal life, and those movements can unlock emotions that we’ve been holding back. “We have stress at work, and we’re not able to say what we want to our supervisor,” says Karol Ward, a psychotherapist who specialises in the body-mind connection. “So we squish those feelings, tense our shoulders, lock our jaws, and don’t even realise we’re doing it until the area gets stretched out, and that releases the emotion.” There’s a biological component, too: exercise releases a rush of hormones and chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin.
When Danielle Kosecki, 33, finished her first Half Ironman triathlon, “I burst into tears,” she says. Nine months earlier she’d said no when her boyfriend of six years proposed; they’d broken up, and she’d become depressed and stopped exercising. Signing up for the race had been her motivation to get healthy, mentally and physically. “And it worked,” she says. “When I crossed the finish line, I knew that I had gone through something terrible and had come out the other side. I still get choked up looking at the pictures.”
Crying during exercise? Totally normal, experts say, so let it happen (fitness instructors have seen it before!). Karol says that the lesson here is: “Give yourself permission to have the feelings.” Even if they bring on tears.