The Best Workouts to Deal With All That Rage
I was about to explode last week, so I tried five different exercises to burn off my anger. Here’s what worked.
There was a point, about halfway through the Senate Committee’s hearings in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford detailed her memories of the evening she says then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, where my rage just boiled over. I had been feeling a simmering anger since that day in November 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president. My anger has spiked throughout his administration, causing me to lash out at family members who had voted for him, at my white female friends who claimed they “just don't like politics that much,” and at #MAGA Twitter trolls who called me a feminist hack.
But as I sat there watching Kavanaugh sneer, and threaten, and stammer about how his life was being ruined, I saw red. The hearings had reopened the wound of my own sexual assault for the first time in half a decade. And in coping with my trauma, my rage absolutely flared. I had to find a way to manage my anger, so I texted my friend Robyn, who always knows how to bring me back down to earth. “Go for a run,” she said. “It will make you feel better.”
And she’s not wrong. Experts say that there is a strong link between exercise and emotional well-being, and fitness is recommended as a way to manage anger and stress. And so I laced up my sneakers and ran. When I returned, I felt great — better than my usual coping “exercise” of curling a glass of wine up to my lips had been making me feel. In the words of Elle Woods, “exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.” I may not have been happy, but I no longer wanted to scream into a pillow until I fell asleep.
So over the next few days, I tried a handful of workouts to deal with my righteous anger in order to see which would make me feel the best. When Jeff Flake lost his spine, or Susan Collins once again proved she was a shill of the GOP, I went to a boxing class or bent myself into downward facing dog.
Ahead, read up on my week of rage workouts. If this administration plunges us into a living dystopian nightmare, well, I guess I'll be ripped and ready for a fight.
Running Out The Rage
The first thing I did, on the very day of the Kavanaugh hearings, was go for a run. I’ve written many, many times about my love/hate relationship with running. But on this day, the idea of trying to literally run away from the rage and anger I was feeling was intensely appealing.
So I threw on my shoes, blasted some Taking Back Sunday in my headphones (early-aughts emo is the best music to run to — especially when you’re rage-running), and did a quick 5k. I hadn’t run in a few weeks, so my lungs were on fire by mile one, but something about how angry I was pushed me to keep going. Turns out that rage is a great motivator. I had so much pent-up energy that was well-channeled by pounding the pavement.
By the time I was heading home, I felt my brain start to clear. I switched my music over to Beyoncé, and let her sing me back to my apartment. When I got inside, I stretched, and then laid on the floor, feeling more tired than enraged. And instead of feeling emotionally tired, I was physically tired — which helped me to sleep better that night than I had in weeks. Running, it turns out, is a great way to exercise out the rage. It’s easy, it’s free, and you can do it any time you want. 10/10 would rage run again.
Anger Sweats In Hot Yoga
If I had to choose one workout to do for the rest of my life, it would be hot yoga. I love how it clears my mind, I love the buckets of sweat that pour out of me during these sessions, and I love the flow of bending and twisting my body into crazy positions.
So I was excited, the morning after my run (also known as the day the committee voted to move forward with a vote on Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination), to wake up bright and early for a class at Tangerine Hot Power Yoga — one of my favorite studios in my new neighborhood in Brooklyn. I was still angry, although my run the day before had lessened the rage a touch.
I’d never gone to yoga mad before, but my emotional state turned out, once again, to be a motivating force. Instead of languidly going through the motions, I felt some serious power and intention behind each of my movements. The energy from being mad translated into me pushing myself slightly harder in class — holding poses longer, twisting myself deeper, and trying to pinpoint which muscle each movement was activating. In order to distract myself from the rage, I had to leave my mind and focus on my body. This improved my practice tenfold.
At the end, instead of just feeling blissed out, I felt blissed out and super-strong — and I was seriously sore the next day. It’s been my best yoga class to date, and I’ve tried my best to remember this in the classes I’ve gone to after. So now, when my instructor asks me to set my intention ahead of our practice, I think to myself, “Burn down the patriarchy.” It’s been working.
Punching Things (Not People)
I started boxing about nine months ago after I got laid off and was so pissed about it that I found myself penning essay after essay describing how betrayed I’d felt. Since I couldn’t actually publish them, I jumped at a friend’s offer to have him train me in boxing. I figured punching shit would help me channel my anger in more healthy ways than sub-tweeting ever would.
I've been dying to try out Rumble, a new boxing-inspired group fitness class that’s been all over my Instagram feed lately, and this new simmering rage was a great reason to go. The class starts with a warm-up that involves jumping jacks and other movements to get your heart rate up before you cozy up to the bag and wail on it. In all honesty, I hated the warm-up, mostly because I hate any type of movement that leaves me totally breathless.
But once we started actually boxing, I came alive. I imagined that the bag was every politician, family member, and person in my life who tried to tell me that I was wrong for not coming forward when I was assaulted. I grunted and yelled and hit the bag over and over again, putting every ounce of anger I had into my fists.
When I got home after class, I burst into tears — but good ones. (I swear.) The boxing had been much more cathartic than both the running and the yoga. It felt like I had a place to put my anger that was outside of my body instead of just shuffling it to another corner of my mind. There was a release that the other workouts hadn’t provided, which is likely why this wound up being my favorite way to channel my anger of the week. Feeling like a badass female Rocky didn't hurt.
Meditating Until Midterms
After my emotionally taxing boxing session, I decided to back things up a bit and try something to calm the mind. I’ve been a subscriber to Headspace for a while, and have found that their approach to meditation is much more helpful than other meditation apps for me, a New Yorker who struggles to sit still or stop making lists in my head. I’d been wanting to try their walking meditation for a while, so I cued it up as my fourth day of anger workouts. (Hey, walking is exercise!)
If you’re a subscriber, the app has three types of walking meditation — in the city, in your home, and in parks and nature. I chose in the city, since I’d just moved to a new neighborhood, and hadn’t really explored it yet. The meditation, instead of forcing me to ignore my surroundings, actually worked to make me more aware of them. It got me out of my mind, into my body, and into the world around me. The meditation asked me to notice how my body moved, the rhythm of my legs, and what it felt like to have my feet hitting the pavement. As I walked, I was also encouraged to take notice of the small details around me — smells, sights, and sounds. Any time I got distracted, I was to return my focus to the rhythm of my feet on the ground. Since the overwhelming emotions bubbling up in my brain were sadness and anger, dissolving them behind the pit-pat sounds was incredibly soothing.
Sometimes, when you’re angry, it can feel like the source of your anger is the only thing going on in the world. And even though the confirmation of an accused sexual assailant to the Supreme Court is a pretty big deal, the world keeps on turning. Life has to go on, and it’s not healthy for me to stay so angry that I can’t function. Instead, it’s important for me to compartmentalize it — bringing it up when I need it (say, when it's time to vote), and stashing it away when it’s not serving me. So even though this exercise wasn’t physically taxing, I still consider it a wild success in helping to mitigate my rage.
Lifting (The Weight of the World Off My Shoulders)
Let’s get something out of the way — I hate weight lifting. I come from an Italian-American home in New Jersey, which means my brothers are big into weight lifting. I, on the other hand, find it boring and tedious. But seeing how my brothers have always told me that a good workout is great for clearing the mind, I packed up my gym bag, and headed to Crunch to commune with some free weights. I opted for my usual back-and-arms set, which involved lots of curls, rows, and other movements that, were I a fitness influencer, I would be able to explain a little better.
In short, this was a complete disaster. I couldn’t figure out the right way to channel my anger into my weight lifting, since the movements were so isolated. And the worst part? During my downtime between sets, I couldn’t help but check Twitter to see what was happening in the news. So instead of leaving the gym less rage-filled, I wound up being more pissed.
I won't be using weight-lifting as an anger-management tool in the future, but this experiment as a whole was a raging success. I found useful ways of channeling my anger that weren’t just churning out Twitter threads. Now, I have a workout schedule that's perfectly tailored to releasing my anger before it gets too pent-up in the first place: hot yoga three days a week, running once a week, and a meditation walk once a week. When I’m really pissed, I’ll schedule a boxing class and wail on the bags.
If things keep going the way they’re going, I’ll be totally ripped, and Zen AF, by the end of this administration — which might be the only silver lining there is.