The Super Sad Post-Heartbreak Workout Is Not Actually Sad At All


One silver lining of getting your feelings stomped all over, is that post-heartbreak, people tend to be forgiving if you must cope by acting like a shithead for awhile. And while there are plenty of ways to act like a self-destructive mess in the wake of a traumatic life event — drinking excessively, crying excessively, sleeping with people you shouldn’t excessively, excessive listening to Delilah’s nightly call-in request show (don’t judge me! That shit’s comforting!) — one coping mechanism doesn’t have to be unhealthy nor sad. Nor even shitheaded, really.

The post breakup fitness kick (which thus far mercifully lacks its own obnoxious portmanteau) is the New Hotness for getting over the particular sting of being rejected by a romantic partner, according to the New York Daily News. Feeling the burn while your heart lies quivering in fragments is apparently every positive buzzword that was implied by those ads for flavored water where women twirled in colorful skirts in front of colorful backgrounds. It’s Empowerful. It’s Strengthtacular. It’s Upliftifying. It’s women gathering in rooms punching the air to the melodic shouting of Kelly Clarkson and sweating so much that it disguises the fact that their faces are rivers of tears. They’re sweating out their sad and crying from their pores. They’re going to show those ex boyfriends who’s boss with their hotness! JUST YOU WAIT’LL YOU SEE ME AT THE END OF THIS MONTAGE, EX BOYFRIENDS! JUST YOU WAIT!

The News quotes a fitness instructor who insinuates that when it comes to curing a broken heart, nothing beats a REVENGE SEXY BIKINI BODY.

“One of the things that we feel after a breakup is insecure, especially if it’s not your choice,” says Barry’s Bootcamp instructor Joey Gonzalez. “The objective at the end of the day is to look better naked, so that your husband — or whoever else — wants you.”

Who doesn’t enjoy feeling sexy? I sure like it! But isn’t working out to “look better naked” just pouring the problem into a different receptacle? Isn’t working out with the aim of garnering approval from others simply scratching the same unhealthy itch that makes breakups suck so much in the first place? If you rely on other people for your self esteem and self-worth, then you give other people the power to take that away from you — whether that be a boyfriend, a boss, a female friend, some rando on the subway giving you the stink eye. And, speaking as someone with an embarrassing amount of experience in dealing with breakups of serious relationships, the fantasy run-in with the ex-boyfriend on the day you’re looking your most Beyonce is not a thing that happens. You run into your ex on a day that you’re halfway through a course of steroids the doctor prescribed you for your asthma, and you’re bloated. And then he tweets about how fat you’ve gotten.

The Revenge Bikini Body is a terrible idea and pursuit of the Revenge Bikini Body is just another flavor of sad. But responding to a breakup — or another form of heart stompage — by exercising so you feel better about yourself can be incredibly rewarding.

Also, as one woman in the piece puts it:

“I can cry during the workout, and no one notices because it mixes with the sweat.”

Anecdote/feelings: One late August night in 2009, my paternal grandfather watched the Minnesota Twins beat the Kansas City Royals on TV, made a sex joke to my grandmother (“Marge, we should call the parish in Hudson and sign up for those rhythm method classes Father Mullen talked about during mass today,” from what I understand), went to bed, and never woke up. It was a great death — easy, quick. Painless, from what the coroner said. But the loss left a gaping hole in our family; he was a giant, he was the sun; everything revolved around him, and suddenly he was gone. For the first few months after he passed, I coped by coming straight home after work most days, crawling into bed in my work clothes, and watching episodes of Twin Peaks on my laptop until I passed out.

But a person can only sleep in nude colored nylons and Express skirts for so long, can only watch Leland Palmer’s hair turn white so many times, and by the time winter rolled around I was so deep in a little depressed cocoon that I started reflecting on how disappointed my grandfather would have been in me if he’d known I’d been acting that way (he would have called it “wallowing” and asked what the Sam Hill was wrong with me). So, no knowing what else to do, I started running. The first time I climbed onto a treadmill, I couldn’t even go a mile and a half without feeling like I was going to die. Then I could go two miles, then five miles, ten. Several months later, 26.2. Running has been the most consistently positive activity in my life since.

And so even though it’s hard to do just about anything after a breakup, or a death, or a job loss, or another life disruption is hard to spin as a positive activity, there’s nothing sad or pathetic about focusing on your own health and having that manifest in adopting a new workout regimen. Don’t do it for “revenge;” do it for you.

Besides, “I’m sweating a lot!” is a much better crying-in-public cover story than “excessive allergies.”


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