Lifting up My Mental Health – OPINION

Pumping iron promotes wellbeing.


Matt Best

Senior Kenzie Hoffman warms up with squats in the AHS weight room. Hoffman started lifting at 13 years of age. Her max squat is 245.

I take a breath from my inhaler. My hands start to shake as my adrenaline kicks in. I’m ready for my workout. I plug in my headphones and the vibration of “Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Heroes pounds in my chest. It’s been a long day, and I’m physically and mentally exhausted. I need this workout.  

I was first introduced to weightlifting through my older brother Carter. I would tag along with him to the YMCA in hopes of someday being as strong as he was. When Carter did back squats with 45s, I imitated him with 25s. While Carter perfected crunches and planks, I worked alongside him, exhausted but accomplished. He corrected my form, pushed me to go harder, he hyped me up when I reached a goal.

When Carter moved to Minnesota, I was on my own. I started watching YouTube videos for workout ideas. I followed Whitney Simmons. I liked her story and her commitment to strength training over physique. She focuses a lot on lower-body workouts–and I love leg days. I took what I learned from Youtube back to the gym, where I got to work, five days a week.

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Something about the intensity and determination I feel when lifting brings me back for more.

— Kenzie Hoffman

 My increased physical strength gave me the stamina to address my mental health.

My mental health has always been a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days are great, and others are a struggle. For many, staying active does the trick. I’ve tried running, swimming, and biking, but I couldn’t stick with any of those. Weightlifting came naturally to me, and it felt right. Something about the intensity and determination I feel when lifting brings me back for more.

Pumping the iron is more than just a workout for me. It’s therapeutic. It keeps my mood consistent and stabilizes my mental health. There isn’t a simple fix for a mental illness. But going to the gym strengthens my mind as well as my body. I feel in control of both my muscles and my emotions.

I prepare the squat rack by adding 45s to the bar and adjusting the height level.  I take a big breath, put my neck underneath the bar, and step back.  I’m ready to roll.