What It Means When You Feel Angry After A Workout

Your arms are pumping and your legs are burning, but you know the finish line is just up ahead. Finally, the moment you've long been waiting for: you've just beaten your best mile-run time and set a new personal record for yourself. Sweaty and out of breath, at any moment, you're expecting a wave of elation to wash over you. After all, you've been working overtime toward this fitness goal for months now. While you naturally feel some level of pride for your accomplishment, why is it that you also feel some degree of irritation or anger?

The very fact that you've been working so hard may be the exact reason why you've found yourself in this strange emotional state post-exercise. Feeling irritable or agitated means that you may be overtraining, which can mess with your stress hormones, reports Healthline. In more serious instances, continuously pushing your body beyond its physical limits may result in lowered immunity, insomnia, or decreased appetite, all of which can contribute to feelings of anger and frustration (via Counselling Directory). Among some people in the fitness-training community, exercise-induced anger has even come to earn the nickname "gym rage."

What is gym rage?

To get a better understanding of gym rage, let's take a look at what's going on behind the scenes when we throw our bodies into intense physical activity. Whether you're running, dancing, or lifting weights, exercise boosts blood flow, increases our heart rate, and releases adrenaline into the bloodstream. These same bodily responses occur when we are faced with a perceived threat, otherwise known as the fight-or-flight stress response. Essentially, it's our body's way of preparing us to react to potential danger. However, NHS clinical psychologist Isabel Clarke tells Counselling Directory that a gym full of people fueled with adrenaline may potentially increase the chances for disagreements, particularly if a person is already stressed to begin with. Hence, gym rage. Of course, you don't need a gym membership to experience this kind of emotional response to exercise. No matter where you are, if you're potentially overdoing it during your workouts, you may find yourself feeling on edge after the fact.

Alternatively, if you're walking out of your CrossFit class feeling a little irritable, it may be a sign that your blood sugar is low. Consistently working out without proper fuel will likely heighten feelings of irritability afterwards. Therefore, to reduce the chances of getting "hangry" after exercise, professional health coach Kat Brunner of Obé Fitness suggests eating a nutritious meal anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes prior to hitting the gym.

How to exercise safely and prioritize rest

Not only does overtraining make us susceptible to mood changes, but it also increases our risk of injury. Therefore, to prevent gym rage and help keep our bodies safe and healthy, remember to rest. This includes taking active rest days, where we replace more intensive exercise with walking, tai chi, swimming, and other low-impact forms of physical activity (via Healthline). Rest should also be prioritized throughout the workout itself by taking breaks or reducing the intensity of the exercise for a period of time. Above all else, listen to your body. If something hurts or doesn't feel right, don't push it.

While exercise may prompt feelings of anger or irritation from time to time, it can also have the opposite effect. Researchers from a 2019 study published in Asian Nursing Research found that consistent exercise helped those in the nursing field better manage their anger. Out of nearly 300 nurses in South Korea included in the study, participants who exercised for at least a half hour three days a week demonstrated greater anger control and lower levels of state anger (or feelings of anger in response to a trigger) in comparison to those who did not exercise regularly.