We caught up with trainers Aidan Anderson and Billy Werner to hear more about their 5k Lunge Challenge, why mental health matters to them, and how they hope lunging starts a conversation. Here's what they had to say.
You guys are lunging a 5k on June 5 to bring awareness to the importance of Mental Health. What inspired you to do this?
Aidan: Anything that is physically demanding becomes very mental. The physical is really tied with the mental when it comes to humans. When we are mentally struggling usually we feel the affects physically as well, this also goes vice versa. I know that doing something more on the extreme side can grab people’s attention and once the attention is grabbed I hope it can start a conversation on mental health. Everyone has been through it in different ways and one of the most helpful coping mechanisms is feeling okay to talk about it.
Billy: To me, Mental health is everything. My goal with doing the 5k of walking lunges is to help provide a platform for people to be more vulnerable and to persuade people to find comfort in the uncomfortable. It wasn’t too long ago that I refused to talk to someone about my feelings. I thought people would consider me as being weak. Not weak for the state I was in, but rather weak because I was seeking help. But, let me tell you something- I was really wrong. Instead, this act of sharing my feelings with others has shown me the power of community. A 5k of walking lunges is a bit extreme, but the main point is this- I want to put myself out there, attempt something really difficult for me, and share the journey with others. My mission- spark more conversations around one’s mental state and inspire others by overcoming my self doubt.
In preparation for your 5k, what does a typical day of training look like?
Aidan: In order to prepare for 12 laps around the track doing nothing but lunges you have to build a high tolerance. I hit strength & conditioning days working on a push/pull spilt vertically & horizontally to ensure no muscle is left behind 4 days a week. One day a week I work strictly on lunges which has ranged from 1 miles-2.5 miles over the course of the past 3 months. The other key for me has been working on knee mobility involving pushing my range of motion which promotes more bulletproof knees. Sissy squats, reverse Nordics, and knees over toes have been a game changer for me.
Billy: Typically, I train 5-6 days a week and my workouts usually consist of jumping rope, bodyweight movements (such as muscle ups, pull ups, push ups, etc) with a lot of functional leg work in the form of sprints, walking lunges, etc. I am training lunges 2-3 days a week. I started training for this event around 10 weeks prior, with the bulk of the training happening from weeks 1-8, and tapering off a bit for the last two weeks to ensure I have fresh legs for the event. I do 1 longer session per week (1-2 hours of work) and 2 shorter sessions (20-45 minutes).
Mental Health is an important pillar at Rhone. Why is mental health important to you personally?
Aidan: At 12 years old I started my battle with my own mind. First I got hit with severe panic attacks which led to me being physically exhausted not allowing me to be the active kid I was. That soon turned into severe depression which is when I had to take prescription pills. I was lucky enough to get back in control of my mind. That’s when I started exercising regularly to help with the stress. Exercise hands down has saved my life allowing me to have an outlet where I’m in the driver seat and control the output. After many years of being off of my prescription I got hit again at 20 years old with intrusive thinking/ ocd. For anyone who doesn’t know, intrusive thinking is when your brain latches onto an irrational thought and keeps replaying it. Honestly, it was the worst experience ever due to how dark the thoughts got. This is when I had to not only use physical exercise but start working out my mind. Practicing meditation, many therapy sessions, and having an amazing family saved me during the second battle. I still struggle from time to time, but I know I can get through anything after dealing with my past. I just want others to know that they can get through those dark days. Resources and having the right coping mechanisms are essential when you get casted for a leading role with mental illness. My goal is to always help with spreading resources to others. If I didn’t have an amazing team around me I wouldn’t be here today.
Billy: Maintaining positive mental habits and creating an environment for my mental health to flourish is very important to me because it allows me to do what I want to accomplish physically. When I feel at my healthiest mentally, everything else in my life seems to come together smoothly. Do I still have my trials and tribulations when I am feeling good? Of course. But, I know when I take care of myself mentally and do the things that I love to do and the things that make me the happiest, I know I am giving myself the best opportunity to succeed in the long run.
How has fitness/movement played a role in your mental health?
Aidan: Fitness has been the most important equation to my life thus far. Movement is medicine and it helps lower your stress hormones significantly. Modern day life has led to a huge increase in anxiety, depression, and sadly suicide. With that increase there has been a giant decrease in the amount of exercise humans get. Obesity is at an all time high and people need good information, motivation, and to realize they control the steering wheel. My mood shift is substantial after exercise and it’s not a coincidence. Your body & brain produce hormones and neurotransmitters which give you a huge mood boost.
Billy: Working out is my release. It is my outlet. I workout because it helps me de-stress and makes me feel great. It provides a huge confidence boost and gives me the necessary tools to create healthy daily habits like eating healthier and getting more sleep. Overall, the act of movement on a consistent basis helps me create a structured routine that allows me to feel my best both physically and mentally.
My legs are burning just thinking about it. Why lunges?
Aidan: Lunges burn. Most of my clients hate them and honestly I do as well. I feel that anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses hurt just as bad. I wanted to correlate the mental pain with the physical pain. I also want to symbolize that the pain does end and you can get through it even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Billy: Doing lunges for a long distance is difficult. Accomplishing difficult things makes me feel good. So, I do difficult things as much as I can to make myself feel great.
How can people join you and participate, near or far?
Aidan: People can join June 5th by doing lunges anywhere and as many as they are comfortable with. Also if people can donate after their lunges to Mental Health America that would be highly appreciated. Tag Billy, Rhone, and I on your lunge fest! Hope to see you guys pushing yourself physically and also having conversations about your mental health. Thank you for your time!
Billy: People can join me in Pittsburgh, PA at North Park (10301 Pearce Mill Rd, Allison Park, PA 15101) where I will be starting at the boathouse or they can join me virtually on zoom at the link below! Anyone is welcome to join and lunges are not necessary! All I ask is for people to try something difficult and overcome any self doubt they might have had around that activity.
Topic: 5k of Walking Lunges
Time: Jun 5, 2021 08:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 840 3146 6137