• Valerie McDonnell

What's the Best Way to Get Better at Sex? Exercise!


Sex therapy: Build your mind, body, and soul

Take it from a sex therapist: sexuality is intimately tied to physical activity.


Do I hear a Duh! from the back corner?


Well it may seem obvious, but it’s something we too easily overlook. Physical fitness is one of the first things we let go of during stressful times—even though that’s when we need it the most.


High-intensity physical activity floods our brains with dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure) and endorphins (hormones for relieving stress and pain). Those neurochemicals can help us push through feelings of sadness, insecurity, depression, anxiety, and the like.


And you know what else releases those feel-good chemicals? That’s right: positive sexual experiences.


So let’s talk about how sex and physical fitness go hand-in-hand.



Sexy story time


Let’s go back to the reason I became a therapist. Like many people, I was burdened by childhood trauma that got in the way of everything I did. But my overwhelmingly positive experience with my own therapist through the years inspired me to become one; to help people rediscover themselves like I did.


Part of my therapist-recommended personal growth included physical fitness training. So I found a place near me and started working out regularly, mixing weightlifting with other types of training. It became an active sanctuary from the PTSD symptoms that haunted me and slowly helped me climb my way out of the powerlessness that consumed me.


From personal experience I can say how vital physical fitness and routine exertion have been in terms of regaining ownership over my life and sexuality. Among other things, trauma can take away your sense of control. But being able to deadlift 200 lbs, or knowing you can discipline through 5 miles of wind-sprints, or practicing pull-ups and dips working toward a muscle-up...these tangible accomplishments give me a meaningful grasp on many aspects of my life.


There’s the obvious physical aspects: Picking up my child, for example, or taking the dog for his daily walk...but there’s also the emotional and cognitive controls, like knowing I can endure tremendous physical strain; that I can push away and run a fast mile from danger; that I can handle new training experiences and possibilities, and push through or over any obstacle.


Along with the feeling that I could control my body’s movement and function; along with improved cardiovascular health and emotional discipline, my fitness training brought with it a newly vibrant outlook on sex and sexuality. More on that in a bit.



Stress & desire discrepancy


Many people handle stress by turning to sexual activity as a release. But others push sexuality to the back burner. Sometimes, that difference can lead to the most common complaint that sex therapists deal with: desire discrepancy.


Sometimes desire discrepancy stems from different natural levels of libido—but it can also result from different ways of managing stress. Some of us seek support...while others turn inward. By finding other methods to vent stress—including fitness training, meditation & mindfulness, therapy, etc—sexual partners can clear the way for better communication and intimacy.


Accountability to each other’s various needs is key to relationship health. Practicing accountability in a fitness setting, with professional trainers and coaches, is one way to condition yourself to be accountable in other aspects of life including romance.


Partner workouts can also be exhilarating, ramping up your blood flow, temperature, pheromone reception, and physical arousal—while getting you on the same page as each other.



Confidence & self-esteem


In addition to functional strength and cardiovascular conditioning, one of the most important benefits of fitness training is psychological. You feel better about yourself. The human body is supposed to endure feats of strength and tests of fitness. Vigorous exercise is a biological imperative of our metabolic cycles. Keep in mind that our bodies evolved as hunter-gatherers, so even if we don’t live that way any more, our bodies still have that design. We forget that at our peril.


But being happy with the mirror has nothing to do with what your body looks like—and everything to do with self-esteem. Exercise makes you feel good about yourself because you’re putting your body through the physical rigors it was designed for—and that kind of confidence is incredibly appealing and charismatic to others.


Facing any new experience requires some courage. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom stepping foot in a gym still requires a deep breath and a quick, silent, Let’s go. But turning that bravery into a disciplined routine is incredibly empowering.


When you feel physically fit, the world is your oyster. Aphrodisiac and all.



Stamina, strength, and flexibility


More than just riding a stationary bike or doing some biceps curls, functional fitness training opens up a hallway of doors in terms of agility, power, discipline, endurance, and so forth. Letting you explore more complicated sexual positions, locations, and activities without hurting or straining yourself.


Because sex is (or should be) a rigorous activity, training your body for the effort can improve the experience—for everyone involved. Building endurance and stamina, strength and flexibility; these qualities translate very well to the bedroom. Not just in terms of what your muscles and tendons can handle, but also in terms of consistency and dependability.


That’s what you gain from disciplining through agonizing exercises like lunges and wall-sits, leg-raises and push-ups.


Plus when you think about the fact that up to 0.6% of sudden deaths happen during sex (usually related to cardiovascular events), it seems like even more of a good idea to keep up with some age-appropriate physical fitness training.


Unless you want to go out that way...to each their own.



More sexy science stuff


Speaking for myself, I know how a strenuous workout leaves me feeling invigorated, flushed with life, and ready for adventure.


In addition to the psychological swelling of confidence, that feeling is due in part to testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that helps build muscle, spur intense activity, enable fight/flight aggression, and drive sexual urges—all of which helped humans thrive in any habitat and succeed over the dangers of the wild.


Exercise and muscle use can increase testosterone levels in people of any biological sex. The testes and ovaries each produce different levels of testosterone, and so do the adrenal glands. In people with balanced hormones, that periodic increase can translate to boosted libido. Combined with the self-assurance you gain from being physically fit, that boost can let you access more exciting intimacy, more powerful orgasms, and renewed vigor and satisfaction in the bedroom.


Not to mention, more openness to new experiences.



Less-sexy disclaimer


Of course, nothing I write here can be construed as a patient-therapist relationship nor diagnostic recommendations. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor about exercise and sexual activity.


That said, if you haven’t considered physical fitness training as one way to reinvigorate your sex life—well, what are you waiting for?





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Produced with Quillpower.

Sex Therapy at Home

Better communication for better intimacy

Exercises for mastering anxiety & facing fear

2567 Homeview Dr

Richmond, VA 23294

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© 2020 by Valerie McDonnell

Wordwork by Quillpower