There is two certainties in life, death and taxes. However, when you’re older, you can add stress to that list too. Stress (bad stress in particular) is something you encounter regularly at work, home or on the road. For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic.
Who does he think he is? Jerk.
Breathe and let it go because there’s nothing you can do about it. Stress, whether it’s good or bad is unavoidable and if you don’t find healthy ways to deal with it, it’s going to touch every aspect of your life.
However, you can find many unhealthy (think pigging out on ice cream) ways to deal with stress but these have a habit (in my experience) of coming back to haunt you. Anyhow, it was fun at the time, right?
In my younger days, when I was stressed out, it was easy to turn to the bottle to drown my sorrows because it was way easier than dealing with it. However, getting older and having more responsibilities meant finding other ways to cope with stress.
And that’s where exercise comes in. Movement is great at reducing and controlling stress and it has excellent health benefits also. At least that’s what I’ve heard. 😊
So, the next time life gets on top of you , use the tips below to turn away from the ice cream and towards the dumbbell because when the going gets tough, the tough get moving.
1. Aerobic exercise
There’s plenty of evidence from research that regular physical activity contributes to the reduction of cardiovascular disease and several other chronic conditions such as stress. (1)
Studies have found that people feel calmer after 20-30 minutes bout of aerobic exercise. All you do is strap on your shoes and go for a walk, run, jog, bike or row and the stress will melt away.
Here are some suggestions that will help clear your mind.
A. 10/10/10 minutes
Spend 10 min on the bike.
10 min on the treadmill (use the incline function for intensity) and keep the speed
around 3-3.5 mph.
10 min on the rowing machine.
Any cardio machine will do. Just choose three different modes and work at a
pace where you’re able to breathe without too much difficultly.
B. 3-minute Aerobic intervals (any mode you like)
Warm up for 4 min at an easy pace.
Perform a 3-min aerobic interval working at a pace where you’re slightly out of breath.
Follow this with active recovery for 3 min of low intensity. Repeat the above sequence 3 times and then cool down for 3 min. Try to add one interval every two weeks.
Don’t you feel better now?
2. Power up
When I worked in a corporate gym, I dealt with a lot of stressed out, over worked and under rested professionals who despite their lack of sleep coupled with poor nutrition habits, still wanted results.
Rather than add to their stress, I came up with a training that took muscular soreness out of the equation, so I wouldn’t add any further stress to their already hectic lives. Let me explain.
Lifting uses three types of muscle contractions: concentric, eccentric and isometric.
Isometric muscle contractions are when the muscles produce force but there is no change in the length of the contracting muscle. Examples are front planks, side planks, and wall squats.
Eccentric contractions involve the muscle lengthening while under tension due to an opposing force (gravity or added resistance) being greater than the force generated by the muscle.
Think lowering down from a chin up/bench press (slow eccentric) or the preparation for a plyometric movement like squat jumps (fast eccentric).
As fewer motor units (functional unit of muscle contraction) of the muscle contract during the eccentric phase, the muscle can generate 1.3 times more tension than the concentric phase.
However, the drawback with eccentric contractions is it leads to delayed onset muscle soreness (pain you feel 24-48 hours after tough training), muscle swelling and decreased range of motion. And if you’re already stressed, adding extra to your bucket is not a good thing.
Concentric contractions happen when force generated by the working muscles overcomes the resistance, and the muscle shortens. Think of pushing the bar away from your chest during a bench press or flexing your biceps at the top of a curl.
Now imagine exercising while minimizing your eccentric contractions and hey presto, you have the perfect training for when you’re stressed. Use the following training to vanquish stress because you can’t always punch holes in the wall.
- Most concentric dominant moves are not overly technical, but you must have mastered the basics of pushing, pulling, hinging and squatting.
- Choose moves with little or no eccentric movement, such as plate pushes, sled/ prowler pushes, step ups, medicine ball throws, kettle bell swings and resistance band exercises like chest presses and rows.
- Keep the repetitions in the 6-12 range. When doing for time, 20 – 30 seconds of maximum effort will do. Keep the rest periods between exercises and circuits to 60 – 90 seconds.
Here’s an example.
Complete this as a circuit for a total of 4 circuits.
3. Do something hard
This runs contrary to point 2, but it gives you a choice on how to better deal with stress through exercise.
Try counting repetitions against the clock and then turning it into a competition against yourself. Keep track of the reps you did and try to beat it next time around. This is a great way to measure your progress and feeling the burn will distract you from your troubles.
Set the stopwatch for 30 seconds and do a many reps as you can with good form. Choose from the following exercises.
Overhead triceps extension
However, don’t limit yourself to resistance training. Yoga, rock climbing and yard work are a few examples of things you can do to take your mind off your troubles.
Stress, you deal with in your own way but coping with it in a healthier way is better for your waistline and bottom line. Exercise is not only for looking good but for feeling better also.
You can have ice cream after you’re done.