Life can see you juggling a seemingly unfair number of responsibilities and throwing a workout at your body when you’re super strung-out is like feeding a toddler googly eyes and seeing if they’ll make a poop emoji. It’s a wild card, and you’re not alone because workplace absenteeism, due to stress, costs billions each year. Fortunately, there are stress-busting tricks you can add to your workouts, but they need to be strategic.
First of all, being a little wound-up means working out is a healing elixir because stress prevention and treatment call for the same remedy: exercise. A survey by the Mental Health Foundation found 1 in 5 doctors prescribe sweating to treat stress. Stress makes you produce too much cortisol and adrenaline. You need these in small quantities, but extended doses are the same as redlining your Ford’s engine until it erupts into flames because exercise also makes you produce the same hormones.
The important thing is to view stress as a whole because elements such as sleep, quality nutrition and recovery fill up your proverbial wellbeing bucket while exercise, stress and emotional turmoil empty it out. You want to strike a balance between these inputs and outputs and this means when your alert levels are set to Defcon 1, you should avoid shooting for a new personal best. This easy-does-it approach will leave plenty in the tank and works because low-intensity weightlifting elevates mood far better than medium-to-high intensity lifting, found research at the University of Wisconsin.
That’s not the only tonic, because training outdoors should be a huge part of your chill-out armory since a mere 5-minute canter in the open air drastically improves your mood and self-esteem, found researchers at the University of Essex. Even if you love nothing more than to sweat until you’re too exhausted to think, when you’re super stressed your workouts should be light and relaxing, not tackled with CrossFit-like intensity.
Ever hear of super fit men in their 50s dropping dead on the squash court? That’s cumulative stress in action and it’s far smarter to deliberately taper off the intensity and stop thinking when you’re over-thinking. A paper at Penn State University suggests gentle exercise should not be a time to focus on your to-do list and you should rather concentrate on being mindful with your breathing and surroundings to fight off stress. The fewer thoughts you can have, the better because afterwards the solutions to your problems are likely to gently reveal themselves to you. Let your stress simmer down, then attack your workouts like a rabid bull, but taper them down during tense times and you’ll be left feeling calmer than a Hindu cow.
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This content was originally published in TRAIN issue 79 – you can access this issue on Newstand here.