So you’ve been working out consistently for a while now, and you’re feeling good. You know, maybe even taking a few more seconds than normal when walking past a mirror.
Then all of a sudden a plethora of crap happens causing you to be more stressed than me hearing that Scotty McCreery, otherwise known as the head tilt man, won American Idol.
All of a sudden going to the gym becomes the last thing you want to do. You’re already tired and drained, and you really don’t feel like adding another stressor (exercise) to your life. Next thing you know three weeks have gone by and you’re basically starting all over.
Doing this once every now and then? Not that big of a deal. Once every month? Big deal. Typically this results in a very frustrated person because they’ve been going to the gym for a year and look the same, if not worse, than a year prior.
A recent training session with a client exemplified a much better way to approach exercise and stress: Tracy walked in the other night and after asking her how she was doing she basically growled, “grrr” at me and said, “I need to let out some aggression.”
Rather than not come to the gym at all, Tracy realized she could use her workout as a means of releasing some of her stress. It was an also an opportunity to take her mind off of her personal issues.
There is a lot of scientific evidence advocating this approach. For example, take a group of rats and stress the hell out of them, some will get ulcers, some won’t. What differentiates those who do and those who don’t? Some of the commonalities in those who don’t include 1) Exercising, 2) A sense of control, 3) Social support.
Using Tracy as an example again: 1) During her training session she was obviously exercising. 2) A lot of things in her life were out of control at that moment, but showing up for her session and working out was something she did have control over, and 3) Tracy and I talk and joke around and I’m obviously there to help her = social support.
As well, I’m sure many of you can relate to enjoying going to the gym, not just for the exercise itself, but also for the people you know there who you probably don’t see otherwise.
Now this doesn’t mean you need to be that person going to failure on the elliptical, aka going balls to the wall. Exercise is a stress to the body and taking it too far can definitely make things worse. However, no matter how stressed you are, there really isn’t an excuse to do NOTHING when things get crazy.
Say you’ve been working out 3 days per week, at the very least keep yourself in the habit of driving to the gym and being there for about the same amount of time you had been going. Maybe you don’t feel up to really pushing yourself through a strength workout, or having that exhausted feeling after a circuit, but you can definitely perform some mobility drills to keep your joints and muscles feeling healthy. You could also perform your workout at half the intensity you usually do, etc. You get the idea.
Again, look at it as an escape from what’s going on as opposed to something to check off your to-do list.
This helps you out tremendously in getting you back to your regular workouts once things calm down a bit in your personal life. You won’t be as stiff as a guitar and you won’t have to get in the habit of going to the gym again. Not to mention it will help manage your stress by reducing the negative health effects stress can have.
For more on exercise and stress, and stress in general, check out the fantastic book: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers