Regardless if you’re a touring musician, mother of 4 or someone else spending a lot of time trying to manage stress with a hectic schedule, this week’s tip is one way to ensure your workouts don’t contribute to that pile of stress. See, the way your body deals with stress is regardless of it’s emotional or psychological, relationship worries, physical stress (like poor eating habits), financial or job security stress – your body throws it all on to the same pile. More often than not, I begin working with a new client and after conducting a stress test questionnaire I learn that this person is stress to the max. My next steps as a coach can either help to build that person up or break that person down, so it’s pivotal to know how stress affects my exercise and nutrition programming.
The funny thing with the media is that they have portrayed this general idea that running, working out and the like will battle stress and leave you feeling excellent, when in reality, exercise in relation to mood has barely been studied as according to Boecker et al and could cause merely temporary relief of the sensation of pain, while the destructive forces could in fact be more damaging overall and contribute to more – not alleviate, stress in certain individuals.
Knowing what I know about exercise and intensity and supported by Paul Chek, I utilize a technique to help remedy the feeling of wanting to do regular weight lifting and seeing continued progress in the gym while not risking a burn out due to stress. Here’s a few simple ground rules to help explain why this method works.
When you’re experiencing fatigue, exercise volume, not intensity, should be cut. That means cut sets and make the program shorter rather than lifting less weight. As according to Chek, it is the exercise intensity that maintains muscle development and strength, so we need to keep that up if we don’t want to lose what we have gained so far.
That said, I utilize what is called “neurotonic” training, a style of weightlifting that tricks the body into doing more work than it actually is. I have seen this method work in both my own programming and the programming I have done for high profile, highly stressed clients. Here’s how it works, and I encourage you to adopt this method for yourself when workload is crazy, schedules are tight and you have that itch for the gym. You’ll leave the session feeling vitalized and fresh, not burn out and ready for bed.
Let’s use the deadlift for example. Take a weight that you can lift comfortably for 8 repetitions (we are looking for maximal strength training here, right? – intensity…) but stop at 4 reps instead. You can adjust how many set you do at this weight based around how much energy you’re feeling that day, but by simply introducing this method, you’ll hack the volume of that workout in half (not to mention the time spent in the gym)!
Another point worth noting is that when you’re feeling the stress and still want to go to the gym, try introducing simpler movements. Complexity of exercise in short makes your brain work harder. What we are trying to do is stimulate the muscles without frying your nervous system. So lay off the Olympic Lifts or walking lunges with medicine ball twists for a bit. Performing these exercises will generally make you feel more drained when you’re system is already on the fritz. Even performing less exercises during a session is a surefire way to reduce the amount of neurological demand on your system and fast tracker you to recharging your workouts!
I hope these quick tips help you perform your best! Please feel free to add any tips you have come across in the comments and share this with anyone you think may need a bit of a different approach when it come to their health. Remember you don’t have to be a rock star to start, but you have to start in order to become a rock star.