The F train just got stuck, again. Traffic on the 405 is at a stand still. You have to switch terminals during a layover in ATL. You just lost 4G/LTE and the video is blurry over 3G. You testified in court on Thursday. Our first world problems can be really stressful, amiright?
Show of hands: Who uses physical activity as a way of relaxing from the stresses of daily life?
What happens when those incredible stress-relieving workouts become stressful themselves?
Today, we’re going to talk about exercise as a form of stress management, and we’ll focus on some action steps to bring some balance to the Force and ensure that we’re able to get through our more stressful times.
Most of the time, we don’t think of it as stressful. It’s renewing, it’s rewarding, and we feel absolutely great when we’re done working out.
Push it a bit harder though, and physical activity can really take its toll on your body, as evident by the dancers, athletes, and weekend warriors among us who are regularly grabbing the Aleve, ice pack, or getting weekly massages because “everything hurts.”
However, not every workout has to involve running yourself into the ground, or lifting so much that you’re walking funny for a week. Those workouts tend to be the ones that leave you feeling physically worse when you’re done.
Intensity is a spectrum, and there’s definitely a time for getting after it as hard as you can. For now, let’s talk about working out in moderation, with the intensity that leaves your body feeling physically better than where you started.
EXERCISE FOR RECOVERY
One of our key lessons at MFF is to “run your own race,” which means that everyone should train at the intensity that feels most appropriate to them. Over the course of multiple workouts, that means that we’re often training at differing intensities. It’s easier to treat every workout as a chance to go hard, but slowing down is just as important. Here are three of my favorite recovery strategies:
1. DO YOUR WARM-UP, THEN STOP.
Seriously, that’s it. Practicing a warm-up like those we use at the Clubhouse or a sequence of yoga moves that help your body feel more loose and relaxed. It can be 5-20 minutes of gentle movement that’s focused on letting your body soften rather than harden.
If you wake up in the morning and you need a pick-me-up other than covfefe, or you get off a five-hour flight and want to move a bit more than that middle seat allowed, a movement sequence could be just what you need.
Here’s an example of the moves that I’ve been using to warm up when I’m outside, going mountain biking or rock climbing, or just feeling stiff…
2. TAKE IT EASY. LIKE, REALLY EASY.
If you’re used to going #BeastMode every time you break a sweat, you may need to learn about workouts that don’t evenfeel like a workout. Taking it this easy in a training session or a class might not be what you’re interested in, so my summertime preference for easy exercise is to get outside, explore new places, and do it with friends.
This is working at a low to moderate intensity, and you should be able to carry on a conversation the entire time, although that may prove more difficult if you’re swimming.
Walking, swimming, or a calm bike ride around town are all great low-impact ways to do aerobic exercise that should leave you feeling invigorated at the end of 20-40 minutes of energizing work. That’s specificallynot an hour-long spin class, sprint repeats, or a Strava PR.
I’ve made this mistake before. You leave the house with the intention of keeping things nice and slow, and five minutes in you decide to drop the hammer. Don’t do it.
If you’re tracking your heart rate, sit at 60%. It’s slower and easier than most of us want to move, but it will do wonders for making yournext workout feel a helluva lot better.
3. FOLLOW YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED WORKOUT, BUT AT A LOWER INTENSITY.
There’s a difference between sandbagging a workout and planning to focus on moderation. The difference there isintention.
At MFF, I frequently see Ninjas making these three decisions to train successfully while honoring a lower intensity:
A. CHOOSING SLOWER EXERCISES OVER FASTER EXERCISES
Deadlifts over swings, baby crawls over bear crawls, reverse burpees over burpees. The slower exercises still offer a great workout, and one that you’ll be more likely to keep at a consistently moderate pace.
B. DO LESS
This may mean that in classes, you use kettlebells that are slightly lighter weight than normal. It may mean that in a semi-private, you use the same weight, but you cut back on the number of sets or reps. Cutting down the overall training volume can again make recovery easier.
One of my favorite strategies is to cut back on the number of sets, but to use my normal weights for the normal number of reps. I’ll invest that extra time in more foam rolling or mobility work, and always feel better at the end.
C. TRACK YOUR HEART RATE
Hovering around 70% is always a challenge at first, because most of the time we blow past that number really quickly when taking class.
Using a heart rate monitor can really hold you accountable to keeping things slow and steady, especially if you’re like me and tend to get carried away with wanting to do as much as possible.
During intense training, using a heart rate monitor can be useful for making sure you’re working as hard as you planned on. When you’re focused on recovery, use that heart rate monitor to stay within the range that’s appropriate for you.
HOW WE PUT IT TOGETHER
Figuring out an appropriate balance of intense versus moderate exercise can be a difficult endeavour, and at MFF we often see Ninjas signing up for a variety of classes or semi-privates over the course of the week.
Try balancing out heavy lifting one day by taking a bodyweight or kettlebell class like Kick-Ass Conditioning the next day. If you’re taking classes on consecutive days, alternating between class offerings can provide variety to differentiate workouts.
WE’LL HELP YOU FIND BALANCE
As the director of our Program Design team, I often chat with Ninjas who are balancing out workouts at MFF with their dance rehearsals, competitive running or cycling, and yoga classes. We work together to strike a balance between challenging workouts that may prove stressful and rejuvenating workouts where we focus on bringing energy back to ourselves.
Finding balance is about embracing moderation across multiple workouts. Some days you go hard. Other days you take it easy. How you go easy is your choice. It’s about bringing balance to the Force, getting better in the long-term, and living our best lives!