My latest article for BreakingMuscle.com is up and it's loaded with great info! This one's all about minimalist workouts for the middle aged trainee. Don't let the title fool you, these workouts are excellent for anyone! High quality workouts that deliver functional results and need little to no equipment. Check it out here and let me know what you think!
We've all experienced some degree of mental stress in our lives at one point or another. It could stem from your job, relationship, financial standing, or just about any other number of factors. Everyone deals with stress in their own unique way, but one thing remains consistent ... stress sucks!
I'm not talking about the good kind of stress, like the kind experienced during a friendly game of sports or the kind that helps you get motivated to write a blog piece (wink*). As humans, we're meant to run on a certain amount of stress. We've evolved to handle moderate amounts of stress here and there as well as some bouts of high levels of stress.
For example, imagine you're living in the wild. You're hungry, that's a low level stress that motivates you to go get food. It's raining, that's a medium level of stress that makes you search for shelter. You're being chased by a bear, that's a really high level of stress that makes you run for your life!
The problem lies in constant, mid level to high level stress in your life. I'm talking about the kind of stress that weighs on your shoulders, disrupts your sleep, and can make every day life a struggle. Our bodies don't respond any differently to stress than they did thousands of years ago. The only difference is there's no bear but a lot more to worry about. We have mortgage payments, taxes, family obligations, bills, and more can take their toll. There might not be a bear, but your body reacts in a similar way when you need to take the kids to soccer and your boss is shitting on you about the file he needs by tomorrow morning! Being in a constant state of mental stress is taxing on the adrenal glands and can lead to an endless amount of disrupting physical side effects.
Your workout/training, like it or not, is actually a physical stress on your body. We expose our bodies to new stresses that are just within the limit of it's capabilities in order to force it to adapt, grow, and change. There's a reason gaining strength and improving your conditioning feels uncomfortable, it's a stress! When you're at a relatively low level, or manageable level of stress, high intensity training can be great for your over all fitness and wellness. However, when you're experiencing a higher level of mental stress, high intensity training can actually be detrimental to your well being.
Burning The Candle At Both Ends
Training at a high intensity while living with a high level of mental stress is just like burning the candle at both ends! Adding stress upon stress is only going to lead to you burning out. For some trainees, this can be a really difficult concept to handle. The feeling of setting a new record time for a workout, lifting a heavier weight, and finishing covered in sweat can be a little intoxicating. Many people use their high intensity training as a way of letting off steam, thinking this will actually help their stress. While it can feel good at the time, and some times it's what you need, it more often than not just leads to more problems. Rapid heart rate, over training, adrenal fatigue, injuries, inflammation, and disrupted sleep are just some of the side effects of combined physical and mental stress. If you're feeling stressed out you can still train, you just have to train smarter and not harder. You also need to work on managing your stress and dealing with it in a calming manner.
Tips For Dealing With Stress
- Meditation is great for dealing with stress. There are many forms of meditation available at your finger tips or in your city. Take a class or looking up a YouTube video that details a method that works for you
- See things for how they are, not worse than they are. When you're stressed it's easy to think about all the "what if's". Take a moment and think about your situation for what it truly is and not what it could become.
- Get a massage or spend time doing self massage/foam rolling. Massage or self massage can be quite relaxing, it's also a great way to work the physical manifestations of stress out of your tight muscles!
- Clean your space! If things in your life feel disordered, it's only going to be worse coming home to a messy house. Cleaning up the physical clutter and mess in your life can help ease some of your mental stress. It's one last thing to worry about!
- Make a "To Do" list. Writing down what you need to accomplish in order of importance. This will help make each task feel real, rather than just a worry floating around in your head. Making a list helps you clarify what needs to be done, most of the time it's less than you would imagine. Work through the list and physically cross each off as you accomplish them.
- Eat clean foods. Lots of people seek comfort foods and eat like shit when they're stressed. Poor food choices lead to health problems, weight gain, inflammation and will actually make you feel even worse than you currently do. Poor food choices are an added stress on your body. By feeding your body clean foods, you'll be reducing stress, maintaining lean muscle, and making your life a whole lot easier.
- Dab on some lavender oil before bed. Lavender oil has a soothing and calming effect that can help you get to sleep faster and in a more relaxed state. Just use a few drops and rub the lavender oil on the temples, just under the nose, sides of your neck, and top of your chest.
Training Smarter Not Harder
- Avoid very heavy or explosive training. Don't push your for maximum lifts or new records.
- Keep the HIIT training on the back burner for the moment.
- Train around 3 times per week with rest days in between.
- Yoga is always a great idea for stressed out individuals. Yoga not only trains the body, but also the mind. Think of it as moving meditation. There are many forms of yoga, some more athletic and demanding than others. My suggestion is a Yin or basic Hatha class. You'll get a nice training session without pushing yourself too hard, at the same time you'll relax and reduce mental stress.
- Joint mobility routines are another fantastic option for everyone, all the time, not only if you're stressed. Take your time going through the routine, focus on the breathing, use high reps and relax as your go through each movement.
- Stretching can be quite relaxing. Putting together a total body stretching routine can really help you work on tense areas of your body, and it's a good idea in general. Hold each stretch for anywhere between 30sec - 1min. Relax and breath into each stretch.
You Can Still Have Some Intensity
Training with a moderate level of intensity is still ok, what I'm saying is just don't go full out. When I'm stressed, I enjoy linking 3-5 basic body weight exercise together in a circuit. I use a manageable amount of reps for each exercise, not pushing my max, and work through them back to back. I rest 1 min between circuits, then repeat for a total of 2-3 circuits. The workout begins with a nice, relaxing warm up and joint mobility routine. The workout finishes with some foam rolling and stretching. Simple, easy, and enjoyable! Here's what it might look like ...
Exercises will be done back to back without rest. Perform all the reps for each exercise before moving onto the next one. Once they're all done, rest for 1 min and repeat again for a total of 3 rounds.
- Chin Ups 8 reps
- Hindu Push Ups 8 reps
- Airborne Lunge 8 reps per side
- Locust Lifts 8 reps
- Bicycle Twists 8 reps
There are more important things than pushing yourself to the limit all the time. Listen to your body, it's ok for you to ease off the peddle if you're feeling over worked and stressed out. Your training should be making you better, not making you worse. Take the steps to try and deal with your stress, don't put too much pressure on yourself, and train in a manner that suits your current life style.
There are numerous tools and pieces of equipment for fun and effective of conditioning. Kettlebells, battle ropes, rowers, and prowler sleds are now staples in most quality gyms. However not everyone has access to them all the time. Not everyone has a gym member ship, some people hate the gym, and not everyone can afford a membership. Also, these pieces of equipment aren't exactly portable and most of them come with a big price tag. This makes them a less than ideal option for a home gym or for the trainee on the go. So what's a person to do when they want to get in a quality conditioning workout, but don't have the access to equipment?
Don't worry! You actually don't need much money or access to fancy equipment to fit in a great conditioning workout. As most of you know, I like to train with very little to no equipment. In fact, what I train my clients with, day in and day out, fits right into a small book bag. One of my go-to pieces of conditioning equipment is the jump rope! In this blog I'll be sharing with you some of my favourite methods for using the jump rope!
Getting yourself a decent jump rope is a great idea. It's a classic, effective, and portable conditioning tool that can be used by itself or in combination with other exercises and pieces of equipment. You can pick up a decent jump rope for anywhere from $7-$20. You don't need anything fancy, a simple leather or plastic jump rope will do just fine.
Jumping rope burns a ton of calories in a short amount of time, uses both upper and lower body, and when done bare foot it helps condition/prepare the feet, knees, and ankles for the stresses of running. Specifically, jumping rope helps condition the body for running in minimalist footwear and re-enforces forefoot running rather than heel striking.
When you stand with one foot in the middle of the jump rope, both of the handles should just reach your arm pits. If the rope is too long, simply tie some knots in the rope near the handles until the length is correct. When jumping rope try to jump and land softly using the balls of the feet, rotate the rope using small tight circles from the wrists/forearms, and keep your posture upright. It's actually more difficult than it sounds at first, but in time and with practice it will become something you can do with ease. The end of my YouTube video here has a good example of what jumping rope should look like. Don't get discouraged! You can jump rope for time or for a certain number of skips. I like to switch it up to keep things fresh. Here are three simple workouts you can try! Have fun with them, play with them to find out what works best for you, and in time you'll be a jump rope master!
Tabata Jump Ropes:
- Jump rope as fast as possible for 20 seconds
- Rest for 10 seconds
- That's one round
- Repeat for a total of 8 rounds
- Use rounds of either 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5mins depending on your fitness level
- Jump rope for your set amount of time
- Once the time is up, rest for 1 min
- Repeat this for 3-5 more times
Jump Rope For Reps:
- Hit a timer and jump rope as fast as you can until you hit 100 skips
- Look at your timer and see how long it took to complete the 100 skips
- Rest for half the amount of time it took to complete the 100 skips
- Repeat this again for a total of 10 rounds
Not everyone wants to be a gymnasts, circus performer, or contemporary dancer. What do you do if you're not looking to perfect your handstand, master the front lever, or spend your time doing lizard crawls?
Simple! Focus on the basics.
While gymnastics strength work, crawling, and stunts of strength are all fun and do build strength ... they're far from essential. The more complex a movement is, the less carry over it has to everyday life. Take your time focusing on training different types of squats, lunges, push ups, pulls, extending, bracing, and rotation work. Those are the movements you do every single day, train for your life.
TimothyBellFitness.com was evaluated and won the #9 spot in BreakingMuscle.com's "Top Fitness Blogs Of 2015"! This is HUGE! I just wanted to give a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me to making it into BreakingMuscle.com's top 20 fitness blogs. Without you it wouldn't have been possible. Because you voted me into the top 20, it gave the judges a chance to go though my content and choose my little blog as a top 10 must read fitness blog. Thanks again!
If you're having trouble keeping yourself balanced during your freestanding handstands, then you need to read my latest article on BreakingMuscle.com. It's all about 4 simple techniques that will help you maintain your balance and become a handstand master! Take a look at it here.