American philosopher William James once wrote, "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."
As if it were that easy, right?
Stress is mental or emotional tension resulting from a demanding circumstance. There is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). As humans, we tend to focus more on the bad rather than the good.
So where am I going with all of this talk about stress? We all know that stress exists, but what does that have to do with exercise and fitness?
Exercising has long been known to alleviate stress and stress-like symptoms in most people. Unfortunately, most people aren't regular exercisers. For those who are, however, exercise just doesn't seem to have the same stress-reducing effect.
Same Stimulus = Same Result
Just as lifting the same weight and doing the same few exercises can inhibit your ability to progress physically, it may also limit the ability to compress stress.
Lets say I have a client, who we'll call Tim, that is a lifelong bodybuilder. His normal workout routine is 6-8 exercises, 4-5 sets each, and 12-15 reps each set. If Tim walks into the gym stressed, does his normal workout, and leaves then nothing is different from his routine. There is no new stimulus.
Now lets say I give Tim more of a powerlifting workout where he is lifting heavier weight, doing less reps, and fewer movements. This is something different that Tim isn't used to. Tim's body is going to have to adapt to the change in training style and the new demanding circumstance that I am placing on him. This adaptation, to accommodate this new demand or stimulus, is going to create eustress--or the good type of stress that I mentioned earlier. This eustress will not only reduce the negative stress effects (distress) that Tim was feeling prior to working out, but it may also allow him to experience the stress-reducing effects of exercise that he likely hasn't felt in quite some time.
I wish that there was more research in the literature to support the aforementioned theory but there just isn't yet. The results of this are purely anecdotal and based from my own personal lifting with stress experience, and my experimentation with stressed out clients.
Next time you're in the gym and are feeling stressed, switch it up a bit. Do something that you normally wouldn't and see how it feels!
Thanks for reading this week's blog post! I hope I am able to reduce a little stress by writing this. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the newsletter by clicking here. There will be a special discount coming in the next month or so to newsletter subscribers only!
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