Stress Relief Outside The Gym

Sure, exercise helps relieve stress. Anyone who's a regular at the gym can tell you that. But stress can also take something away from your workout, making it that much more difficult to achieve size and strength goals. Consider a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that showed college students who reported experiencing the least amount of stress realized significantly greater 1 rep max gains (the maximum you can lift for one repetition) over a 12-week training period as compared to their stressed-out contemporaries. To make the most of your training program, it's best to beat down stress before heading into action. Here are a few tips for achieving this very beneficial side-goal inside and outside the gym.

While eating ice cream and cake topped with a thick, sugary frosting so rich it hurts your teeth might bring a certain guilty pleasure, what ends up happening to your waistline will bring you back down to Earth in a hurry. Fortunately, you can find plenty of stress relief in very healthy food choices. Similar to what happens during exercise, stress releases free radicals unstable particles with an unpaired electron that can cause chain-reaction damage on a cellular level in the process of seeking out an electron for stability. Because the effects of ongoing stress last much longer than the relatively brief process of muscle recovery, the potential for damage is much greater with stress than training. The good news is that free radicals have a potent natural enemy.

B and C vitamins can serve as an effective countermeasure to the free radicals released during stress or physical training. They are free radical scavengers that can put an abrupt end to the chain reaction electron swapping. Blueberries are an incredibly potent source. So are cantaloupe (vitamin C) and cottage cheese (vitamin B2 and B12). Neither of these foods will dent your diet too much, and a cup of low-fat cottage cheese contributes an impressive 28 grams of protein to your target of a gram of protein per pound of body weight per day (the general recommendation for adults actively engaged in building muscle and burning fat).

Want your stress relief with a side order of protein and slow-burning carbohydrates for sustained energy? Try a fortified breakfast cereal sloshed liberally with skim milk. There's typically going to be plenty of stress-fighting vitamin B in the mix, plus some bone-building vitamin D with the calcium in your milk. It's a great way to start each day on top of the world especially on those days when your next stop is the gym.

Pick a time when you aren't likely to be tired and can spend 15 minutes or so focusing on a relaxation response. This technique is the polar opposite of the 'fight or flight' stress response that you're trying to combat. People have used variants of this physical calming for thousands of years, and anyone can learn to practice it effectively in a couple of daily sessions.

Start with deep breathing from your abdomen. These aren't like the quick short breaths you take from your chest while jogging or doing another form of cardio. Sit or lay down in a straight-backed but comfortable position. Put one hand on your belly and breathe in through your nose, exhaling through your mouth. That hand should rise and fall with each long, deep breath.

The next step is progressive muscle relaxation. Get really comfortable before starting the progression, which shouldn't be an issue after the deep breathing exercise you've already completed. First, contract the muscles in your right foot, flexing as tightly as you can for a full 10 seconds. Then relax completely, and move to the left foot, contracting these muscles for a count of 10. Move up your body, right to left, doing the calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, back, and so on until you finish with your facial muscles. When you relax them, enjoy the feeling of total relaxation for as long as you like. Just don't fall asleep.

Both of these techniques are best performed earlier in the day, when you aren't tired to begin with. In addition to being done in a comfortable situation, the environment should be relatively quiet and not too bright. Try practicing these relaxation exercises at the same time every day for maximum effect. Want more ideas on stress relief? Visit the fitness blog of higher learning at With the help of these enthusiasts, you'll be getting more out of your workouts along with your workday.
Leave a Comment