I’m a big fan of stress… In the right amounts. And I’m not talking about road rage and work deadline stress, although those can be tell us a lot about ourselves. I’m talking about properly dosed micro-stressors with the intention of building strength and resiliency. Exercise is the easiest example here, we stress the muscles, damage them in the process, and they repair themselves stronger. Awesome. But what else can we / should we be doing to provide appropriate stress to our systems? Here’s a quick list of some things I regularly do and how I am modifying during these more stressful times.
I generally follow a “timed eating” or intermittent fasting routine. Essentially I skip breakfast and eat two balanced meals a day – lunch and dinner. Once a month a spend a week eating a very clean and calorie restricted diet. By doing both, I modify my relationship with food and hunger, promote a healthy weight and caloric intake, simplify my menu plan and food prep and boost energy and immunity. It really works for me. UNLESS I’m super stressed by other things. Currently I am foregoing the week of “fasting mimicking” and have actually added a light breakfast of chia pudding and some roasted nuts. Fortifying the system a bit while other aspects feel more run down. The longer this lasts, the more likely I am to go back to the other habits but it felt right to make a few small changes at the beginning.
Hot / Cold
Hot and cold therapy are great for muscle recovery, immunity, blood pressure, metabolism and carry many other health benefits. While I so wish we could have installed those saunas at the studio, we do have some of the coldest shower water in town. I generally end my shower with a blast of “take your breath away” cold and work on regulating breathing. Usually within 10 deep breaths I can restore some comfort and rhythm to those breaths and hop out of the shower. Currently, I go cold for 3-5 breaths and not as cold as usual. Again, just modifying stress a little.
My general routine is 6-7 days per week and roughly 60 minutes per day. Every week I try to do 2 long runs (about an hour each) and a few things that really tax my system, i.e. hard cardio like sprinting or airdyne max efforts. Currently my workouts are almost all 30-minutes of circuit training including some moderate cardio work and strength training. I spend an additional 15-minutes on mobility and myofascial release work and then meditate for 5 minutes. My runs have been replaced with long walks with the kids on the weekend, so I still get the outside time but at a more moderate pace. I always try to break a sweat in my workouts but keep them to an effort that allows me to recover easily and quickly – feeling more invigorated than worn down.
Breathing / Hypoxia
I finish most of my workouts with a simple 5-minute meditation. I use a very easy technique with a song that is roughly 5 minutes and sets the cue it’s time to chill out. I always use the same song. In order to keep my mind simple I perform Box Breathing during the meditation. A simple pattern of breath in for 4 counts / hold for 4 counts / breath out for 4 counts / hold for 4 counts. That rhythm I can do forever, and while my mind wanders sometimes from the breathing count, it’s easy to get back there. Currently I am doing a little different method where I start at a 2-count and increase the number each cycle until I can’t hold the exhale for the full count. For me this happens around 6 or 7 breaths and then I start back at 2 to regain control / recover. There is a ton of research about the benefits of breathwork and it’s another easy place to add a little healthy stress to the system with controlled breath holds.
Most of us have added a lot of new stressors to the system lately. Whether that’s inactivity, worry, weird eating habits or lack of quality sleep – now is probably not the right time to add a lot of external stress to the system willingly. Instead, look at those areas, like exercise, that are the key areas of dosed stress in normal times and try to adapt them so they add the benefit without depleting too much of your available energy. We all have a stress threshold, in good times and bad, and it’s important to stay below that – now more than ever.
Resources to help you manage stress
Release to keep your tension at bay
A quick guide to relieve stress held in your body.
4 easy to access 1 page PDFs to help with mobility, stretching and foam rolling can be found on our exercise guide page.
If you’re on the Hyatt Training app, you’ll find several programs for stretching, rolling on the program tab.
All it takes is five minutes, and it can make a world of difference.
Tips to make the most of your meals
Get in, get out, and get the good stuff for you and your family.
Author Jeremy Hyatt is a personal trainer and co-owner of Hyatt Training. He believes it’s important to start with the basics and move from there. Too often, people get into complicated movements and goals before they have the proper fundamentals, which can lead to negative results.
Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon.