It’s no secret that the infallible equation to weight loss and physical health is a good workout plus habitual clean eating. But what gives when you’ve committed to your sweat sessions, swapped processed junk for whole foods, nailed your form day in and day out and that last inch still won’t budge? Well, your stress could be sabotaging your hard work.
It has been well documented that stress causes us to develop belly fat and even clog our arteries, but now thanks to researchers from the University of Texas, Austin and Yale University, we know that how you manage that stress directly affects your physical recovery after a workout. According to the study, when participants ineffectively managed their mental stress, their bodies were more fatigued, sore and strained, making it more difficult for them to perform at their maximum capacity in subsequent workouts. What does this mean for you, Tribe? Your physical results are directly impacted by your brain power.
Listen, we get it. Stress is inevitable — ignoring that fact won’t help you get the most from your workouts, but addressing it and having some techniques in place to deal with it will.
Set the intention to have your best class, every class. Starting off your class intentionally not only determines your mood, but it will make you feel more in control. When you’re not sure what the trainer will throw at you next, it can feel stressful — but a little bit of intention can go a long way. It also provides an opportunity to take whatever you do in class and translate it to your daily life. Did you surprise yourself? Did you stay present? Did you have a good attitude? You can do it again outside of class. Use your hour at Bari as an experiment in a healthier, less stressed attitude.
Make your cool down count. This is the most important part of your workout because it is the moment your recovery begins. Allowing yourself to stretch your muscles, to pay attention to the sore spots and to send oxygen to your whole body gets the recovery process off to a solid start. Use the cool down efficiently to not just slow down your body and heart rate, but to slow down your mind as well. When our minds are racing, we tend to react to stress instead of thoughtfully responding. Your cool down reminds you to move slower, think slower, feel slower.
Meditate twice a day. These days, everyone’s meditating. And for good reason. Meditation has been proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. But you don’t need research to know that because anyone who has sat still for 10 minutes knows how much slowing down can help improve your mood. Slowing down, detaching from outside triggers and staying present are all part of meditation and part of the healing process. Allowing your muscles to recover begins with your mind.
Disconnect in the bedroom. Shutting off all electronics before you go to bed is a great idea, but have you considered making your bedroom a disconnect zone? Turning off the glow of the screen allows you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep more soundly. Getting the right amount of Zzz’s means your body has ample time to recover, your brain has enough time to process all the new information you learned that day (Ninja Twist, anyone?) and your hormone levels remain balanced.
Connect with your breath. Sometimes, all we need are a few long, deep breaths to settle down our stress levels. Practicing deep breathing simply means filling our lungs with as much air as possible and exhaling out every last drop. When you practice breathing deeply in daily life, it’s easy to bring that conscious breathing to your workouts. Connecting your breath and your movements ensures that you’re not holding your breath in, which tenses your body and makes it more difficult for you to move dynamically. Get more out of your workout and recovery by getting a better oxygen fix.
photo via craig hanson photography
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