Stress builds diamonds. It also creates ulcers and migraines. But if you take 10 minutes out of your day for this stress-busting workout, it can lead to a healthier, happier, Gumby-er (it’s an adjective, right?) you!
While preventive concepts are great in theory, in reality we can’t always control our exposure to stress, and so the practice of how to deal with and alleviate stress is the real key to healthy longevity.
Wouldn’t you know it—my answer to stress is similar to my life mantra: work it out!
Let’s talk about stress
Let’s talk about stress ba-by, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about stress. Salt-N-Pepa (with an assist from me) got it right. Not all stress is bad stress; however, chronic exposure to emotional stress has been proven to be detrimental to your physical health.
Because stress is a physical and mental phenomenon, we must address both of these facets when considering a workout plan. Otherwise, it’s like plugging a hole in the dam, only to have another hole open up somewhere else.
As a result, careful focus must be given to three separate but interwoven concepts:
1. working to muscular fatigue
2. bringing joints through a full range of motion
3. breath and quality of movement
Being mindful of these three de-stressing practices, here are six exercises that will help ease your body and mind. Perform one set for 15 repetitions of each exercise, one side at a time, if called for.
Exhale through entire motion on the way up; exhale through entire return.
Begin in a straight-arm push-up position, but with hands directly underneath your shoulders.
Step your left foot to the outside of your left hand.
Shift your weight forward into your left foot, slowly dragging the top of your right foot forward, with the intention of standing up on your left leg.
As you’re about three-quarters of the way toward straightening your left leg, exert a little more force, pick up your right foot, and drive your right knee up into the air in front of you, allowing your left heel to lift off the ground slightly.
As your heel returns, step your right foot back behind you and slide it back to starting position on the ball of your foot. As you do so, replace your hands to starting position, and then step your left leg back to push-up position.
Do this 15 times with your left leg, then do another 15 with the right.
Straight leg push-up walkout
Target: triceps, core, chest, shoulders
Exhale while walking your hands out; inhale while relaxed at bottom; exhale while pushing up and walking your hands back toward your toes and pulling your hips up; inhale at your peak hip height.
Begin at the bottom of a push-up, on your hands and toes, but allowing your quads and stomach to rest on the floor.
As you begin to exhale, peel your body off the floor by straightening your arms and pulling your hips up toward the ceiling at the same time.
While maintaining straight legs, walk your hands back toward your toes as far as you can.
Once you’ve reached your maximum, take a deep inhalation, and then begin to walk your hands away from your toes, allowing yourself to slowly come back down into starting position.
Bird dog under-crunch
Target: core, lower back, glutes
Inhale as you crunch under; exhale as you extend your arm and leg.
Begin on your hands and knees.
Bring your left knee off the ground and forward toward your chest, as far as possible; at the same time, pick up your right hand and reach underneath you, trying to wrap it around your foot and attempting to touch the outside of your left ankle.
Slowly release your knee and hand, and extend your left leg behind you and your right arm in front of you.
Without touching down, go right into your next repetition.
Inhale while face down; exhale while rolling from your front onto your back; inhale while on your back; exhale while rolling from your back to your front.
Begin face down on the ground with your arms extended out to the sides, palms down.
Bend your left leg at the knee and slowly lift your hip off the ground by rolling your hips to the right.
Before allowing your chest and arms to lift off the ground, place the bottom of your left foot on the floor beside your right hip.
Take your right arm and swing it up; point in the same direction as your head.
Allow your hips and shoulder to both roll to the right until you are on your back.
Take your left arm and reach it back across your body, rolling your shoulders back to the right, so that your upper body is once again face down.
Allow your hips to roll back to starting position and straighten your leg.
Bulgarian squat to single leg deadlift
Target: glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back
Inhale while lowering into the squat; exhale while standing; inhale while bending into the deadlift; exhale while coming out of the deadlift.
Begin on your left foot, with your right foot up on a bench or chair roughly a metre behind you. Your arms should be extended high overhead and your posture should be straight.
Slowly lower your right knee as far as you can, lean back slightly, and then rise back up to starting position.
Straightening your left leg completely, hinge forward to the hips and allow your right leg to come up off the bench behind you, until you touch the floor in front of you with your hands.
Slowly hinge back up to starting positon, bringing your right foot to a rest on the bench behind you once again.
Inhale while squatting toward the floor; exhale while standing and pulling.
Using either a high-resistance band or a cable machine, stand facing the origin of the band, with feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out at 45 degrees, grasping the handle with both hands so that your arms are relaxed but there is tension in the band.
As you squat your backside down as close to the floor as possible (being sure to maintain a tall upper body posture), take a deep inhale.
Once you have reached the bottom of your squat, begin to exhale as you stand back up, and pull the handle in just above your belly button, being sure not to allow your shoulders to shrug as you do so.
Slowly release your arms as you squat back down into your next repetition.
6 easy ways to de-stress right now
Don’t worry, be happy
Studies show that the more you smile, the happier you are (even if you’re faking it!).
Paint your house happy
In a study published in 2014, it was found that a tropical ocean light blue was the most relaxing colour, while charcoal black was the most distressing.
Music is the soundtrack of our lives
A 2013 study suggests that listening to music helps reduce stress. Interestingly enough though, it is most effective as a primer (listening to it before a stressful event), allowing the listener to recover faster after exposure to stress.
Being out in nature is good for the mind, body, and soul!
Even if you enjoy your job, work can be stressful. Work less, play more.
Step away from the phone
They may be “smart” phones, but they add a dumb amount of stress to your life. Just say no.
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, specializes in functional movement and athletic training in Vancouver, where he strives to bring healthy lifestyle choices to every household.