Does Your Current Exercise Practice Increase Or Decrease Your Stress?
By Sheldon Ginsberg
At this point, we all know the purpose of exercise is to improve our physical health through activities that strengthens our bodies. As time has passed, our ability to exercise with greater efficiency has been enhanced as our understanding of how and why exercise produces health in our bodies has expanded. This enhancement has produced our current exercise procedures that are designed to help maximize our efforts and therefore hasten our results.
As a fitness professional with over ten years in the health field, I believe the science of exercise has created another worrisome (and unnecessary) checklist to add to our already overly burdened lives.
Now, the average health enthusiast spends a great deal of their energy and time concerned with: counting calories, whether this exercise is the best exercise, what is the right number of reps and sets, and how can I get the maximum exercise benefits in the least amount of time.
Of course, let's not forget that a great many of us are motivated to not only exercise for health reasons but also because of the fear of being overweight, the fear of not fitting in and the fear of not looking good.
Additionally, exercise itself is a physical stress. The traditional no pain, no gain philosophy is based upon pushing ourselves past our physical comfort zones in order to decrease body fat while increasing lean muscle mass. The very nature of this philosophy produces more physical discomfort than it does physical pleasure.
A simple health rule is that painful experiences cause our bodies to close down (leading to aches, pains and eventually dis-ease) while pleasurable experiences helps the body to open improving balance and health.
With all this stress associated with exercise I believe our focus has shifted from improving the way we use and live in our bodies to worrying if we are exercising correctly. This has left us little room to enjoy this process of getting to know our bodies better.
However, this philosophy may not be healthy for you if:
- Each day your body is under significant amounts of mental and physical stress. This unreleased stress eventually evolves into physical discomforts, aches and pains. This can prevent you from moving freely and thinking clearly.
- You find the process of exercise to be painful or boring. If during exercise you find your body tightens even more, then all you are doing is deepening a negative or unpleasant association between your body, exercise and stress.
Body and mind associations are very powerful and long lasting. How you have digested past body experiences dictates your current body image. Positive life experiences created positive body images while negative life experiences created negative body images.
My solution is to begin consciously practicing moving your body in ways that produce more freedom. Freedom feels good and causes us to open to ourselves. It will deepen the connection between your body and mind. This creates a positive pleasurable mental association between your physicality and your body.
The more you reinforce this association will eventually deepen the amount of balance, health and peace you have in your life. I believe the key to this situation is adding two elements to your exercise routine:
- Practice Releasing The Day's Tension Before You Exercise.
When your body is free to move, your experience of exercise becomes more fulfilling and personalized. Apply your creativity to your movements and exercises. How can you make exercise more enjoyable? Here is a progression:
- Starting with easy and slow movements with little to no weight or resistance, learn to enjoy the freedom of just moving and flowing with your body.
- Pick movements that challenge your mind. There are so many toys in our modern gym that you can play with. Check them out and get some help if you are unsure. That is, add core training to every exercise you do.
- Learn to express yourself through your body. Personal physical expression is a great way to relieve stress and open your body. As your body opens your ability to exercise with greater intensity builds. The more pleasure you receive the more you will want to move and push your limits. Eventually, believe it or not no pain, no gain feels good!
- Change Your Personal Definition Of Exercise.
I believe that exercise is a means to learn how to improve the way you use your body. This improvement can be done through any activity that you like. In fact, I suggest finding an activity that you like and make that your major mode of exercise. Performing activities that you hate only increases the amount of stress you are under. If you enjoy moving your body, the results you want will come quicker. Have the major focus be on the moment-to-moment process of exercise and begin to view the results as the gravy.