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Exercising Through Emotional Stress

By Miguel J. Ortiz

Along with vigorous planning to change your lifestyle to support new healthy behaviors, it’s important to remember that there will be distractions that can take you off your path or slow your journey.

As we stay as strong and disciplined as we can with our goals, life can have a unique way of forcing change. The emotional shifts that tend to disturb our inner peace may cause disturbances in a workout or two. This is very common. It’s also very common for the gym to turn into a place of peace for many because it provides time for one to focus on themself. To ensure efficiency during training and workouts, let’s look at three important behaviors that can help focus the mind to better the body.

For starters your warm-up is absolutely vital to the type of workout you may have planned. A quality warm-up should be about 8-10 minutes. This is a great opportunity for you to settle the mind or re-focus. Taking five minutes to stretch and five minutes for a light cardio warm-up can change the heart rate and allow one to focus on what’s right in front of them. Even the lightest, but consistent, movement patterns and a slightly escalated heart rate can do the trick. So, whether you’re doing some general strength and stabilization exercises or you’re doing a kickboxing workout with some jump rope intervals, you should be focused and ready to go. Use your warm-up as a tool to set up your body and mind for success.

Second, we may want to try a couple of different breathing techniques to achieve focus. They can be extremely helpful. Just as exercise and training have specific breathing routines, practicing daily breathing techniques throughout the day have been shown to lower stress and assist the body and mind. I won’t go into detail regarding all the different breathing techniques. Instead, I encourage you to discover some on your own. However, before you do that, I invite you to try a simple one called focused breathing. It is important to determine the best time for you to do this throughout the day. You may want to try it first thing in the morning and/or before you go to bed. Start by inhaling through the nose, hold the breathe and count to 7, and then exhale through the mouth. As you practice, start to focus on letting something go or focus on something you want to accomplish, etc. Then, you can start applying a conscious thought to the breathing.

Lastly, mixing up your exercise routine can greatly help reduce stress. Yes, you have strength, endurance or weight loss goals that call for demanding work. But, does all your work have to be so vigorously? I’m not saying you have to take up yoga. I know certain routines aren’t for everyone. However, consider trying Qigong, active recovery, a simple dance class, a walk down the street or light cardio. These can really help keep the body active and the mind focused. It can also possibly reduce stress at the same time.

So, have fun with your training and always remember, warming up is very important. Utilize breathing techniques to your advantage and not just for exercise, but throughout the day. And, don’t be so hard on your body. It’s not necessary to always do your most strenuous workout.

Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.

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