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Stress, Chemistry & Human Movement – Coach Steve
Today, we’re talking about stress, chemistry, and human movement. These elements are important for your continued effectiveness, happiness, productivity, well being, and longevity. I come from the field of anthropology, and my field of research was human adaptation to external stressors. Working out when you “don’t have any time” or “you’re way too stressed” is imperative, and you definitely have the time and the energy to do it. You should work out, even if you’re stressed, even if you don’t time, even if you don’t have the resources.
Stress can be a good thing: in the form of a heavy weight, a hard run, or a challenging yoga pose. Stress in acute situations forms us, both physically and emotionally. We are faced with an immediate challenge, and we experience the deeply human urge to experiment, push past a boundary, and prove to ourselves what we’re capable of becoming. Most species in the animal kingdom evolve and survive from biological and sociological adaptations to their environments, and humans do it better than any other animal in the history of the world. Humans work best when they keep going – moving around, working, relaxing, but doing it fully and to the best of their abilities. Life is not a rehearsal.
Exercise in any form is wonderful for your system and certainly trumps spending too much time planning out the perfect workout. It also trumps not doing anything because you don’t have the equipment that you’re used to, you’re too stressed, or too tired. Those who spend their days arguing about which form of exercise is superior ought to stop their excessive yapping and start doing squats.
This is not a time to stop training. Depending on how long this lasts, you’re looking at losing between 10-15% of your year with no training! Even with no equipment, you can maintain aerobic capacity, muscle size, muscle endurance, and perhaps even strength. With no training, trained populations can lose a noticeable amount of muscle strength within just a week. This is not said to scare you, but to show the effectiveness of both quality training and quality lounging.
During this pandemic, most people are stuck with limited, if any, gym equipment. Thankfully, you really just need a willingness to work in order to achieve a good workout. Forget half-handstand flying triangle isometrics sponsored by your favorite supplement company and let’s stick to squats, pressing, planks, and the like. Simple usually works best. I have been crushing my clients in virtual workouts with little more than a towel and a good attitude.
Anyway, let’s talk about stress.
Most people understand that there are stress hormones, and some people know the negative side effects to them, but it’s a largely misunderstood corner of chemistry, for Instagram Influencers and gym goers alike. The roster usually includes some compilation of adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, testosterone, and others. For your use, it’s imperative to know that the autonomic nervous system is generally in one of two states: sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest). Depending on what’s happening in front of you, your nervous system will respond and supply the appropriate hormones. Like a mechanic that’s seen it all, our body is ready with a full battalion of chemicals for every situation.
Cortisol is a hormone related to stress, but a common misnomer is demonizing cortisol and calling it “the stress hormone.” It is slowly released throughout the body, over a period of an hour, to temporarily stop nonessential operations inside your body, like the immune system. It uses the additional energy to aid in recovering from a strenuous effort. So cool! There are no “bad hormones” in our body, each were designed by evolution for specific situations.
If you’re running from the Saber-toothed Tiger, it’d probably be pretty sweet if you had some of that juicy adrenaline in your back pocket. Turn on the rocket boosters and live to die another day. Where humans in safe, modernized environments often run into trouble is with chronic exposure to the stress. A taxing Zoom call activates the sympathetic nervous system, and you get all the benefits of recovering from a physically demanding effort except there was no physical effort.
To simplify, acute but relatively infrequent “fight or flight” moments are generally regarded as healthy and strengthening. Chronic, lengthy use of your sympathetic nervous system will leave you tired, unmotivated, hungry, sad, and probably heavier than you’d like. Repeated exposures will lead to more of these: your brain learns from past experiences, and if all you do is yell when you’re at the computer, what does your brain and body expect when you sit down again the next morning?
For now, chase simple, challenging exercises. An athlete who can bench 300lbs and squat 500lbs can still receive legitimate benefits from training bodyweight exercises. Encourage yourself to be “all-in” with everything you do. Full effort work, full effort exercise, full effort relaxing and spending time with the homies in your crib. Without this separation, you get two stones and no birds. Chase the potency and simplicity of a hard workout with no distraction. The sweat, the immediacy of the task, the purity of intensity, sets you free from looming deadlines, nasty emails, and an uncertain future.
Have questions? Ask me anytime.
Stay safe, and stay home.
1 Minute lateral plate/object hops
1 Minute of high kicks/ 30s each leg
1 Minute of burpees on to the plate
1 minute alternating elbow to instep stretch
1 Min Hollow Rocks
1 min Dead bugs
1 Min Bicycle Abs
1 Min Plank
Repeat with 30s
*There is no built in rest. Take rest only when you need to.
10 Single Arm Devils Press
10 Overhead Lunges
E2MOM 100M Run (15s out & 15s back)
At the beginning of the workout and at every 2 minute interval during the workout… stop, run 100m and then pick back up where you left off. Not running 30s of Mountain Climbers, burps, jump rope, plate hops or Jumping Jacks.
*Coaches Tip – Alternate arms each round or split the reps each round between both arms.
10 Sandbag Over Shoulder or Power Cleans
8 Sandbag Over the Shoulder
6 Sandbag Over the shoulder
4 Sandbag Over the Shoulder
*If you only have lighter weight, double the reps