Updated: Dec 20, 2021
If there’s been a common theme throughout this pandemic it’s that people are just generally more stressed. Stress impacts the ability to show up rested ready for workouts, it affects our recovery which in turn impacts immunity, sleep, metabolism, blood pressure. At this time, it’s more important than ever to be mentally and physically as healthy as possible. Strength training is the movement modality to enable us all to get through these
unprecedented times. How can strength training and looking after your health help? Here’s how I help my clients.
1. Don’t rely on HIIT and extended steady state (endurance) cardio all the time for your exercise? Why? They are stressful and they push you/ keep you in the sympathetic nervous system state of fight/ flight and spike cortisol. A focus on strength training, walking and scheduled bouts of parasympathetic breathing throughout the day will be your friend when stressed, and will still keep you fit. I love to get sweaty, to run, to sprint, to lift at the top end of my capability. But not every day and neither should you.
2. Look at every aspect of your life. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating well? Drinking enough water? Taking days off from training? How are you recovering? Do you have aches and pains? How is your digestion? Do you have anxiety? Are you feeling depressed? Are you drinking too much alcohol? When we are stressed we need to double down on all the stuff that is good for us and stay away from the ‘self-soothing’ bad stuff which will make matters worse in the long run.
3. Warm up intelligently. There’s a reason I start most clients warming up by getting down on the foam roller; it calms them down. They have typically come from another part of their busy life, may have been rushing around, heart rate and cortisol is likely to be elevated. I put clients through a 6-phase dynamic warm up, slowly ramping up the heart rate, finishing with central nervous system activation for the real work and main lift of the day.
4. Keeping sessions focused and working time within 45 minutes. For me low rep ranges (on the whole) are better to prevent injury, focusing on perfect form, programming the fundamental movement patterns; I don’t want clients getting injured while picking up something form the floor, that will just add to stress! More is not better. Better is better.
5. Finish with parasympathetic nervous system breathing (aka the best bit!) to get yourself back into parasympathetic nervous system mode and start the recovery process.
6. Helping and advising clients with recovery, other exercise and the rest of their life. Most of the time I encourage clients to get quality sleep, reduce stress, eat well consistently, and drink 2-3 litres of filtered water per day. These are the cornerstones of good recovery rather than worrying about post workout protein shakes.
The long term mental and physical effects on us all have yet to be seen, however with a little help we can all become, with a little help stronger, healthier and more resilient.
About The Author
Ally van de Pol, NASM, PPSC, HDC is the owner of Dragon Fitness & Coaching, a personal training and holistic health studio based in Sai Kung, Hong Kong. She brings a unique approach to the wellness industry, highlighting the connection between mental and physical health and fitness. She is a Pain-Free Performance and Senior Exercise Specialist, as well as a Certified Healing Diets Coach (plus a Naturopath and Iridologist in training), she is keen to help people fill up their own toolbox with ways to keep themselves healthy and fit for life. Her signature programme, HNF (Health, Nutrition, Fitness) is a combined Strength, Conditioning, Nutrition and Health 12 week programme designed to help clients with every aspect of their health.