Exercise and stress: Three tips on how to train smarter

One of the greatest myths about exercise is the cliché of ‘no pain, no gain’. The false belief that, in order for exercise to be beneficial, we need to train to complete exhaustion. While this approach might drive results short term, it misses the mark on many levels when we start talking about health and vitality.

Firstly, this mindset fails when it comes to engagement. Yes, there is nothing more motivating than seeing results. But what happens when results stop or the body starts to breakdown and you can no longer train at all? It is natural human behaviour to avoid things we don’t enjoy. So for exercise to be a long-term part of our lifestyle we must enjoy it.

For a trainer that means the success of a session should be judged by whether you leave the client feeling better at the end of it than they felt walking in. Sometimes that might mean a hard and fast approach. Other times, a softly slowly approach.

The key is understanding your daily readiness for physical activity. Stress is one important factor in this. By acknowledging that stress can come in many forms, and honestly assessing your levels of stress on any given day, you can determine how hard you should push yourself during your workout in order to maximise results.

I generally look at three main causes of stress (lifestyle, physical and emotional) to help me determine what a client needs out of their workout that particular day. Try asking yourself the below questions before your next workout:

Lifestyle: how demanding has your day been? What was your sleep like last night? And your diet like?

Physical: how do your muscles feel? Experiencing any stiffness, soreness or tightness?

Emotional: what is your mood like? How are your energy levels?

Take all these factors into account and then rate your current stress levels out of 10, with 10 being as close to perfect across all areas. Days when you rank seven or above are perfect for pushing yourself to the max. So try something like a HIIT session. However, if you’re well below a seven a high demand workout may leave you in a worse position. So try walking, swimming or yoga to get you moving instead. It’s all about training smarter not harder. And taking your stress levels into account before your workout you will decrease your risk of injury and illness, boost your wellbeing to help you to be fitter, stronger and leaner.

Image credit: Thinkstock
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Greg has made it his fight to bring professionalism back to exercise. With a university degree in Human Movement and working with elite level athletes, Greg’s knowledge and experience is leading the way. Greg is the founder of Better Being, Australia’s only team of university qualified personal trainers delivering health solutions that suit your busy corporate life. Today, Greg continues to support the health and wellbeing of corporate executives and celebrities. He also educates trainers and regularly contributes to national publications and TV shows including Men’s Health, Sky Business and The Morning Show. Greg was awarded the 2011 Australian Exercise Professional of the Year finalist and is a proud ambassador for lululemon athletica. He has also established a charity, Active Kids, which aims to overcome childhood obesity and physical inactivity in Australia. Greg’s passion is to create ways to inspire, educate and motivate people to build a happy and healthy life.