Working out to beat stress

Clockwise from top left: Dive bomb push up, side lunges and crunches

We have all heard that expression "blowing off steam" when things get too stressful, but can your workout be adding to your stress levels?

The reality is that working out can be the best way to relieve stress. It will release endorphins, giving you that feel-good feeling, but the golden rule is that everybody is different. I love nothing more than mixing up a high-intensity workout with some heavy-compound straight sets, depending on time and energy levels, but for others a brisk walk or some stretching or yoga may be the key.

Our bodies are well-used to dealing with short amounts of stress by releasing cortisol and adrenaline. Using this adrenaline by working out will make you feel better, but tailoring that workout to how you feel will really help decrease stress levels.

Learn what your body is able for and work out accordingly. Working harder at more higher intensity is not necessarily smarter for your body.

Your results and your feel-good factor will all improve when you get the happy balance of workout and rest. A tired and stressed body may mean your technique slips, which is going to leave you more open to injuries. Mixing cardio and resistance training, and not over-working out, should keep stress levels at bay.

Remember, you do not need to be a gym member to get a good stress-busting workout. Try this high-intensity combination, completing 12 to 15 reps of each in circuit style, then taking a one-minute rest before repeating the circuit three more times.

1. DIVE BOMB  PUSH UP 

A. Support your body on  your toes and hands  with your arms straight  and your hips raised high  into the air. 

B. Lower your head and  chest down towards the  floor between your  hands, bending at your  elbows. 

C. Extend your head  past your hands, then  forward and up towards  the ceiling

2. SIDE LUNGE 

A. Stand upright  holding a dumbbell in  both hands, with your  hands below your waist. 

B. Step laterally to one  side, lowering your body  down and leaning your  torso slightly forward  with your weight on the  outside leg. Keep your  trailing leg straight. 

Push off your outside  foot to return to the  start position. Repeat on  one leg then alternate  to the other leg for 12-  15 reps

3 CRUNCHES

A. Lie on your back with  your knees bent and feet  flat. Place your hands to  the sides of your head. 

B. Lift your head and  shoulders off the floor,  keeping your feet flat.  Do not pull your head up  with your hands. 

Lower your head and  shoulders and repeat. 

This article originally appeared in Fit Magazine, free with the Irish Independent every Thursday

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