When it comes to stress and frustration, sometimes it’s just good to let it out. We yell, run, punch – whatever it takes to blow off some steam. However, letting out aggression forcefully isn’t the best habit to fall into especially if you find yourself needing to do so often.
When I think of the best workouts for stress, my mind naturally goes to punching, kicking or tearing things in half. However, fitness expert and health coach Stephanie Mansour would suggest otherwise.
In college, Stephanie had a professor in an aggression and media class who told her the worst thing you can do when you’re upset is to start punching things. As a result, she’s concluded that when we’re angry or upset and need to take it out on something, we’re not teaching ourselves how to actually deal with our issues or become a mature, centered person.
As a fitness coach, Stephanie sees her fair share of clients who come to her for a stress-relieving workouts. But instead of letting them rip into a punching bag, she guides them toward these more relaxing exercise instead.
Breathing techniques – To practice intentional breathing, place your hands on your stomach and draw in air like you’re trying to inflate a balloon, and then slowly let your breath out through your nose like you’re deflating the balloon. In the process, feel your stomach getting bigger and smaller as you breathe, and think about breathing in perspective and breathing out stress.
Yoga sun salutations – If breathing techniques aren’t for you, practice a basic sun salute instead. Stephanie recommends bringing your arms out to the side of your body and extending them up toward the sky while taking a deep breath in. Next, exhale and fold forward, letting your arms hang down like a floppy wet noodle before pressing your fingers into your shins and looking up halfway. Next, exhale looking back down and then inhale coming all the way back up, ending by pressing your palms together to the center of your chest.
Slow, leisurely walks – If you’re feeling stress or anger rise up, take a step outside for a slow, leisurely walk. Stephanie suggests doing so will allow you to cool off mentally and regain perspective, as well as relax your body and stretch out your legs without exerting too much energy.
High intensity interval training – If you still really want to go hard to burn off some stress, Stephanie recommends doing some high intensity interval training (HIIT). Warm up for 2-3 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical or by jogging outside followed by some dynamic stretching just to be safe. Then, revisit the cardio machine or go back outside and do 30 seconds of slow movement followed by 30 seconds of high intensity movement, such as sprinting as fast as you can. Stephanie suggests repeating this three times and then doing 20 squats or 20 push ups before going back to cardio. Continue hopping on and off, repeating this circuit 3-4 times.
“Do things that are difficult and fast, so you don’t even have time to worry about why you’re stressed,” Stephanie says. “And make the most of your time. The more you sweat the more you’re releasing toxins and endorphins.” This balance of energy exertion and endorphin release will be key in relieving stress.
The next time you’re feeling your blood pressure rise or your brow start to sweat, leave the punching bag in the closet and pick one of these exercises instead. Doing so will allow you to reconnect with your body and mind, and your stress will float away in no time.
Stephanie Mansour, CEO of Step It Up with Steph, is a nationally known health and fitness expert and body image and confidence coach. She’s a reality TV trainer on “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” helping her client lose 80+ lbs in 12 weeks. She combines yoga, Pilates, personal training, and body image coaching for a holistic approach to health and fitness, and her no diets/no guilt mentality is changing the way women everywhere view food and exercise.