• Gavin Guard, Medical Director

How to exercise during stressful times

Key Takeaways

  • Exercise does not have to be an “all or nothing” type of practice

  • Having some type of regular movement practice is important even if it’s not formal exercise

  • You can easily get enough movement into your day without any equipment or gym membership necessary


Everyone and their mother is telling you how important exercise is. You know that it improves blood sugar, cholesterol levels, heart disease risk, sleep, etc., but you simply don’t have time to do it. You might be telling yourself, “I know I should be exercising, but I just don’t have time.” Or, “I just can’t afford a gym membership”. Or “If I can’t do it 6 days a week, why bother?”


In this article, I’d like to share what I’ve learned going from a “gym junkie” to a “fit dad”.


My experience with exercise addiction

I used to base my whole day and week around CrossFit. It was perhaps the most addictive thing I ever did. There was a time when I would drink a caffeinated pre-workout shake a 5 pm, workout out for 90 minutes, then stretch for another 30 minutes just to recover from the workout. I did this for about 6 days a week.


And then I got married… and went to medical school… had a kid… and another kid… and started a medical clinic.


You probably know where I’m going with this.

From CrossFit addict to "Fit Dad", enjoying a hike outside with the family

By this time of my life, I am in a stage where I can’t afford to spend 2 hours in a gym, let alone 1 hour in a gym. And I’m sure you are reading this because you are in a similar situation.


As life changes, so do our priorities. At the same time, we should never let our work, time, and finances overcome our ability to take care of our bodies and our health. So how do we balance these two values?


You might be wanting to find a regular exercise routine but realize that you can’t commit to a gym membership, don’t have big barbells to lift, or a fancy home gym. That’s okay! I’m going to show you how to get around this common challenge.



Let go of imperfection

When it comes to health, there is no such thing as perfection. Those who are preaching that you have to eat kale smoothies, sleep 10 hours a night, and perform 400-pound deadlifts for reps every day in order to be healthy clearly don’t have a family nor a grasp on reality. It’s important to realize that this is not a black or white issue.

I call this the notion of doing a “Little Bit Better.” The choice is not “2-hour CrossFit workout or nothing”. Rather, you may say, “I don’t have time to go to the gym for an hour. Instead of not doing anything, I’m going to do a 10-minute home workout before my spouse comes home.”


What happens to many people is that they give up on their health goals because they were not 100% successful with the endless list of “healthy habits”. By adopting the “Little Bit Better” perspective, you can regularly check in with yourself and ask, “What can I do with my time, resources, stress levels, energy, etc.?” During times of stress, you might end up doing a little bit less. But that’s okay! You are doing a little bit better than not doing anything at all.


I promise that this will lead to more consistency and results. Let go of imperfection. It rarely has led to success.



You don’t need much exercise to see benefit

The nice thing is that you don’t need any fancy equipment or long workout session to get the benefits of a regular exercise. You can do a lot with two dumbbells (or sometimes nothing at all).


What I have found is that regular bouts of movement is by far better than 2 days a week of really intense workouts.


For example, it is much better to find 15 minutes a day to do a yoga routine, YouTube workout, short lifting session than it is to do a really hard CrossFit workout 1 day a week.


This “little bit of movement often” strategy allows you to be more consistent. When you don’t have time to go to the gym for an hour, it’s really easy to say “Forget about it. I’ll find another day to workout.” But when you choose the strategy of small bouts of regular movement, you find more success.


A plan for exercising during stressful times

Here is an example of what a weekly routine may look like for stressful times or times where you just don’t have the time and resources to spend an hour at the gym every day. I have included hyperlinks of YouTube videos coaching you through the particular movement.


Work with me to develop a game plan for weight loss


Template if you have gym access:


For weightlifting movements, perform:

  • 7-9 reps week 1

  • 9-11 reps week 2

  • 11-13 reps week 3

  • 13-15 reps week 4

  • Stick with the same movements for all 4 weeks. At end of 4 weeks, change movements.


Monday

weightlifting session-lower body (30 minutes)


-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between.

-8 sets upper body horizontal push (barbell bench press)


-Core: 3 sets of 30-60 second plank


Tuesday

15 minutes low intensity movement (hike, run, row, bike)


Wednesday

weightlifting session- full body (30 minutes)


-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between

-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between

Thursday

10 minutes high intensity circuit

  • example: 5-8 rounds 5-10 burpees, 10 air squats, 100-meter run

Friday

weightlifting session- upper body (30 minutes)


-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between

-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between

-Core: 2 sets of 12 physioball rollout


Saturday

15 minutes low intensity movement (hike, run, row, bike)


Sunday

time outside with family




Template if you do NOT have gym access (but do have access to dumbbells or another form of weights):


For weight lifting movements, perform:

  • 7-9 reps week 1

  • 9-11 reps week 2

  • 11-13 reps week 3

  • 13-15 reps week 4

  • Stick with the same movements for all 4 weeks. At end of 4 weeks, change movements.


Monday

weightlifting session-full body (30 minutes)


-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between.

-8 sets upper body (pushup)


-Core: 3 sets of 30-60 second plank


Tuesday

15 minutes low intensity movement (hike, run, row, bike)


Wednesday

weightlifting session- full body (30 minutes)


-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between

-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between

Thursday

10 minutes high intensity circuit

  • example: 5-8 rounds 5-10 pushups, 10 air squats, 100-meter run

Friday

weightlifting session-full body (30 minutes)


-5 sets of the following 2 movements back-to-back with no rest in between.

-8 sets upper body (pushup)


-Core: 2 sets of 12 physioball rollout


Saturday

15 minutes low intensity movement (hike, run, row, bike)


Sunday

time outside with family



How to make adjustments

Of course, part of my work with patients is helping them making their treatment as personal as can be. When it comes this topic, it’s really easy to make changes and adjustments to this template. For example:


  • If you don’t have time to perform the above plan, you can either make the workouts even shorter by reducing the total amount of sets or even cut out a day if you need to.

  • If you can’t do a particular activity because of injury or movement restriction, you can do less repetitions or replace it with a movement you know won’t cause pain.

  • If you don’t like a particular movement, you can replace it with another movement that you find more enjoyable that still achieves the same purpose. For example, instead of doing a 15-minute run, you could go on a bike ride, go on an evening hike or walk with your family, or use the rowing machine.

  • If you have a specific goal you want to achieve, then you can subtract and add in certain types of exercise that fits your goal. For example, if you wanted to look more muscular, you could replace a running day with a weightlifting session.

I’ve made some options for movements you can do for your lifting days


-upper body vertical pull

-upper body vertical push


-upper body horizontal push


-upper body horizontal pull


-lower body push


-lower body pull

-core

Work with me to develop a game plan for weight loss


The Bottom Line

Exercise does not need to be complicated. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress in the right direction. If you are doing a little bit better than you were before, then you are making a step in the right direction.


In this article, I have laid out a potential exercise template for you to use to make hundreds of your own workouts for the coming months. If you’d like some more ideas, please reach out by emailing or calling our clinic.


I hope you found this information useful and helpful in your journey back to a healthier and happier life.


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Gavin Guard, MPAS, PA-C, CISSN

ROOTS INTEGRATED CARE

818 Mullis St, Suite #6

Friday Harbor, WA 98250

360-622-6150

RootsIntegratedCare@gmail.com

©2019 by ROOTS INTEGRATED CARE

Medical Disclaimer: Any information on this site is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not substitute for direct medical care, nor can the content be implied to be medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.