Every workout doesn’t have to leave you maxed out and drenched in sweat. I’m a firm believer in moving how it feels good for you. Even if that means moving in 15-minute increments because that’s what your body can handle. There’s this belief in the exercise industry that workouts always need to be harder, faster, and better than the last or we’re not making progress, but that’s just not true.
There’s a time and place for milder workouts, and they still give you the benefits of movement and a rush of endorphins. When you’re tired and stressed or have a lot on your mind, it’s important to move your body in a way that will promote stress release, not create more stress in your system.
Give yourself permission to lower the intensity of your workouts when your body is stressed in other ways. This is how you can use movement as a means of recovery, as opposed to causing more damage.
Here are 5 feel-good ways to move when you’re feeling tired or stressed:
1. A stretch and mobility session
Be honest, how much time do you usually spend stretching or focused on mobility? Maybe 10 minutes of your total workout? Days when you’re feeling tired are the perfect times to focus on stretching. Do some deep, long-held stretches and add slow breathing to let yourself sink into them more. You can also try mobility balls like the Yoga Tune Up balls to promote facial release and open up tight areas of your body like ankles, calves, shoulders and hips. You’ll feel great when you’re finished and your body will thank you for the extra care and attention.
2. A Lightweight Dumbbell Circuit
Lifting weights doesn’t always have to be heavy. This routine uses light dumbbells to address the functional movement patterns you use every day. To get started, you’ll need two pairs of dumbbells—one at a weight you can comfortably do 10-12 reps with and one slightly lighter. DO each of the drills below, at 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest. Keep your workout between 2-5 sessions toal and listen to your body.
- Step Up to bicep curl to overhead press (you’ll need a platform or staircase for this one)
- Bent over rows
- Single-leg deadlift to lateral raise
- T-drill with crawl (In a tabletop position with weights in your hands, crawl forward 4 steps, then crawl laterally to the right 4 steps, then return to the midpoint; crawl laterally left 4 steps, then return to the midpoint; crawl back to the starting point)
Truthfully, yoga is the art of being present in your body. It’s less about getting a great workout. This type of presence and attention during movement can ease stress and boost relaxation. But not all yoga classes are created equal. For a feel-good movement session go for a gentle style like Hatha, Flow or Beginner Vinyasa. Remember that you can always take a break, or crouch down on your mat in Child’s Pose any time you need a rest. Look for classes that are 30-60 minutes in length or that focus on a part of the body where you typically hold tension. Breathe deep and enjoy… oh and definitely don’t skip the savasana.
There are days when your body doesn’t want to “work out” but still wants to move, going for a walk is a great way to wake up your body without adding stress. Studies have shown that going for a walk and focusing on a point ahead in the distance (like the horizon) helps to alleviate depression. This is especially true when you walk during daylight hours because you’re getting a healthy dose of vitamin D. Take your phone with you and listen to a podcast or some calming music. You can also set an intention to be fully present, focus on your breath and notice your surroundings. Your walk will become a brand new experience.
5. Hip-Opening Mobility Flow
It’s no secret that sitting all day can wreak havoc on your hips, which can throw off your low back and your movement patterns in general. Here’s a quick circuit that focuses on key muscles in and around the hips to increase your mobility. The key here is to pay attention to your breath and technique. Listen to your body, and increase the reps or duration as you get used to doing the routine.
- Standing hip circles x 5 each side (Lift one knee as high as you can without rounding lower back, then move knee to side; rotate hip inward, then bring leg behind you; return to start).
- Deep squat x 30 seconds (Keep your chest up and knees pressing out.)
- Seated internal hip rotations x 10 each side (In a seated position on the floor with legs slightly bent in front of you, drive one leg down toward the floor without letting your hips come off the ground.)
- Pigeon pose x 30 seconds each side
- Figure 4 pose x 20 seconds each side. (From a seated position on the floor, swing one leg behind you so you create a triangle with the front and back leg. Fold forward and hold, then lean back and hold.)