As a strength coach, when I design a grueling workout program, there is always a built in de-load.  After several weeks of high volume punishment, the body needs a break to recover.  It’s often during these times that some of the best gains in training are made.  Now you may not be an athlete in training, and you might not be hitting the gym like a maniac this December, but that does not mean that your body doesn’t need a de-load from the stresses you are facing these holidays.

You might be captain of the kitchen, Santa’s lil helper, and the night watchman for sales and last minute gifts.  This too entitles you to a little R&R.  Exercise can function to help manage stress, but it can also be an added stress.  Knowing how to use exercise appropriately with your given stress levels can be a key to maintaining and improving your health.

Exercise can be a great stress management tool if you keep the following things in check:

  • You have to be getting enough quality sleep.  If you can’t recover from your workouts, you will only burn out your adrenals over time.
  • You have to be staying hydrated.  All day shopping sprees fueled by coffee house blends will not keep you hydrated.  The more dehydrated you are, the more the hormonal response you get from exercise will resemble added stress.
  • You have to be getting in quality nutrition.  This means eating organic whole foods whenever possible and including the right supplements in your diet.  The basics are a multivitamin, Vitamin D3, and a Omega 3 supplement.
  • You are doing resistance training with weights.  Aerobic training is one of the quickest ways to stress your body out.  Aerobic training is much like a high sugar meal, it makes you feel good initially, but you will pay for it in the long run.

If you have been missing out on some of the above things, it is important that you get back on track with these before going back to your full exercise load.  A de-load does not mean you have to skip the gym altogether.  Short workouts that are intense are still acceptable for most.  A de-load should not last more than a week.  If you suffer from high levels of stress and are an avid exerciser, you may also want to include about 3-4 one week breaks from training per year.  

If you want a head start on beating the stress of the holidays, here are two great articles from top coaches: