Oh it all happened so fast—one day it’s Sarasota-Bradenton summer, and the next, it’s Florida fall. Thanksgiving is coming up quick, and Christmas is one month after that.
I’ll bet you felt stressed out just reading that paragraph. In fact, we recognize National Stress Awareness Day on the first Wednesday of November—as if to prepare us for the onslaught of stress ahead.
So if that’s what just thinking about them does, imagine what living through the holidays actually does to your body.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves this time of year. These two months wreak havoc on our bodies and our mental health. So what can we do to combat holiday anxiety and tension?
Big surprise: Weight training is a fantastic stress-reliever.
Strength Training Soothes Physical Tension
It may seem counterintuitive, but lifting weights really does relax your muscles.
For one thing, it provides targeted fatigue. With weight training, your vague, general muscle tightness becomes focused through timed, controlled contractions. You take control of your tension. And those muscles that would normally be tensed will now be tired in the short term, and more able to perform their duties, without pain or shortcuts, in the future.
Plus, when you have a professional personal trainer guiding your workout, you learn a new awareness of your muscles that can fundamentally change the way you think about your body. Not only do you learn how and what to flex to accomplish certain movements, but you learn how to relax other muscles to facilitate those movements, to focus your power, and to conserve energy.
You learn how not to fight against yourself. Talk about a timely lesson for the holiday season.
And when you learn how to relax your muscles while efficiently accomplishing your tasks, you will experience the world in a new and more worthwhile way.
Weightlifting Boosts Mental Health, Too
Of course, these physical accomplishments directly affect your mental health. Feeling better and more capable physically takes a big load off your brain. But weightlifting also provides a load of actual chemical adjustments that improve your mood and lower your stress:
- Anaerobic exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are your body’s own pain relievers.
- Strength training also reduces your body’s production of cortisol, known as “the stress hormone” because it’s caused by stress and also makes you feel the physical effects of stress. (Cortisol is also, incidentally, a cause of fat retention during the holidays.)
- Increased circulation during strength training benefits your brain by flooding your tiniest micro-vessels with nutrients, repairing them, and even building new ones, for improved cognition both now and in the future.
Workout Appointments are Mandatory “Me Time”
As much as we like to say, “You have to take time for yourself,” that vague objective doesn’t make much headway around the holidays when there’s so much else to be done. Will other people let you take time off if you don’t have a specific task in mind? Will you let yourself do that?
Well, you have this specific task on your list: Your workout. Then everyone treats it like a work meeting or a doctor’s appointment. After all, it’s for your health! And there’s a personal trainer and even a whole class of workout partners waiting for you—you can’t very well cancel on all of them, can you?
But unlike your boss or your dermatologist, your workout appointment will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’ll spend an hour thinking about yourself (if you’re thinking about anything at all) and you’ll leave both relaxed and reenergized.
Social Fitness Gives You a Healthier Perspective
There’s shopping to do and so much money to be spent. Your family’s in town, and who’s going to cook for them? And even if everyone is lovely to one another, memories will creep into your mind when you’re least expecting them.
You (probably) can’t avoid any of these obligations. But you can take an hour here or there to go to the gym, a place where the women want to see how much you’re lifting and cheer you on, where you don’t have to worry about your outfit or your hair, and your sweat is a badge of honor.
Happy holiday season—and see you soon!