For Serious Results, Add Play to Training
For many of us, stress is an all too familiar part of our everyday. Like needing a sugary pick-me-up at 3pm, or battling standstill traffic on the way to and from work each day; we are living a highly stressed lifestyle. Kudos to those who attempt to release some of that stress by working out. The thing is, when you rock up to a training session feeling stressed to the max after a crummy day at work, your brain and body are on heightened alert. And this is not an optimal state to be in for training.
Working out with laughter decreases stress and helps you reconnect with your inner child. [Photo credit: Pixabay]
Regardless whether the source of your stress is thermal, environmental, mental, or nutritional, it all has a potential impact on your ability to perform. This is because, physiologically speaking, stress consumes minerals, dehydrates your tissues, and impacts your breathing efficiency and effectiveness. So when you show up to train in a less than optimal state, you’re already restricting the potential results you can achieve.
The key to altering that stressed state and reduce your risk of injury is to add some fun and elements of play to your warm up. Not only will it turn that frown upside down, but it may also enable you to let off some of that pent-up steam that’s been accumulating.
Play, and in particular laughter, has been shown to have numerous health benefits. These include a decrease in feelings of anxiety, tension, and depression. During laughter, the chemicals adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, which results in a two-step action of stimulation and relaxation. This is the very process that – after a good bout of laughter – leaves us feeling happier, lighter and slightly relieved of some of those minor stresses and strains from daily life.
Play and laughter are also effective tools to help fight serious conditions and diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. Research from Stanford University states that laughter is a good aerobic exercise and that a hundred laughs a day equates to ten minutes of rowing or jogging. Additionally, a study from the Journal of General Psychology has described laughter as a combination of deep inhalation and full exhalation, inspiring excellent ventilation, wonderful rest and profound release with the ability to increase the oxygenation capabilities of the lungs. When you combine laughter with the feelgood hormones generated by exercise, you have a surefire recipe for amazing results.
Here are a few ideas to help you add some play into your sessions.
Note: All drills should be undertaken in a clear area with no obstructions.
The guru of fun and function Ian O’Dwyer has revolutionised the use of play in the fitness industry, and one of his favourite strategies is to integrate balloons into training sessions. After all, colourful balloons are the epitome of fun! Games like balloon tennis and "chase the balloon" will result in increased mobility and a stack of giggles.
Here, all participants take turns to be the leader. Ask your training partner to mirror your every move by maintaining contact with your hand, your finger, and your elbow. The goal is to move in multiple planes of motion, so it’s an activity that is guaranteed to be fun for all and filled with laughter.
Ask your partner to hold (hug) the Swissball, while you both wriggle and wrestle as you try and take it from them. Don’t be scared of a bit of rough and tumble play! Try including rotations and some push-and-resist-actions. This provides great total body reactive training, and will definitely generate some belly laughs along the way.
Working out with laughter and smiles help you reconnect with your inner child. The benefit of this is that you’ll feel great, have fun, and you’ll enjoy your workouts even more.
More on how stress could be holding you back in the gym: