High-Intensity Interval Training and Other Paths to the Ultimate Relaxed State of Being
Sara R. Auld
As a born and raised (upstate) New Yorker, I often find it extremely hard to relax. To be honest, I would say that naturally finding that genuine feeling of warm sedate relaxation is sadly at best only an annual event for me. I assume that I am not the only one who deals with this.
Lucky for people like us, there is National Relaxation Day. A day to sit down and do your best to take a few moments off. It is also a day where I can think of things that actually do give me that sense of relaxation. Yes, even me with my can’t sit down, can’t wait to get after it, refuse to lose, A-type personality.
Here are three things I do to manage a more relaxed physical state of being.
1. Foam Rolling. If you have never heard of foam rolling, it’s a great time to start asking the trainers at your gym. Foam rolling, also called self-myofascial release (SMR), has proven to reduce tension and increase muscle length after breaking a small sweat or your most aggressive workout session. Essentially, warming up and cooling down are prime time to self-massage. I get on my foam roller at home at least once per day even if I only do it for 2-5 minutes. Just 2 minutes per day adds up to 14 minutes a week and is a great place to start.
The foam roller does more than release tension. We all know when we are tense, there are probably some emotions building up from that as well; there is a direct relationship with our emotions causing tension, and tension causing emotions. At the peak of ‘busy’ in the day, if your body tense and stiff, it is tough to think and act normally. You could be a little edgier and direct with your attitude. Relaxed people are calmer in their voice, their words, and their actions. Releasing the physical tension in the body with foam rolling can cause a huge difference in the next conversation you have.
Roll it out! Starting out, it will probably hurt, but only for the first week or so. Take deep breaths; then it will get easier.
Before jumping into HIIT the American Council on Exercise recommends the following types of food for optimal results:
- Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
- Non-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
- Dried fruit and almonds
- Whole-grain cereal with fruit and soy milk
- Whole-wheat crackers with fruit and cheese
- Hummus and pita bread
2. HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. As a runner and a committed exerciser, I get in 60 minutes per day, and the intensity varies but always floats from moderate to high. As crazy as it sounds, if I do not raise my heart rate for an hour workout, I cannot get it to slow down for the rest of the day either. This is common as many people that are fitness-driven need to exhaust themselves to naturally slow down physically. I swear it’s like I exhale cortisol in cloud form, at a 180 (bpm) heart rate. HIIT generally calls for active recovery too, so you can lower your burst-intensity and rest through continuous slowed movements for a more endured workout. I peak and prolong my post-workout sedate state; by not resting. Don’t believe me? Do one HIIT workout and see how much calmer your day is afterward.
“This type of session can also train the body to effectively remove metabolic waste from the muscles between the work intervals.” Said Pete McCall from the American Council on Exercise. He also stated that “One of the major benefits of HIIT fitness is that using the appropriate work-to-recovery intervals can train the body how to become efficient at producing and using energy from the anaerobic energy system.”
If you get nervous walking into the gym, your heart is racing before the warm-up even starts, take another deep breath, reel it in and use those nerves to your adrenal advantage. Many people have a rush when they enter a room full of people all about to perform in front of each other. Use that emotion towards the endurance of the exercise, and control its ability to come and go by exciting and relaxing your mind. Then, work it all out. Get tired, get “gas’d,” and you guessed it – finish with the foam roller.
Whether my day is great, mediocre or just downright awful, I know I can get level hearted and level-headed with a sweat that puts me in my place, some physical massage pressure on my muscles and a hot beautiful aroma under my nose to drown out the senses.
3. Tea as a relaxation alternative. Alright, so maybe HIIT and foam rolling are not precisely the kind of relaxation you were looking for. Forced exhaustion and sedation may be who you are, or not. So in either case, if you need a moment on a couch, the best way I force myself to stop moving entirely (plus avoid aimlessly eating) is to drink hot tea. Tea is inexpensive, it comes in hundreds of flavors, you can drink it cold or hot, and it is a soothing beverage – a win-win relaxer for everyone.
Julia Halewicz of Prevention magazine wrote an article stating, “Herbal teas—also known as tisanes—are a mix of roots, leaves, flowers, spices, and bark. They are commonly used in the Middle East and Asia as alternative medicine, and new findings are backing up many of those practices with science.” Since we are talking anxiety, tension, stress, and muscles on National Relaxation Day, here is the important part. “The cool sensation associated with peppermint isn’t in your head. The menthol in peppermint leaves serves as a muscle relaxer and anti-inflammatory agent. Peppermint tea is an all-star choice for helping you feel calmer; as well as helping your joints more comfortable. Incorporating peppermint tea into your bedtime ritual can help rid your body of tension from the anxiety and stress that are a normal part of everyday life. Peppermint is also known to soothe your stomach and alleviate mild digestive discomfort.”
Whether my day is great, mediocre or just downright awful, I know I can get level hearted and level-headed with a sweat that puts me in my place, some physical massage pressure on my muscles and a hot beautiful aroma under my nose to drown out the senses. I hope my tips to break up a busy day are what bring you the overwhelming warm relaxation that we all so desperately need to treat ourselves right. Of course, we cannot forget the post rejuvenation and confidence you gain that gets you back up and going yet again.
Sara R. Auld
Though currently living in Wilmington, NC, I played NCAA DIII Women’s Soccer for Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY [2011-2015]. I moved to Wilmington to become an American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Youth Exercise Specialist (YES) [2015-2017]. I left working as a CPT and YES to get behind the scenes of preventive healthcare and founded Health Possible Inc., a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation that I still manage today and has grown tremendously.
I have a personal goal to turn American healthcare into fitness, nutrition, mental health & other wellness practice preventive field – including a change in government & pharma preferred, encouraged and provided usage of botanical, holistic, organic and alternative medicine combined with these Behavior Change prescriptions. While I am aware that pharmaceutical/chemical medicine is a must and has its place in health, specific measurements and dosages of each other healer/preventer combined differently may be the relief into human independence and safety through self-care and less harmful practices.