For the past few months, I have dedicated the majority of my blog to stress release and self care. With my life at a crossroads, I find myself testing out theory after theory, form after form of stress management. Today was one of those days I tested out an alternative to my normal routine.
For over 20 years, I’ve been a practicing martial artist. In my notes, several of my stress release techniques are derived from aspects of my training, including meditation and exercise. Any form of healthy physical exertion is good for stress release (the key word being “healthy”), but there are always small differences between one form of physical activity or another, just as there are differences in doing such activities in one way or another.
Lately, when I’ve practice my punches, I use small 3 lbs weights for 10 minutes of shadowboxing, then I shadowbox for another 10 minutes without the weights. It’s good aerobic exercise to get the heart pumping. However, with lack of a physical target, shadowboxing has its limitations, especially when it comes to stress relief.
After a particularly frustrating day yesterday that left me physically and emotionally drained, I decided to dust off my old focus mitts and practice elbow and knee strikes before getting ready for work today. For 10 minutes, I threw 30 knee strikes to my left pad, then 30 knee strikes to my right pad, followed by 30 elbow strikes to my left pad and 30 elbow strikes to my right, until the 10 minutes were up. I felt a wave of release that shadowboxing couldn’t give me, even when using weights. Each strike I landed was tension released from my body, energizing me in a way that I hadn’t felt in some time. The impact of these blows that I landed were the major difference between punching air and punching a target.
If you are battling stress, and regular exercise isn’t helping you relieve it, buy yourself something to hit. For me, it’s my focus mitts. For you, it can be anything from a punching bag (free-standing or with the chain and rack) to a piece of paper hanging from the doorway. (That last one is an old boxer’s trick that’s amazingly effective.) While getting the body mobile through shadowboxing or doing forms is good for working up a sweat, sometimes we just need to feel our fists (or feet) making a nice loud “thud” on a piece of heavy material, especially on the days where you just want to knock someone out. It’s definitely better than the alternatives.
As for me, while my mitts did well for today, I decided to order myself something a little bigger; an inflatable punching bag. Big enough to work on, light enough to move out of the way when I’m done.