How to Reduce Your Daily Stress for Improved Fitness

Podcast Episode #017: How to Reduce Your Daily Stress for Improved Fitness

It's true - If you are stressed out then you're limiting your body's ability to shed fat and see results from your workouts.

But nowadays who isn't stressed?

Chronic stress IS a problem for many of us, but there are simple strategies you can use to manage and even eliminate it. This is exactly what we're discussing in today's podcast.

How to Reduce Your Daily Stress for Improved Fitness [Full Text]

I'm excited today because we have a really great question from Sonia and then I've got a really special guest whose going to be here to help me answer Sonia's question, so let's dive right in.

Sonia says,

"I have a very high stress job that requires me to work pretty much around the clock. I love it but I'm admittedly stressed here all the time especially now that the kids are getting into after school activities and I turned them to their chauffeur. I'm 45 years old this year and worry about what the stress might be doing to my long term health. Any tips aside from quitting my job?"

Thanks for your question, Sonia and like I said, I know just from interacting with you via email, everyone out there, that this is something that a lot of us are struggling with stress accumulating in our lives whether it be job stress, family stress, other relationships, whatever it is. What can we do about it?

Like I said, I've got an awesome guest today. She is originally a personal trainer and a group fitness instructor but is really metamorphosized, if that's the right word? Metamorphosized to a career over the past 20 years and now acts as a life coach and really brings in a holistic perspective of good health, weight loss, managing stress, stress and a whole bit. I'm really excited to introduce you to Ali McWilliams, our special guest for today.

Ali, thanks for joining us today.

Ali: Thank you for having me.

Dave: Maybe just so the listeners get a little sense, a better sense of who you are, I'd love if you like start off by just kind of explaining what your focuses in the whole health and wellness industry.

Ali: I am certified life coach for sole trainer and group fitness instructor. My passion is really and my purpose is really to help all women have a strong and healthy mind, body and spirit so it's really the full body. Also, I really want to know who they are and why they're here on this earth. What's unique about what I do is I kind of combine personal training with like coaching so while we're working on the external, the inside gets worked on and improved as well.

Dave: Very cool. Can you tell us about your path and like did you start early as a personal trainer and got into the more holistic stuff later, is that the kind of how things unfolded for you?

Ali: I started out as an athlete in high school and college and then went to school for Commercial Art and my hobby was to stay active was teaching group fitness instructions. I've been like a group instructor for over 20 years now. I kind of got in the other way where it was more of a group fitness and get into work out in where you got paid so to say, really you know, make them much but ... And then it led me to get certified as a personal trainer and then opened my own women's gym and then that's went off into my own business in like coaching business. It's kind of just you know, nice organic journey.

Dave: That is neat how as life progresses you know, clear sort of changes as well like who would have guessed you'd be where you at today 20 years ago.

Ali: Exactly. I'm so sorry.

Dave: That's okay. I'm going to leave this in there. This is going to go uncut.

Ali: Wait up. My headphone silenced and then the ring would come in as well but I guess I'm wrong.

Dave: No. We'll get into ... I had a question from Sonia. You saw Sonia's question already. It was all bit stressed and she's basically saying she's like, "My life is so stressful and I'm worried about what it's doing." It sounds like she's kind of stuck on this hamster wheel and what are your first thoughts when you read her question?

Dealing With Stress 101

Ali: Good question. First of all, she's not alone, so it was a great question. I hear it quite often because most of the women I trained, in fact all my women are hard working, creative people and a lot of them are moms too. I've little disclaimer on stresses. I don't believe that all stress is a bad thing. I think that stress is bad when it affects your health and it affects your sleep and your mood and your relationships that you have. Good stress which it seems like she loves her career is great so if its propelling you and inspiring you and motivating you to move forward then not all stress is bad, but I do have some tips for her in the sense of how she can manage maybe her stress better and feel better about it all.

Not all stress is bad. How is it impacting your life? Is the impact good or bad?

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Dave: Yeah, for sure. Before we get into that, how can someone distinguish whether they've kind of gone over the line into that bad stress like is there something ... If you will start to notice it physically, what would you look for?

Ali: Absolutely. People totally, people are starting to feel it, especially the sleep area, I've really noticed people are having and sometimes fallen asleep or they wake up often. They never feel rested, so really looking at their sleep patterns. Are you getting snappy and agitated more? I can really see that with people with stress when they start to have´╗┐busy careers and big careers. They're a little shorter, the temper comes a little quicker or they're ... Just the patience kind of runs out, so kind of like check your mood and your joy, where's your ... Do you have any joy?

I mean, I'm not saying everyday is great and there's not stressful days, but I mean, are you waking up frazzled and stressed everyday that's not kind of look, "Okay. I need to take a check." Some people are really good. I'm really proud of people. I've had people who have left huge, big careers and just said it's not worth it. They downsized and sold their houses and they're living in a happier, more content, peaceful life than just having these big careers. For some, it's what their drawn to and it's what their purpose is too.

Dave: I like ... As you're talking, I kept on thinking of the word theme, like if you look at the theme of your life, what's the theme of your sleep? You know, what's the theme of your joy, your happiness? If those things you know, thematically seemed to get out of whack, maybe there's a bigger, deeper real problem.

Ali: Exactly.

Dave: What would you say ... So Sonia's specifically says, "I got this job, this career that I like but it's just crazy work all the time. She talks about she's chauffeur for her kids and just all of this is building up. Where does she start?

1. Take a De-Stressing Breath

Ali: The number one thing that I tell my clients is nasal breathing. Just sit in for two minutes with your lips together, teeth together, tongue to direct your mouth and you inhale for three through your nose and you exhale for six even slower and you get out of your chest and into your diaphragm, is clinically proven to get you out of that fight or flight, which that's what stress is is where in that fight or flight all the time.

Watch the following video to learn more about Ali's de-stressing breathing strategy:

If you can focus on getting out of the chest which a lot of us turn more shallow breathers which causes a lot of tension and stress in our shoulders and neck, it actually make a huge difference. I have somebody who within a week and a half, she was saying, "People at work, they're like, what's different? You look happier, you look healthier. What do you do?" She's like, "I'm just breathing for two minutes in the morning."

2. Remember What You're Thankful For

That's all it was. I mean that's the great part of it, it's free and it's really simple and easy and it's you're worth way more than two minutes and everybody has two minutes. It's really, it's done wonders for all of my clients. Another thing, the second tip I had which kind of ties into it which is like it's for one deal, while you're breathing, why not give thanks. You can't, it's not possible to give thanks and worry. Your brain occupies the same space so you can't sit and be worried and fearful when you're giving thanks. If you're sitting there and breathing, why not give thanks for your abundance that day that you have.

Let's be more thankful. You can't give thanks and simultaneously worry.

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Dave: You came out with the heavy hitters right off the back. Those are awesome. I know, so when people listen to this, I know everyone is going to say, "Yeah, I've got two minutes like I can start doing that," but you know from working on clients, two minutes especially in the morning is actually a hard thing to give up. What do you do to kind of get people to make that part of their routine?

Ali: Good question. Some people actually just set their alarm and actually get up five minutes earlier. Some will get accountability buddy where they're like, "Would you check in with me to make sure I do it?" - Just stuff all about being accountable.

Some people have to have a stick it note, a posted note. It's just treating ... We all have habits, so it's just changing your not so great habits into really good habits. Once you start to get used to that it's worth it. I think sometimes, some of us we have to be so sick and tired of being sick and tired that we won't do it until we kind of hit that. It's different for all of us in our personality types so kind of depends on what's your breaking point and I have to minutes, because really, I mean we could all just take this 2 minutes to just be quiet and be still and breath. Even if you're feeling bad, you could just do it in bed even before you got out of bed.

Sometimes you have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired before you'll be ready to take action

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Dave: Like it sounds so easy but I just, I think people will go on right back to sleep.

Ali: Yeah. That might not ... Maybe that's not a good idea, maybe you might go back to sleep.

Dave: So breathing like starting your day with 2 minutes of breathing, a great way to just kind of destress and calm your mind for the rest of the day.

Ali: That's a good way to end your day too. It's a good way to turn off your mind. Women seemed to have more that constant running through the list of the day, and so doing the same thing at the end of your days, just as great. It's a great way to calm the mind and the body.

Dave: Which probably then would help the sleep as well.

Ali: Exactly.

3. Exercise Less (yeah, seriously!)

Dave: From the personal training background, you're obviously familiar that stress and weight loss are inversely related, right? The more stressed we are, the less likely we are to lose weight. What would you say to someone like Sonia, and I know she didn't mentioned weight loss specifically, but someone who's looking to lose weight can't do it. They know they're stressed out. What do you suggest for someone to do in the moments of stress?

Ali: Great question. Yeah, because a lot of people which I'm sure you see too is like, they can start to eat really well and eat less food and move while they're still not losing weight because we're not a bank account, we're a biochemistry lab so those hormones, especially for us women are a big part of it.

YOU are not a bank account. You are a biochemistry lab. Simply counting calories doesn't work.

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To me, I have people walk. A lot of them, they're walking instead of running and they're lifting weights instead of doing boot camp or high intensity things is they're taking so when you're ... Our industry doesn't tell people that exercise is stressful on the body. If you're already maxed out, it's just maybe time to find that and then that's when people get sick and have injuries.

It's like I did tell my people it's like, what can you do today? Is that a walk in your lunch, you need to do a walk and talk. Even in my time, just like sometimes we just ... it's a walk and talk coaching session instead of we're not going to be hitting harder. You're going to lift some heavy weights, so like strength training is really good, breathing, stretching, walking. Remember that it's a season. You're not going to be like this forever, it's just a season in life too.

Dave: I love that because again, from the holistic perspective, I think that some people would push back on that and then say, "Well, if I want to lose weight, I need to burn more calories." That becomes a very narrow mindset, were is what you just described, it's turning into that holistic approach much more.

Ali: Really, if our industry is saying you just need to burn more calories and eat less, then everybody could do it in every you know, people would have greater success. It's just not true. I mean, you see it in all sorts of sporting events where it's like if people are training this in the hours and eating this amount of calories, then they should be skinny or not you know, shouldn't have to lose weight. It's not a true fact. I wish it's that easy.

Dave: Actually maybe we be out of business if that was so easy!

Ali: You'd still have to motivate them the methods. Still need to be all accountable.

Dave: You know what? You just made me think of this. I just got an email earlier this week from a woman who, she just completed her 18th marathon. You think someone that does all these running would never have a way to lose and she said over that time, it's over the course of 8 or 10 years, she gained a pound for every marathon that she did. Just exactly like you said, you know, you look at someone who's this fine tuned athlete and there's still something not quite right.

Ali: It's like seem like we have ... We have the Ironman here every year. Just looking at the athletes, I mean, if it's healthy for your body, you should have a triathlete type of body. When you see this people who are pretty overweight doing something so extreme, then it's like that should show people like I mean really, ideally if your body is working well then it should be good for you and you should look fit.

Like I had a client who like all of a sudden she started getting injured while she was training for a race and we just stopped and she started walking and she lost more weight walking than she did running, which is so hard. Everyone's drawn on things they lose all this weight when you run and like for some people true.

Dave: Yeah. I just want to repeat that for a running less things sometimes. You're going to lose more weight just from walking. Right?

Ali: Some actually have... Yeah. It's not for everybody. Running is not for everybody.

Running is not for everyone. Walking can get even better results. You just have to move your body.

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Dave: Yeah.

Ali: Actually she lost more weight from walking than running.

Dave: You talk about breathing. You talk about the idea of thankfulness and just kind of shifting that positive, those positive thoughts could be to start your day. Talk about maybe taming down some of the exercises and just releasing some of that physical stress. Is there anything else that people who are chronically stressed right now? Anything else that you'd say like definitely do this?

Ali: I think the breathing is really good, being thankful. Sleep is a big one. Getting enough sleep.

4. Preparing For Better Sleep

Dave: Maybe you can even touch on that because like that, you can give lots of advice. Turn off like a device is that 7 o'clock and you know, get into bed at whatever time. Is there anything that you found really works well?

Ali: I think you hit it right on the head is turning off all the devices is a big issue. In fact, I just did talk about, this is part of the topic about getting more sleep and being on our device is really affects us. Seeing the screen and even the news that's so negative now and all the social media stuff, so it's really allowing your brain to turn off.

At the hour before bed, it's like can you read a book or can you take a bath or can you go for a walk or can you have a chat with a friend or can you just or knit. Whatever your hobby is, do something other than screen time and thinking time. Do something that's not having your brain constantly react.

Dave: Which is tough because most people I think use their phone as their alarm clock and as their reading device. That's a big shift.

Ali: That is a big shift.

Dave: But worth making.

Ali: It is a big shift but it makes a big difference when people start to just get a little bit of more sleeping. It's really huge I mean, you know, like it affects your metabolism. It affects your mood. I mean, it affects a lot of things. We all know we're happier, healthier people when we get more sleep. I know I am by far.

Dave: Same here. A big thing actually is recovery. You know, a lot of clients that I work with talk about being so sore after their work and for not getting the results they want and the same message you know, are you sleeping, are you giving your body a chance?

Ali: People forget. Your muscles actually build when your resting not when you're working out.

Your "10 in 4" Takeaway

Dave: Exactly. We like you to show like super practical and to the point and how is then with something called the "10 in 4" takeaway and this would be like your big piece of advice. If people who are experiencing stress were to only do one thing and that maybe you're already alerted to, but what would that one thing be if they can do today?

Ali: I would say how about two minutes in your day whether it's a two minutes when you're getting up before breakfast or before bed or when you're in your car before you're going to the work and just do 2 minutes of nasal breathing and then the extra little bonus is give thanks while your breathing, do it in 2 minutes. It does wonders for the mind and the body, it really does.

Dave: I love it, so practical and everyone can do that today, tonight, before we go to bed.

Ali: They can.

Dave: I will do this. I'm going to try the 2 minutes plus thankfulness. I like it.

Ali: Good. I can't wait to hear how it goes for you.

Dave: Maybe just before you go, can you tell where can people find out more about you and about the sort of work that you do? What's the best way to connect with you online?

Ali: Through my site at is a great way you can sign up for my e-newsletter that comes out once a week for tips for sound and healthy mind, body and spirit. If you want free workouts, you can connect with me in YouTube. I'm on Facebook if that's your route. My blog is actually a blog about the breathing with a video so people want to check that out. All my information and anyway to connect us the best is through my site.

Dave: You know, and I'll do in the show you know, it's actually a link of two websites but I link to your breathing video because if you demonstrated I think that will probably be very helpful.

Ali: That'll be great. Thank you.

Dave: Awesome. Well. Thanks for joining us and hopefully we can have you back again sometime.

Ali: That would be great. Thank you for having me.

Thanks for joining me today!

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