Strees and Stress Reduction
The following are some guidelines for beginning a jogging or running program:
1. Wear rubber-soled tennis or running shoes. They do not need to be expensive or “name brand.” However, they need to support your foot when you run and must fit comfortably.
2. Wear Socks. In some areas of the country, it is fashionable among college students not to wear socks with shoes. However, socks help absorb the shock to the foot when it meets the ground in running, and they help to prevent the formation of blisters.
3. During warm weather wear shorts and a T-shirt. Long pants such as “long johns” and several sweaters or a sweat shirt are needed for cold weather. There are all types of fashionable exercising outfits on the market. They are not necessary for fitness programs, even though advertisements try to convince you they are.
4. Test your physical condition by doing a Fitness Test. In this test, you run or walk as far as you can in twelve minutes. After a month of exercise, take the test again and see if you have improved if you were in the “Fair” to “Very Poor” categories.
5. If you are not used to physical activity, start off slowly. You should be able to talk and jog at the same time. If you find that you are panting or that your heart rate is above 160 beats per minute, stop jogging and walk for awhile.
Swimming and Biking. Swimming is excellent for cardiovascular conditioning and total body fitness. It produces little jar to body joints. The disadvantages are that it requires learned skill and special facilities. It also tends to be seasonal unless there is an indoor pool available. There is the minimal cost of the swimsuit. If you have never learned to swim, you might like to seek out swimming lessons at your school. Most communities have lessons offered by the YMCA, Red Cross, and other groups.
Bike riding promotes good cardiovascular conditioning and aids in weight control. It is easier on the joints than jogging, running or fast walking. It is also an excellent energy saving transportation. There are several disadvantages of bike riding. It requires a learned skill, a bike is sometimes expensive to buy, and there is always a risk of riding in automobile traffic. Riding for several miles does promote tension reduction and usually a feeling of well-being. It is also an activity that can easily be done alone or with other people.
Dancing. There are many types of dancing. They aid in weight control, can be done in almost any location, and are good for cardiovascular conditioning. Dancing can include disco, rock and roll, folk, aerobic, ballet, and T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Disco and rock and roll dancing tends to be done in public places with people as a social activity. However, as an exercise and alternative, a disco tape or record can be played at home and danced to. Many university communities have folk dancing groups. At these groups various dances from different cultures are learned and practiced. Square dancing and clogging are sometimes considered North American folk dancing forms and can usually be found in rural areas of the continent. However, many college communities have clubs devoted to square dancing.
Aerobic dancing is primarily exercising to music. Various steps and body motions are performed. This is an excellent conditioning exercise and can be done in a group or at home to a tape or record. There are several books on the market that illustrate a variety of aerobic exercises.
Ballet and classical dance usually take more practice than other current dance forms. Training and instruction are required for several years to arrive at some degree of accomplishment. However, individuals who accomplish and practice ballet often report that it promotes relaxation and well-being.
T’ai Chi Ch’uan is an oriental dance and self protection exercise. It is concerned with motion and change and is done in slow motion. It also has a meditative quality. Most practitioners report an altered state plus relaxation from engaging in this dancelike activity.
Self Defense Activities. Karate, Tae Kwando, and other self defense/martial art activities promote both rhythmical exercise and meditative concentration. These dance-defense-exercise forms are from the Orient and have been practiced in one form or another for hundreds of years. In Japan the Samurai, or warrior, class was expected to be proficient in many of these defense forms. Ritual, mental, and physical discipline and concentration are found in all of the self defense activities. Practitioners often report feelings of confidence and altered states after participating in these exercises.
Risky Venture Alternatives
Seemingly risky activities and ventures have attracted many throughout the ages because of the thrill and natural high they often bring. Until recently, many cultures included risky ventures into their social fabric to fulfill this need. As an example, young males in many societies were expected to accomplish dangerous and daring missions such as hunting a bear alone, as an initiation into manhood. However, as societies changed, these risky “rites of passage” often became extinct. A need for risky ventures and excitement is thought to be one of the reasons why some youth get “turned onto drugs.”
However, other individuals became involved in apparently thrilling and risky recreational activities as an alternative to drugs. Common activities, to be discussed below, tend to fall into airborne, land, and water ventures.
Airborne Ventures. Throughout history humans have wanted to fly. This dream has finally become possible during the past 100 years. Airborne ventures now include airplane and ultralight aircraft flying, soaring, hang gliding, ballooning, and parachute jumping. All of these activities take training. They are also expensive. They can be dangerous, and deaths are recorded each year of participants in these sports. As part of training, however, there is a great emphasis on safety and what to do in emergencies. Many university communities now have clubs for these activities which offer training to the beginner.
All of these airborne activities offer a challenge, a vehicle for self knowledge, skill building, feeling of accomplishment, and defiance against the elements-especially the air. It is a “high” to be flying above people, buildings, trees, and landscape with the birds.
Land and Sea Ventures. Humans have occupied caves and climbed mountains since prehistoric times. However, deep cave exploration and mountain climbing were usually thought to be fraught with danger and evil spirits and were considered dangerous. Today many individuals are becoming involved with these sports for the thrill and challenge they offer. Some training is required for spelunking (cave exploration), rock climbing, and mountaineering, but equipment is not that expensive. Deaths and injuries are reported for these activities, but safety procedures are emphasized in training to prevent accidents. Most college communities sponsor clubs for these sports, and the beginner can receive training, generally free of charge.
Some other potentially dangerous and thrilling land-based activities include motorcycle racing, drag racing and “demolition derbies” to name a few. Clubs for these activities are found in many communities. However, they tend not to be popular with college and university students. They do, however, offer an alternative.
Challenging water-based activities include white-water canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and scuba diving. These activities have long been attractive to many individuals; some have used variations on their skills as part of their occupations, a necessary contribution to community recreation or public safety. All of these ventures take some training. Though some deaths occur each year from these activities, safety is emphasized in training. There is some expense in renting or purchasing the equipment. However, most university communities have clubs for interested participants, and training and rental are often inexpensive. All of these activities offer a challenge, self knowledge, and escape from the everyday world.
Sports and Other Recreational Activities
All societies have had various sport activities for individuals or groups. The early Greeks and Romans fostered sports and built stadiums to watch the games. There are a host of sport and recreational activities that can produce the training effect, promote fitness, and reduce tension. Most of these activities require some type of skill and need some training. They tend to have minimal expense.
Among the most popular participatory sports today are tennis, squash, racquetball, and handball. All of these activities are quite active and will usually give the person a “workout.” They need to be done with at least one other person. Downhill and cross-country skiing are also popular and can be done either alone or with others. They also take some training and are good for cardiovascular conditioning.
Some other recreational activities that are enjoyed by many include golfing, billiards, and bowling. These do not produce a conditioning effect but can be relaxing to some people if they are not too self critical as to their score.
A great escape for many today is camping. In the distant past, most primitive human groups survived by “camping.” However, like the other basic skills of hunting and fishing, camping is now considered a recreation. Camping for escape and an altered state is wilderness camping. In this type of activity, as opposed to pulling a recreational vehicle into a campground with electricity, the individual hikes into a wilderness area carrying food and equipment for survival. This variety of camping-especially combined with canoeing or hiking-can offer tension reduction, self renewal, self awareness, appreciation for what one has back home, and a “natural high.”
Most societies have developed methods to passively induce altered states and the relaxation response. For example, in most religions, prayer and/or meditation is common. It is often done rhythmically and repeatedly and, when carried out for a long period of time, a relaxed or altered state is often reached. This repeated form of prayer and meditation is common in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Roman Catholicism. Some other forms of passively induced altered states, besides meditation, are systematic relaxation, self hypnosis, yoga, and biofeedback.
Most of these passive alternatives, besides being used for tension and stress reduction, can also be used for alleviating insomnia. When using them for sleep, do them lying down. When you use them for stress reduction, sit comfortably in a chair.