Ask Dave: How Can I Use Exercise to Keep Myself Sane?

Here we go with another “Ask Dave”

This one comes from a member of the Wild Geese Martial Arts Eskrima group:

Wild Geese Martial Arts Founder Paul Cox "teaching" Eskrima, in this case it's not Brian

Wild Geese Martial Arts Founder Paul Cox “teaching” Eskrima, in this case it’s not Brian

“Hi Dave,
Sorry to bother you but I could use a bit of advice.
I’ve started into the final year of my PhD and the stress is starting to get at me, to the point where I’ve been struggling to get a full night sleep for the past few months and it’s really starting to affect me. I know that exercise helps with stress levels and I do try to keep active but recently it’s gotten harder to face doing anything. I’m currently spending close to four hours a day commuting so I’m fairly limited with my time in the evening and find it difficult to fit everything in. I play 1-2 hours of 5 aside on the weekends and do a combination of bodyweight and kettlebell exercises when I get the time and energy. In the past, I had been aiming for the Wild Geese minimum standards that you had posted up but I’ve been forced to put that to one side. The thought of adding more goals to what I have to do already is frightening and I just end up frustrated with myself when I don’t make any progress.
Reading over this email it seems kind of rambling but I guess I’m looking for some advice on how to use exercise (I’ll not even bother to call it training) to keep myself sane without stressing my body out anymore than it already is.

Hi Brian,

Good question mate, if you don’t mind I may use it for a blog post (naturally he said yes!)

But first, 4 hours commute? Every day? Are off your head?
(he did reply with an answer to this, it’s merely down to logistics)
Exercise is stress relief. Training is stress.

So, don’t train, merely exercise.

You’re only goal is to maintain a basic level of fitness, prevent any muscle loss / excess weight gain / postural disruption that will happen as you focus on your main goal which is of course the Phd.
I would suggest you use the “exercise break” method.

ie, at intervals through the day you do sets of an exercise. Some call it “Grease the Groove”

Recently Ido Portal has had the 30 Squat challenge, where the goal is to accumulate 30 minutes of sitting in the resting squat per day for 30 days. He also did the hanging challenge where you accumulate 7mins of hanging per day for 30 days.


These are good examples.

You simply pick 1-3 exercises / physical skills that you would like to improve on and drip feed them into your day. You may or may not predetermine a set amount to do.

Some suggestions:
Pull Ups
One Arm Push Ups
Regular Push Ups
Single leg (pistol) squats
Wrestlers Bridge
a Gymnastic movement such as a handstand or cartwheel.

Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat

I recommend you stick with one skill for the whole day, the next day you can do a different one. But only choose 1-3 skills in total. Obviously there shouldn’t be too much overlap between the skills, so if you choose a handstand, you wouldn’t do a push up as well.

Next is to work in sub maximal sets, whatever your max effort is, do approx 50% of that each time.
Example: If you can do 10 pull ups, you will start out by doing a set of 5 pull ups every two hours over the day.

You get me?

If you choose a skill you can’t yet achieve a single rep, that’s cool too. You simple do a practice or two at it at several intervals through the day. This is fun as it gives you something else to think about for the few minutes you’re doing it and a massive sense of achievement when you get your first one.

Example: One Arm Push up – initially work the lowering portion trying to go slower with more control on each rep. Do these in single reps, one each arm at intervals through the day. One day you will lower al the way down under control, you will smile. From here on in you attempt to lower and then lift. Still working in singles.

A "do anywhere" drill for striking power

A “do anywhere” drill for striking power

One day you will lift, and again you will smile.

Then you make that single rep smoother. Then one day, maybe on the weekend, you get down and test your max and fuck me! You get 3 on each arm!

How does that all sound?



Brian since replied telling me that he’s using the exercise break method and is finding it to be a great benefit to him.
Which is great to hear.

As a follow up to his original question, I’d like to elaborate on the “exercise vs training” thingumy.

Many see “training” to be superior to “exercise”
And in many ways they are correct.
Training has purpose and direction. For example, you train for a marathon, you train for a fight, you train for a Kettlebell Sport competition or a Triathlon or whatever.
There is an end goal in sight and the training provides the steps to reach that end goal.

Exercise then, is ticking the boxes. It’s general, not necessarily devoid of direction but without the laser like focus of a training plan. It must still have design behind it, it must be thought out and lead to progression.

For people like Brian who already have a shit tonne of stress on their plate, exercise is by far the better option.
The additional stress of ensuring progress is made on a training program along with being on top of sleep and nutrition can sometimes be too much.

It takes a smart guy to know when to take the foot of the gas and slip into exercising and when to floor it and train with purpose.

Sometimes we just need to punch the clock because other things are a priority.


Dave Hedges

If you like the idea of adding bodyweight exercise breaks to your day, please check out the No Equipment – No Excuses ebook:

Bodyweight Training eBook



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