Tackling stress is increasingly being seen as the first step to fitness, and as lockdown relaxes, it’s time to free your mind so your ass can follow.

Let’s have a little lockdown honesty – how many of those well-meaning plans you made to follow online workouts, stay in trim and emerge from confinement looking toned and beach-ready actually happened.

Most of us feel more like Jabba the Hutt after eight weeks of staying indoors being couch potatoes. But if you’re going to get back in shape, it’ll mean a little more than going out for a run or a brisk walk – first get your mind straight so that you’re in right frame of thinking to really get where you need to be.

Lockdown has been a stressful time. Many of us worry when we’ll see distant loved ones again; whether our jobs will still be there for us; about how things may change forever. And stress is a killer, fraying your nerves and health and leading you into bad habits such as smoking, drinking and comfort eating.

Beating Stress

Stress needs dealing with before you do anything else. A vigorous workout system can certainly reduce stress, flooding your body with feel-good endorphins, but if you get into the habit of calming down before you start, you’ll reap even greater benefits. Look at your exercise session as a journey rather than a battle – you need to take your time and ensure you’re on the right road, rather than leap in with all guns blazing.

For example, if you run, walk for five or ten minutes before you speed up. Enjoy this period, as you feel your body warming up and enjoy sights and sounds before starting to push your body harder.

Before work outs, take some time to be at peace before you even start warming up. If you know how to meditate, use those techniques; if not, just work on breathing slowly, regularly and deeply, focussing on rhythms so your mind clears.

Music can be a brilliant aid to relaxing. Avoid those pumped-up gym anthems and look for something a little more ambient and calming. In fact, whatever works for you is good – the aim is simply to get in a calm state of mind before commencing your exercise.

After Care

We’re also seeing more and more focus on post-workout care, which not only allows our muscles to cool down and relax naturally, but also lets us re-enter the world in a calmer, more contented frame of mind. Foam rollers are great for giving those large muscles a good massage, and it’s also worth trying some stretches after your work out.

Then just take a moment before stripping off, getting into the shower and drying off. Don’t make it too hot, but do enjoy yourself. As you dry off and get dressed, you’re making an important crossing to another part of your life.

Food Matters

Here on Lanzarote there’s been no excuse for eating rubbish during the lockdown – the shops and supermarkets have all been packed with good, fresh food. The popularity of snacks, choccies and junk food is entirely to do with a nation feeling a bit bored and sorry for itself.

But now’s the time to get back to good habits, which will make you feel better. Diets tend not to make you feel great on their own, but when combined with exercise and a positive attitude, they can really become one of the highlights of your day.

Chuck out that processed food, the trans fats, the sugar and the junk, and lay in a store of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, lean meat and fish. Track down local grocers for really fresh stuff or organic food, and take a real interest into what goes inside you. Very soon you’ll start to feel the difference.