5 Intense Exercises to Help You Clear Your Mind

Forget yoga. Forget journaling. Just floor it.
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Frau macht Sit Ups ©foodspring

Stress… We all experience it sometimes and we all have different triggers—perhaps a critical comment from your boss in your last meeting, an impatient driver honking at you from behind, or your jam-packed to-do list for tomorrow. When life gets on top of you and your brain feels like it’s about to explode, sometimes the only option is to hit the emergency stop button. That might mean finding some inner calm with a few breathing exercises, a gentle yoga session, or some journaling. But it could also mean throwing yourself into a proper workout to burn off energy. 

Exercise and sport are both proven to help relieve stress and, according to Harvard Health Publishing, there are many reasons for this. Endurance training, in particular, helps lower stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and stimulate the production of endorphins, which help lift our mood. Regular workouts also increase our self-confidence and give us a sense of discipline, stamina, and pride in ourselves, so it’s vital that we make space for them in our schedule—even (in fact especially) when that schedule is already way too full. 

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Below are five intense exercises designed to help you switch off, clear your mind for a few minutes, and simply focus on your body. You can do them individually, as a short stand-alone training session, or as a circuit as part of a longer gym training session. We recommend setting a timer and doing three rounds, where you perform each exercise for 40 seconds with a 20-second break in between each one.

#1 Burpee 

Most people have a love-hate relationship with this intense exercise. From a standing position, bend your legs and place your hands on the floor. From here, jump your legs backwards into a high plank position. Either do a push-up or lower your body to the ground and push yourself back up. Finally, jump your feet forwards into a squat position and spring into the air, stretching your arms above your head. 

#2 Jumping Jack to Squat 

Combining these two simple exercises gives you a much more intense workout. Start in a standing position with your feet close together. Jump up and land with your feet more than hip-width apart, raising your arms above your head as you jump. Then jump back to your starting position and bend your knees into a squat position. 

#3 Medicine Ball Slam

You need a medicine ball for this exercise. Raise the ball above your head, keeping your core tight and your legs, arms, and hips extended. Then slam the ball on the ground as hard as you can, catch it as it rebounds, and repeat. 

#4 Squat to Press

You’ll need two dumbbells or kettle bells for this exercise that you can hold in front of your shoulders, but you can also do it without them. Stand squarely with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and lower yourself into a deep squat position. Then return to standing as you press the weights over your head with your arms extended. Lower the weights, return to a squat position, and repeat. Note: The whole exercise should be performed as a single flowing movement. 

#5 Fast Feet

Stand in a comfortable and balanced position. Bend your legs slightly and press your hands together in front of your chest to help tighten your core. Raise your heels, shift your weight to the balls of your feet, and then run on the spot as fast as you can. 

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