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'Punching a heavy bag': Good for more than boxing or cardio workouts

You probably wouldn't guess you'd find a recommendation for punching a heavy bag within the pages of a book on how to live up to your potential.  Then again, 'Release Your Brakes' by the late James Newman is anything but your recurring self-improvement work reflecting the current state of that genre as  it packs a good length of shelving at your local bookstore.  It was published in 1977, preceding many works in the peak performance category. Yet surprisingly, its layman style writing covers insights and techniques that are treated as "new" or "technical" in contemporary books of its genre that are less eloquent in delivery.

So where does 'punching a heavy bag' come into play when discussing self-improvement and peak performance?

Punching a heavy bag 

'Punching a heavy bag': Good for more than boxing or cardio workouts

In one of the final chapters, Mr. Newman discusses how when we hold stress inside, it can build into chemical imbalances that can eventually lead to serious illness. He doesn't elaborate on the specific chemical imbalances, but one can surmise that a major culprit he was referring to is cortisol. Chronic stress can lead to chronically high cortisol levels, which contribute to the following:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Lower testosterone levels
  • Suppressed thyroid function
  • Decreased muscle mass and strength
  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Increased abdominal fat (this can contribute to a whole list of health problems)

The remedy?

Try using a regular regimen of what Mr. Newman referred to as 'Gross Physical Impact Activity.' He defined these as exercises which "involve impact but do not require skill." If we play golf, we sometimes build more stress through the game than we release. The same thing goes for tennis or other competitive sports. Handball or racquetball are effective when engaged in by ourselves for practice. But punching a heavy bag, chopping a bunch of fire wood, or beating the dust out of a bunch of throw rugs would rank right up there as the best methods for releasing the potentially harmful stress that can build up in our systems.

So how often should 'punching a heavy bag' be part of your stress-release strategy?

Jim Newman recommended two applications of this method: As a preventive device and as a remedy when one feels the stress building up. He liked to go with at least twice a week for the preventive method and as soon as the body and emotions signal us in the second case. This would be when we feel things like:

  • Pressure from our jobs
  • When things aren't going as smoothly as we'd like around the house
  • When we experience a major change in our lives

So next time you think you can't handle more stress in your life, try punching a heavy bag on a regular basis and watch your stress tolerance and performance go up.

I'm nearly finished reading this book by a man who was apparently ahead of his time.  He said what so many have said since, but in a more straight-forward manner than they.  Mr. Newman provided the tools for catapulting one's performance and life to the peak of achievement, and didn't pull any punches in the process (no pun intended).



Hello B.C.

Thank you for sharing your experience of a MAJOR cortisol releaser. Most of us experience some levels of stress that are high enough to release detrimental amounts of this antagonistic hormone. However, 'agoraphobia' is certainly a bigger challenge than most of us have to face in the context of "stress." I'm glad to hear you've taken control of it and I appreciate the tip on American Ginseng.


B C Price

This article is so true. I am 6'2 and suffer from agoraphobia. The percieved but not real threats have taken there toll on my frame. I weigh only 165 pounds, but since finding out about cortisol & it's affects i am beginning to take more control over that stress response. I now take American Ginseng & the stress response has been stopped!

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