Stress and a Desire to Die Later.
“Push your body too hard in the gym without a break and you’ll break down, both physiologically and psychologically. But the majority of general fitness folks aren’t at a place where that’s a realistic concern.
However, push your stress levels too hard for too long and you’ll also break down, both physiologically and psychologically. And the majority of general fitness folks are already at a place where that’s a MAJOR concern.” – Bryan Krahn.
So how much of a problem is chronic stress?
As with all things…it depends upon your individual circumstances; but I would say for most it is a bigger problem for them then they realise.
The biggest issue in regards to stress and getting results from your exercise and training, plan is the diminished ability to recover between workouts. The workout, after all, is merely the stimulus for the body to change and adapt; the time recovering between workouts is “where the magic happens”.
This is when you feel like you are not getting any stronger/bigger/leaner between workouts and simply increasing inflammation and stress upon the body.
In fact it is entirely possible to train yourself into the ground and PUT ON WEIGHT despite keeping a controlled diet.
How do you manage stress while keeping an active lifestyle?
The key is to be realistic and adaptive.
If you only sleep 4-5 hours a night, training brutally hard everyday is not going to do you any favours.
If you are burning the candle at both ends for work (something I see all to often in Australia and mainly due to timezone issues), again training brutally hard everyday is not going to do you any good.
But does this mean you should stop exercising all together? No, merely dial down the intensity and duration of exercise while keeping the frequency consistent.
The dimmer switch and least mode.
Think of a dimmer switch that you use to control the amount of light in a room and apply that principle to training.
When stress is up at work, home and general life; turn the dimmer switch on training down a little.
A good example would be alternate days in the gym with active recovery days where you can move and exercise in a more restorative fashion. Walking, gentle swimming and stretching are all great options.
You can keep the body moving to enjoy the health benefits, while also balancing the overall workload to promote adequate recovery between the harder workouts.
In fact, if you get it just right, it will also speed up recovery from the harder workouts.
Diet and stress.
The next biggest mistake I see is letting your nutrition fall completely to the wayside because of work demands.
Most of the guys who have been through my back rehab program are familiar with the bank balance analogy, whereby you have a finite balance to draw upon during the day before the back will start to break down again.
The long-term goal for back pain is spare that balance as much as possible, letting it grow with interest like a savings account.
Well you will all be pleased to know there is another bank account you need to keep an eye on, namely your stress account.
Think of it as an account that starts with $100 a day. Every bit of stress, both negative (work stress) and positive (exercise stress), makes withdrawals from that account as the day progresses.
The key is to end the day with as much left in that account as possible, so like your savings account you start to build compound interest.
The bigger the account, the more energy you will have, the harder you can train, the better the results you achieve will be, and overall life will be easier and more manageable
The worst thing you can do to that account is consistently run around like a headless chicken at work without eating a solid, regular diet.
Effectively you are trying to drive a car very hard and fast, while running it on fumes.
In the short-term it means you stress account will never fully replenish (let alone grow) from day-to-day. You will be constantly running into the red and picking up fines by way of low energy, lack of concentration, short-temperedness, anxiety and maybe even depression.
Long-term it can lead to all sorts of hormonal imbalances and issues.
Putting it together as a foundation
My biggest piece of advice I can give anyone with regards to long-term health and happiness, is to look after your foundation of nutrition and recovery.
The more solid your foundation, the more you can deal with and handle in life.
The more unstable that foundation, the more likely you will enter a constant cycle of crash and burn. The results of which will vary. If you have a weak back, expect it to constantly flare up; if you have poor digestion expect IBS or diabetic type symptoms to worsen; if you sleep tends to be poor, you can expect it to get even worse (which will increase your stress further).
If you eat well and sleep plenty, then you can train hard and recover.
But why bother at all?
The reality is that there are prices to be paid for both an active lifestyle and an in-active lifestyle.
An in-active lifestyle is easier and more comfortable; but will follow a slow, but steady, march towards a lower quality of life. Think “use it or lose it”.
An active lifestyle will take more effort and thought as you balance demands upon your time and recovery; but you can preserve your quality of life well into old age and avoid a myriad of health issues along the way.
The best reason I have ever heard to stick to it…
Coming up on my 12th year as a coach and trainer, I have heard a myriad of reasons behind people’s motivation to establish and maintain a healthier and fitter lifestyle. I have never heard a bad reason to improve the quality of your health. However one I heard recently stands out amongst the rest.
One of my longest clients in Bondi, Dan, was recounting a conversation he had with a work colleague about their reasons to change their lifstyle get fitter and healthier.
Dan asked him what was his motivation to change his life and replied with:
“A desire to die later.”.
Sounds good to me.