The Impact of Stress and How to Avoid it
We all know that stress has the ability to impact everything from our interactions with others, to our health. In this post, we will discuss how stress negatively impacts your training, and hinders your progression in the gym.
Fun Fact: Training, by definition, puts stress on your muscles and body. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on a very specific kind of stress - an emotional factor that causes psychological tension, or turmoil. Or, what you all commonly think of when I say stress.
Let’s break down how stress impacts your body, and how those responses impact your efforts in the gym. Most of these responses are primarily caused by the stress reaction triggering an increase of cortisol production in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone, which also plays a vital role in metabolism, immunity, brain functioning, water regulation, and other fun things. Cortisol, in normal quantities, helps to regulate the body. However, in the stress response, cortisol levels increase and stay elevated which leads to a number of harmful effects:
- Muscles become catabolic and break down, as muscle protein synthesis decreases and strength diminishes.
- Blood sugar rises, and insulin resistance increases, causing the body to store excess sugar in the blood as fat. This leads to weight gain.
- Cortisol suppresses anabolic growth hormones, growth factor, and testosterone. All of these hormones are crucial in fitness and strength progression.
Additionally, stress decreases memory, motivation, emotional resources and concentration. It lowers the functionality of your immune system, and increases recovery time needed - making you more prone to illness and injury. All in all, stress is bad news for anyone, but especially for a fit-centric person.
Clearly, one of our major goals daily should be to keep our lives as stress-free as possible. Here’s are a few ways you can do just that:
1. Take Your Rest Days, Guilt Free
When it comes to relieving stress, you’d be surprised how helpful getting adequate rest can be. Many tend to plow through their routines, feeling guilt if they don’t work out or take extra rest, not realizing that they hurt themselves more by not resting than they would by skipping a workout. Take your rest days, listen to your body, and skip a workout if you really aren’t feeling up to it - just don’t make that a habit.
2. Practice Breathing Exercises, Meditation, and Yoga
All of these activities are ones specifically designed to help keep you calm, centered, and focused. Prolonged practice of these relaxing, mindful exercises will go a long way in helping you keep your stress levels down, for a long time.
3. Adjust Your Expectations, So That Fewer Things Truly Stress You Out
No explanation required here. If you clear your head of make-or-break deadlines, be-all-end-all scenarios, and unrealistic expectations, you’ll find yourself adjusting your reactions to stressful scenarios, accordingly. Learn to embrace patience and practice understanding, and you’ll find yourself fretting less, and relaxing more.
There is no denying that stress hurts more than your mental state. Manage your stress to maximize your gains.