This post will give you a better understanding of how life stressors may be holding back your training, as well as strategies to manage them more effectively.
Enjoy! 😉 xxx, Amber
“I have no energy.”
“I ate like crap the other day.”
“I had a long day at work.”
“I feel fat.”
“My genetics suck.”
I remember my last year of College taking 4 classes, doing an internship, working 32 hours a week, homework, projects, and training.
MY LAWD I was extremely busy, and evidently, this led to mental stress.
I started to say things like the statements above, and the mental stress started to affect my training and that was a huge, huge DEAL-E-O.
Im writing this because I feel too many people overlook the component of life stressors when it comes to getting optimal results.
These days, everyone wants to know the magical programming design to build muscle, hidden gems to fat loss, the gold standard macronutrient ratio for their nutrition program, perfect supplementation stack, and then some.
What we all tend to forget is that life stressors that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, lead to mental stress, which have been proven in studies to lead to performance decrements in training.
You can have the “perfect training and nutrition program,” but what if your sleep is always lacking?
Your cortisol levels are chronically elevated through the roof?
Your blood pressure is constantly sky rocketing?
Or your energy levels are sinking like a ship?
The “perfect program” will suffer because of these life stressors and so will your results.
I don’t want you to look at this in a superficial way or a black and white answer type of thing. Im asking you to think critically here and come up with your own opinions.
The truth is we all have life stressors and some we can’t get rid of, but we sure can control them so our training doesn’t suffer.
I want you to look at these life stressors more as how they could become a big problem if they become chronic in your life and you don’t find a way to cope with them.
And with that being said, let’s look at my Top 5!
Stressor #1- Occupational Stress
Corporate world 9-5’s, commuting, being micro managed, meeting project deadlines, driving in revenue, working your ass off to get promoted, wanting to round house your boss because they’re always nagging at you, etc..
Does all this sound stressful?
While stress can have detrimental effects, evidence suggests that stress plays an essential role in developing a healthy body that is able to cope with the various demands thrown our way on a daily basis.
It is very likely that you’re getting off work, going straight to the gym, and have experienced some kind of occupational stress which could affect your performance when you’re training.
The Occupational Stress Fix
While going through your warm up phase, put on your “GET FIRED UP” playlist, think positive about your upcoming workout, and imagine how you’re going to man handle that squat.
If you shift your mindset away from work mode, you will be more immersed into your workout and thus you will have a more effective training session.
Stressor #2- Social Stress
Social stress can be as tough as occupational stress, if not tougher.
The reason being, you can have the best job in the world, fanciest car, and a house that MTV would feature on “Cribs,” but if you don’t have a social life, or aren’t socially accepted, then everything else means Jack.
Everyone wants to be socially accepted whether they admit it or not.
Social stress can also be family issues or changes, relationship issues, and sexuality issues. Social stress can lead to mental stress, anxiety, depression, decrease cognitive function, among other decrements. So it’s imperative that you exercise at a high performance level so these stressors won’t affect your training.
The Social Stressor Fix
If you’re dealing with a lot of social stress try joining a team or taking a group class like a fitness bootcamp, TRX, Pilates, yoga, CrossFit, etc.
The environments in these group classes are very supportive and encouraging. There’s a lot of camaraderie built and this could be a sure way to help you cope with and improve your social stress.
Stressor #3- The Mind-Body Connection
A quote that really sticks with us is by Dr. Layne Norton:
“Your mentality becomes your reality.”
If you’re inherently negative and constantly think about negative outcomes, then you’re most likely going to face negative results.
The same thing goes for being inherently positive.
There are hundreds of studies showing again and again that decrements to health due to the mind body connection are real problems. Mental stress is related to an increase in various potentially harmful chemicals substances such as:
- Cortisol which degrades proteins, including white blood cells,
- Antibodies, resulting in a decrease in immune function, and consequently,
- An elevated rates of sickness.
This also leads to cerebration (thoughts), which is one reason why people that are stressed often have sleeping disorders and it’s because they’re up worrying all night.
The Mind-Body Connection Stressor Fix
The minute you step foot into the gym, make sure to get your mind right.
Do this by playing some good-up beat music (so good that you want to show off your dance moves), get a good warm up in, and get pumped up for your workout.
Who knows, you could have had a hell of a day at work, with the spouse, the kids, the babies mama or daddy.
Play it safe and set the positive mood for a more productive workout.
Don’t bring that energy draining negative vibe into the gym and definitely don’t be that person in the gym walking around giving everyone dirty looks. YOU AREN’T THAT TOUGH!
Stressor #4- Stress Disorders
Stress is not always a bad thing.In fact, stress is absolutely needed for growth.
However, the real problems occur with abnormal and chronic stress responses.
For instance, some people might typically operate in a persistently hectic environment. These environments contribute to alarming numbers of mental ailments including 16 and 32 million cases of depression and anxiety.
These same people will often make excuses to avoid physical activity. This is when stress can cause serious ailments and diseases.
If you don’t utilize the nutrients and energy being supplied by your body during the high stress responses, several diseases can occur such as:
- Immune suppression,
- Indigestion, and
- Cardiovascular disease.
Now of course these are somewhat extreme examples, but stress definitely plays a role in their development.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you, consider the fact that fat loss, sports performance, and even hypertrophy could be hampered by a chronically elevated stress response.
The Stress Disorder Fix
If you typically operate in a persistently hectic-daily environment and are always under high stress, consider hiring a personal trainer or fitness coach.
A qualified trainer or coach can take a lot of the guess work out of your training and nutrition program, and make your fitness life a lot easier.
Stressor #5- Nutritional Stress
Nutritional factors can be closely related to stress disorders and can become serious problems if you don’t monitor them.
If you don’t have a degree in biochemistry, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with information online. Or worse, you could be learning from under-qualified local gurus telling you to eat nothing but tilapia and broccoli “because it’ll thin out your skin.”
Poor nutrition (or nutritional counseling) could lead to frustration and depression, or even eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, etc.
The Nutritional Stress Fix
Hire a sports nutritionist, a reputable coach, or a trainer that has a nutrition background.
These professionals will take care of the nutrition side for you, and hopefully educate you along the way. If you’re a real go-getter, you could even take a basic nutrition class or self-educate yourself with the right resources.
Stressors in life can absolutely affect your training. Even if you have the most optimal training and nutrition programs, your body can still put the kibosh on your progress in seconds flat.
Numerous studies show mental stress can cause decrements in performance and even hinder adaptation moreso than physiological stress.
And while you can’t remove all the mental stress from your life, you can learn how to cope with it.
Monitor your life stress as seriously as you would your training and nutrition programs. Failure to do so could be the difference between achieving your physique-related goals, and another month (or year) spent spinning your wheels