Are You Too Stressed For Exercise?

The word stress today has become synonymous with the negative aspects we associate with stress.

However the complete absence of stress is death!

So we do need stress, we just need it in the right amount at the right times.

A form of stress that people very rarely associate is exercise. Yep, exercise is a form of stress!

When you perform exercise, for example lifting weights, it causes the body tissues to breakdown.

This breakdown is then followed by a process of rebuilding, called super compensation. In essence the body wants to be able to handle this stress next time it experiences it, so it builds up enough tolerance to handle it the subsequent times.

This way your weight lifting exercise programme yields slow and steady results.

But what if you’re not getting stronger, running quicker or jumping higher, for example?

Then there is a good chance that you are overly stressed and your body is not able to recover quickly enough.

Some people will recover from an exercise session quickly while others repair the necessary tissues more slowly. No one way is better, it just is.

You need to develop a good understanding of how YOUR body responds to your exercise stress and also your lifestyle stressors.

If you are not improving your results (be it total weight on the bar, time taken to complete a run etc) by 1-3% on a monthly basis, then there is a good chance that you are simply grinding out your workouts and actually go backwards, relatively. Pushing as hard as you can each session is not the answer!

Below are some example of what 1-3% improvements might look like:

  • 10km run in 55 minutes – 1% faster = 54 minutes 45 seconds
  • Barbell back squat of 50kg – 2% heavier = 51kg
  • Body weight press up x30 – 3% stronger = 31 press ups

These improvements probably don’t make you leap out of your chair but compounded over time can make huge improvements, in 12 months for example.

So if you are not seeing such improvements what is going wrong?

One of the factors I see a lot is people exercising in a fatigued state.

Most people are maintaining their current level of performance at best. If they are getting slightly worse, they put it down to age.

But age perhaps means you need more recovery time, it does not mean you should be going backwards.

So perhaps your lifestyle means that you are too stressed to be taking advantage of your exercise sessions and you actually need to be working on more recovery type sessions between harder training sessions.

What might they look like?

  • A 5km run keeping your heart rate below 180 beats per minute minus your age (this keeps you in an aerobic state)
  • An easy swim
  • Tai chi exercises
  • Extra stretching (working on your postural/muscle imbalances)
  • Core conditioning to improve neuromuscular coordination (takes very little energy)

The key message today: exercise is a form of stress and you need to consider this when you are exercising. Waking up tired, chronic nagging aches and pains, poor results/improvements are all signs and symptoms that you are not able to handle the amount of stress being placed on your body.

The stress from a boss/work situation by the way, is exactly the same to the nervous system as a hard training session. The nervous system simply recognises the “stress input”.

Mindfully consider this next time you go to exercise.