“I’m overwhelmed. I feel exhausted. Life isn’t fair. My energy is low. My genetics are shitty…oh and did I mention I feel overtrained.”
We remember our last year of College taking 15 Units per semester, doing an internship, working 32 hours a week, homework, projects, and training. MY DEAR LAWD we were extremely busy and evidently this lead to mental stress. We started to continuously say things like the above statements and the mental stress started to affect our training and that was a huge deal.
These days, everyone wants to know the magical programming design to build muscle, hidden gems to fat loss, the gold standard macronutrient ratios for their nutrition program, perfect supplementation stack, and then some. What we tend to forget are life stressors that we all deal with on a day-to-day basis. These life stressors lead to mental stress, which have been proven in studies to lead to performance decrements in training.
You can have the quote-on-quote 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 quote-on-quote perfect program will suffer because of these life stressors and so will your results.
Now, before we get started with our 5 life stressors that may be affecting your training and how to fix them. We don’t want you to look at this in a superficial way or a black and white answer type of thing. We’re asking you to think critically here and come up with your own opinions. We want you to look at these life stressors more as they could become a big problem if they become chronic in your life and you don’t find a way to cope with them. 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.
Allow us to elaborate…
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…Does all this sound stressful?
While stress can have detrimental effects, 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, stuck in some traffic, going straight to the gym, and have experienced some kind of occupational stress which could affect your performance when you’re training.
How to Fix It
While going through your warm up phase, try the following:
- Put on your “GET FIRED UP” playlist
- Think positive about your upcoming workout and imagine how you’re going to man handle that lift
- Take a couple of deep breaths, relax a bit, and realize you’re going to be okay
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 People’s magazine like crib on the block, 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.
How to Fix It
If you’re dealing with a lot of social stress try the following:
- Joining a team
- Try taking a group class such as: Boot camp, TRX, Pilates, yoga, cross fit, meditation, etc.
- Get a consistent lifting partner
By feeling a part of something is a great feeling and the environments in these group classes are very supportive and encouraging. There’s a lot of comradery 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 Layne Norton, he said “your mentality becomes your reality.” If you’re inherently negative and constantly think negative outcomes, then you’re most likely going to face negative results. 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, 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.
How to Fix It
The minute you step foot into the gym, make sure to get your mind right by trying the following:
- Play some good-up beat music (so good that you want to show off your dance moves)
- Watch a short 3-5 minute motivational Youtube video or training video
- Get a good warm up in
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.
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 bodies during the high stress responses, several diseases can occur such as: Diabetes, obesity, immune suppression, cancer, asthma, allergies, indigestion, and cardiovascular disease. Now of course these are extreme cased diseases, but we still want to inform you on them. Also, fat loss, performance, and hypertrophy could be hampered by high and chronic stress responses.
How to Fix It
If you typically operate in a persistently hectic-daily environment and are always under high stress, consider trying the following:
- Hiring a personal trainer
- Hiring an online coach
- Hiring a chef or meal prep service company
All of the above suggestions can take a lot of the guess work out of your training and nutrition program and will make your fitness life a lot easier.
Stressor #5 – Nutritional Factors
Nutritional factors can be closely related to stress disorders and can become serious problems if you don’t monitor them correctly. If you feel lost with your nutrition program, then you could find yourself overwhelmed with information online or those non-qualified local gurus telling you to eat nothing but tilapia and broccoli because it’ll thin out your skin.
This could lead to frustration and depression and could cause the following to occur: Malnutrition, poor eating habits, eating disorders, bulimia anorexia, or just flat out quitting overall. Again, these are extreme cases, but these are all serious matters which will lead to high mental stress and eventually performance decrements when you train.
How to Fix It
If you are feeling overwhelmed with your nutrition, consider trying the following:
- Hire a sports nutritionist
- A Reputable coach or trainer that has a nutrition background.
- Look into an online nutrition program service like Avatar nutrition
These professionals and online programs will take care of the nutrition side for you and hopefully educate you as well. You could even take a basic nutrition class or self-educate yourself with the right resources.
Wrapping All This Up
As you can see even if you have the most optimal training and nutrition programs, your bodies will say “Not so fast.” This is because stressors in life can affect how you feel with training. Lots of studies show mental stress can cause decrements in performance and even hinder adaptation than physiological stress. Sometimes you can’t remove these mental stressors in life. But you can cope with them, psychologically to where they don’t become stressors. Take life stressors serious as you would with your training and nutrition programs.
If you totally ignore it, do you want to risk your performance and end results?
- Simmons, J (2006). Exercise and stress lecture. California State East Bay.
- Haddy, Richard I. Clover, Richard D. (2001). Biological processes in psychological stress. Families, systems & health.
- McCullagh, Penny. (2005) Sports and exercise psychology lecture. Cal State East Bay.
- Wilson, Gabriel. Wilson, Jacob. Exercise and Stress-An in-depth Analysis. http://www.abcbodybuilding.com/exercisestressindex.html