Stress. A word so frequently used in our everyday lives, that we have all become accustomed to just accepting it. The problem is, do we really understand what stress does, and how it can impact our fitness results? Maria Simeone, Fitness Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness exposes five reasons why stress is killing your workout, and how you can outsmart it.
#1 Stress Kills Your Motivation
Whether it is a deadline at work, or an upcoming event that’s stressing you out, spin class can often fall off your priority list. You may even find yourself reallocating your ‘training time’ to get work done, which can be a lose-lose situation when stress impacts your concentration and you end up not achieving either!
Training regularly not only benefits your fitness goals, but it also benefits your mental health, and can provide a sense of achievement, even when you cut your workout short.
How to Get Your Mojo Back: So many of us have an ‘all or nothing’ mindset, but you will be surprised how a five to ten minute walk over lunch can impact your wellbeing. Commit to your training, but when you are experiencing high levels of stress, adjust your expectations and your intensity. A simple trick - smile while you sweat, even faking half a smile can lower your heart rate and reduce stress!
#2 Stress Kills Your Recovery
Stress can make you feel like you are running on an empty tank all the time, and even more so after an intense workout. This can have a negative impact on your recovery, as when you are under pressure the stress hormone called cortisol can lower your immune system, and as a result delay muscle repair and keeps your energy levels low.
How To Aid Your Recovery: Ensure you have enough rest between each training sessions. As you go to tackle another workout, during the warmup take a moment to reflect on how your are feeling. If you are feeling a tad flat, it may be better to cut your workout short or take another day to rest up.
#3 Stress Kills Your Weight Loss
Believe it or not, the term ‘stress eating’ is a REAL thing! Stress can increase cravings, and have you reaching for more sugary and fatty treats. To make matters worse, during times of stress, our body increases the release of cortisol (the main stress hormone), and as a result your body starts to store more fat around the midsection. It is a vicious cycle!
How To Combat Cortisol: Turn in early. Research has shown that not achieving a minimum of six hours of sleep, on top of stress, can ruin your weightloss goals. Being conscious of your nutrition decisions, and fighting the urge to eat a whole block of chocolate will go a long way. In times of emergency, dark chocolate is your better option and watch your portion sizes.
#4 Stress Kills Your Training Performance
Sure a little adrenaline can increase your heart rate allowing oxygen to move throughout the body better, but adding stress into the mix can cause your muscles to tense up, and your motor skills to go out the door. When you are experiencing high levels of stress, you may find your coordination skills decreas making your weekly Zumba class a little challenging. Shaky hands are also a common symptom.
How To Outsmart Your Results: Before setting any drastic goals, like running your first 10K or half marathon, take into consideration what is going on in your life. If you’re planning a big event or changing careers, it might not be the best time to set an ambitious new target.
#5 Stress Kills Your Mental Focus
There is nothing worse than dragging yourself to the gym at 6am to spend an hour moping around and not making the most of the early start. We have all been there, and don’t get me wrong, any workout is a good workout, but when you are under high levels of stress sometimes rescheduling your workout and spending that extra hour in bed can do wonders to your day.
Another downside to exercising under stress is that you are more likely to injure yourself as a result of attention deficits and lack of concentration. When your head's not in the game, you may find you are a more clumsy than usual, and at a higher risk of dropping that dumbbell on your foot.
How To Get Your Head In The Game: If you are experiencing high levels of stress to the point where your concentration is being affected, ensure you are well hydrated and well rested.
It is difficult to stay committed to your goals when you're consumed by stress, which is why regular stress management is very important. If your stress levels are high, the solution is NOT to skip your workout, after all, exercise itself is a powerful tool for combating stress. Instead, do whatever you can to get yourself into the gym, and make adjustments to your intensity and allow more time for recovery between sessions.
Author: Maria Simeone