Stress one of the major influencers upon training adaptions. Everyone worries about their strength gains and their cardio times, whether they are training hard enough, but very few worry about how stress is effecting adaptions. If stress is not mitigated then the hard hours spend training will a waste as little to no adaptions will occur. The role of a strength and conditioning coach is mainly to programme so that stress doesn’t play its negative role. This is where you see a difference with the gym enthusiast, class goer and weekend warrior who want to hit every session hard, the best endurance athletes in the world spend around 80% of their training in the green zone or <70% HR max. It’s not because they have the time to do that, it’s to not stress the body more than it needs.
The body does not see any difference in life, work, emotional, financial, relationship or physical stress, it is all stress to it. The issue is the rise in the hormone cortisol to anything stressful that occurs, this is your fight or flight hormone. When this rises to prepare your body for the stressor, anabolic hormones decrease, eg testosterone. These hormones work in tandem with each other. Now this isn’t to say all stress is bad, a small amount is needed to break down muscle fibres so that testosterone can go in and do its thing and create change. However when there’s too much, it blocks the anabolic hormones from giving you your adaptions, instead cortisol actually does the reverse and starts eating away at muscle too much, because cortisol is catabolic. This is why you’ll hear of head coaches telling their athletes to do nothing and rest when not in training, they don’t want any unnecessary stress placed upon the body. You see, it is a big balancing act and requires a lot more than just writing a single session, because when cortisol is high, there is no point in training. You probably realise now, this is where the gym goer differs from the pro athlete.
So how do you mitigate stress when you’re working full time, have a family, the children need your attention and you have to fix the fence that broke last summer. Here are a few tips for you:

How to mitigate stress if you’re working full time

  • Sleep, as you may have read in the sleep section, sleep is the biggest sport enhancing drug you can take. Get as much of it as you can, both at night and in the early afternoon for a nap. Please see that section for a more in-depth look.
  • If an afternoon nap is not feasible, then try meditation. It has actually been proven to have more restorative effects than a nap. Tons of benefits, it is a great habit to get into. You can start with apps such as headspace or calm and work up to transcendental meditation etc. It is a habit I try to get all my athletes to create.
  • Nose breath. Breathing out of your nose, with your tongue on the top of your mouth and
    your teeth not touching, has been shown to up-regulate your parasympathetic nervous
    system (rest and digest system) and lower your sympathetic system (fight or flight). Team with up with box breathing (a form of meditation), 2s inhale, 2s hold, 2s exhale, 2s hold. You can envisage a box as you do this, your breath pattern is the circumference of the box.
  • Don’t hit every session hard. You signed up to this membership for help with your programming, which you will get. However, when/if you go off alone again, please remember to space your sessions out accordingly, and if you have a stressful work week ahead, taper the week instead of hitting it hard. It would be more beneficial for you to get your rest in than to try and train hard, especially as it would be pointless.
  • Try to cut out stressful factors in your life if possible. This isn’t just for training but for a healthier life in general. Chronically high levels of cortisol have been linked with many chronic health conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, skin conditions, reproductive issues, digestive problems and mental issues. This hormone can cause havoc to your homeostasis, so keeping it to a minimum will keep you healthier.

Signs and symptoms you are too stressed are:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds and flus
  • Eating more or less
  • Altered sleep
  • Nervous habits
  • Using alcohol
  • Using cigarettes or drugs more frequently
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgement
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious
  • Constant worrying
  • Depression
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolated
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
So that’s all things stress, we want it, but just a little, after that we don’t want any, just high anabolic hormones instead.