When you think about stress, what comes to mind? Typically it is mental stress, such as stressing out over a work deadline, a test, or upcoming speech. While these are all very real stressors to most people, stress as a whole is quite a bit bigger than that, and if not accounted for can lead to burnout rather quickly.
The Oxford Dictionary defines stress as “pressure or tension exerted on a material object.” Stress, then, by definition, can mean so much more than just mental or emotional stress. Physical stress plays a huge part in our lives, often without us realizing it.
Lifting weights, running, and really any exercise in general is a stress on the body, and by nature it should be! We need to stress the body and force it to adapt to get better (assuming we recover properly). But there are times where we need to back off, as we will soon see.
Along with exercise, another prominent physical stressor is illness. When you become ill, you often feel drained. While this is a fairly normal phenomenon, it is very telling just how strong of a stressor illness can be. Your body is using all of its resources to fight the illness, often at the expense of much else, such as high-intensity movement.
When you understand just how all of these stressors work and play together, you can be in a much better place to recover from all of these stressors.
Put simply, you must take into account all of the stressors in your life today to know if you will have the capacity to recover from it for tomorrow.
For example, if you have a meeting or paper or speech coming up that is causing a lot of mental stress, or if you’re going through rough patch in a relationship that is causing a lot of emotional stress, or you become ill, you need to plan your workout accordingly.
If you’re red-lighting with all of the other stressors, your workout stress should probably stay in the green – it’s just the way it has to be. If you try to go into the red with a workout under those conditions you will overload yourself. So back off on the weight or the reps if you’re lifting, or don’t do quite as much or back off the intensity if you’re running.
Again, you only get better by recovering from your workouts. When you can’t recover because you have too many or too great of stressors, you end don’t get better. Keep it up for long enough and you may end up going backwards.
But when you’re back in the green for everything else, then it’s time to hit it hard again with the workouts!