What You’ll Read In This 3-Part Article
This is PART 2 of a 3-Part Article.
The intent in this article is to primarily understand stress in the context of training and exercise, and the two-way affects with mental stress. It will help you understand what is physical stress, why stress is good, how to take advantage of it, the consequences of not allowing adequate recovery, and tips on minimising chronic physical and mental stress.
Here’s a recap of what was covered in PART 1, as well as what you’ll discover over the next two parts.
PART 1 – What Is…
Importance Of Stress, What Are Stressors, How Our Body Responds & Intro Into G.A.S.
- Stress IS Life – Embrace acute stress & minimise chronic stress
- What Are Stressors – General kinds of stressors & types of Physical Stressors
- Understanding How Your Body Responds To Stress – Explaining Fight or Flight response, the significance of Hormone shifts & the beauty of the Adaptation Response
- General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) – An introduction
- What is it and the Three Phases
- A Sunbathing example
- The sum of all stressors dictates the response
- Forms & purpose of Adaptation
- The Reality That You Body Is Constantly Dealing With Stress
- Zooming Out – Seeing the bigger picture of overall life stress/stressors
PART 2 – Practical How-To – Build A Solid Foundation
Minimising Chronic Background Stress & Is your Fitness suffering from too much Exercise?
- Are You Helping Or Hurting Yourself With All The Extra Stress We Add?
- 8 Tools To Help Break Chronic Background Stress – Proven techniques & activities
- Exercise, But Not Layering on More Chronic Stress
- Parasympathetic Activities & Mindfulness
- Health Promoting Foods & Cold Showers
- Muscle Relaxation & Sleep
- Is Your Fitness Suffering From Too Much Exercise? – Is this even possible?
PART 3 – Practical How-To – Training Timing & Handling Exhaustion
Intro Into Supercompsation, Importance of Training Timing & Dealing With Exhaustion
- Supercompensation – The Art Of Using Stress For Gains
- Physical Progress Is All About Timing
- The Goldilocks Principle training response
- Different types of positive & negative compounding Supercompensation
- More often does not equals better
- How long to wait between different types of training sessions
- Identifying If You Are Overtrained, Fatigued Or Suffering From GAS Exhaustion
- Practical Guidance For Dealing With Fatigue & Exhaustion
- Getting Back On The Horse, But Doing Things Differently – How to approach a return to your goals in an optimal and healthy way
Are We Helping Or Hurting Ourselves With Extra Stress?
Reflecting on an earlier truth in PART 1 –
‘Your bodies ability to respond to an individual stressor is dependant on the sum of all stressors the body is dealing with at that time’.
‘We have a finite amount of “adaptation energy” that can be dedicated to resisting and overcoming all imposed stressors. When we’re in a stressful environment, any additional stressor can quickly push us into the exhaustion phase’.
Your bodies ability to overcome a physical/mental stress, and grow stronger to resist it with greater ease in the future, is dependant on how much background stress you have in your environment.
What’s most interesting is that you can’t easily separate stressors and look at them independently. We know that to be true with physical stressors. And we know it instinctively and scientifically to be true between mental stress and physical distress. You need to consider the WHOLE SYSTEM.
That that leads to the question – Do you need to reduce your stress levels physically and mentally by simplifying, reducing the volume of burden you own, and deliberately getting into a parasympathetic state, as opposed to layering on a gruelling 5-day-a-week Intensively HIIT class? Is Yoga or CrossFit needed, based on the sum of all the parts in your current life situation?
8 Tools to Help Break The Chronic Background Stress
- #1 – Exercise! – Exercise is one of the most endorphin-boosting things we can do. Endorphins reduce our perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in our body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the euphoric ‘runners high’ is a result of Endorphins, and can be accompanied with a positive and energising outlook on life. But here’s the kicker, if you train a fatigued or in-repair body hard, you get into the Exhaustion Phase of GAS. 😖
- #2 – Parasympathetic Activities – Basically anything that brings calm and allows your natural system to return your stress state to normal (homeostasis). Things such as walks in nature, mindful stretching, deep belly breathing, smelling calming aromas or a hot bath with epsom salts.
- #3 – Eating Health Promoting Food – Nutrient-dense foods can improve how you feel and think, plus balance you blood sugar. Stabilising your mood with a healthy diet can also break your dependency on processed foods that interfere with your normal brain chemistry. This is the principle behind the food choices in the AdapNation Food Diary. Hormonally and chemically, the foods that have the greatest positive impact on your mood and handling of stress are adequate protein, plant-based foods, antioxidant foods, healthy fats, dark chocolate and avoiding high consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
- #4 – Mindfulness & Meditation – We’re inundated with information, more than ever before. Our minds are perpetually busy, and this causes us undue worry and anxiety. Release and let go of unhelpful or cluttering thoughts by practicing some mindfulness every day. You don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to meditate – you can download guided meditation apps such as Headspace and do 10mins a day on the comfort of your sofa.
- #5 – Muscle Relaxation – Think therapeutic massage of all sorts, sports massages or chiropractic adjustments. If you muscles and myofascia is bound tight due to injury, some other compensation or generally being wound up mentally, it will cause a vicious circle of increased tension mentally and physically. Especially if you are active and work out a lot, you should prioritise some body work once every couple months or so.
- #6 – Quality Sleep – Time and time again it’s proven that optimal sleep duration per day is 7-8 hours – equivalent to 4-5 sleep cycles. A sleep cycle is about 90mins. And it’s not just the quantity of sleep, you should focus on improving the quality. Check out The Top 10 Sleeping Hacks article for tips on how to do both.
- #7 – Acute Cold Exposure / Contrast Showers – Our bodies have got too comfortable as there is little in the way of acute physical danger anymore, so our stress response is over-firing at everything that is non-threatening. Contrast Cold Showers offer an extreme acute stress intervention, by applying a shocking physical stressor. When done regularly, it punches through your existing baseline stress level, but then down regulates it once you recover (i.e. warm up) and you body becomes more resilient via the GAS stress response. This is a great tool, and one I use everyday for its incredible effects on mood and energy.
- #8 – NOT applying Chronic STRESS on STRESS – This is so so important in our modern lives today, and as such we will spend time below to understand the principle of Supercompensation. This can be an incredibly value process for you body, or it can lead to serious problems. Understanding it will allow you to control your overall stressors and be more efficient at positively increase your bodies resources.
You Mean Well, But Your Fitness, Strength & Wellness May Be Decreasing
It sounds counter-intuitive to say this, but the frequency and intensity of your training combined with your background stress levels may well be causing you to decrease your performance, fitness and/or wellness, as opposed to improving it.
But hang on a minute you might say – what about eat less move more? Surely the more you move, the more body fat you lose and the fitter and healthier you’ll be? And what about athletes – some of these guys train for 5-6 hours a day, and their performance keeps improving.
All fair points, but it’s missing a critical couple of pieces:
- Training Timing
- Overall Stress
Think About That Athlete You Pictured…
Their number one goal and focus is to be the best at their sport. All else is secondary. They get loads of rest (more than you realise) and they minimise all other stresses in life to allow their resources to focus in on their sport. They’re focussed on performance versus optimal health. Plus, for the most part their bodies are well adapted to their current workload, meaning less and less stress response occurs when they train within their limits.
Lastly, and most importantly, they undulate their training programme to ensure each individual system (such as individual muscle groups, cardiovascular) gets time to recover between bouts of training by changing focus, type and intensity of training/drill.
Lets take an extreme to make the point. Do you think if a long distance runner ran a couple of marathons every day for a year that they would be improving or decreasing their performance and wellness? What do you think is happening to their muscles, bones and joints? Whilst they would be adapted, that level of sustained stressor without adequate recovery would beat them into the ground, and the symptoms would show themselves both physically and mentally.
To Move Forward, You Must Be Strategic With Training
So, if your goal when doing exercising and/or training is to adapt and improve, whether it be faster, greater endurance, longer performance, bigger muscles, continue to lose body fat, more explosive or greater functional skill, then you need to respect the GAS Stress Response and something called Supercompensation.
Continue Reading 👉 PART 3 of Chronic Exercise & Life Fatigue – Are You GAS’d Out, Not Making Progress Or Stressed?
Go back to the First Article 👈 PART 1 of Chronic Exercise & Life Fatigue – Are You GAS’d Out, Not Making Progress Or Stressed?
Follow this and other topic areas in our longer-form Articles series as they unfold. Comment if you have questions or ideas.