So I have been dealing with a fair amount of stress lately, mostly in relation to work. I never thought that the stress impacted other areas of my life. I am usually a pretty busy guy with my full-time study, part-time work and throw in the training required to compete in triathlon. In recent months I have noticed that my energy levels were low, I struggled to find the motivation to complete sessions and even when I did, they weren't the best sessions I could have done. When I really noticed how much the work stress was impacting the other parts of my life was at the Wollongong Triathlon a couple of weeks ago. I had no interest in racing, I was drinking too much and out on course I felt flat. Even when I was with my friends they told me I looked unhappy, angry and tired. It's funny but when you are in it you don't really notice it.
Well this week has seen some significant changes in my life meaning that a lot of that stress is not affecting me anymore. All I can say is that I feel like a different person. I realised how unpleasant I may have been for the people around me and how much my training has been suffering. So I want to write about dealing with stress and how important it is not to let it impact on your training.
One of the things I remember before I started this crazy life that I know live was how easily I would come up with a reason not to train. Oh, I had a hard day at work, its a bit grey, I feel stressed. You name it and bang! TV on, chips and beer ready couch sat on. I kid you not, my Mum and brother used to refer to the couch as my office! Then I went through my big change and haven't looked back. As I said, I didn't realise that my stress was impacting my training. But this week has shown me just how much it was. Literally the first session I did this week after having the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders was my typical pool speed set. I normally do it as 50's but the uni pool is 25 metres so I go through it twice. The set is:
16x25 (4th sprint) 10 second rest
12x25 (3rd sprint) 15 second rest
8x25 (2nd sprint) 20 second rest
4x25 (all sprint) 25 second rest
Through twice with a 200m cool down
I normally do them in sets of 2 so it is technically 50's but that's besides the point. For the last few weeks I have been really happy with my times. Averaging maybe 47 seconds for the easy 50's, 42 seconds for the half easy half fast and 38 for the fast. Well this week I started easy and did a 1000m warm-up (I wasn't sure what set I would do) then I got in. I was crushing along at usual pace until something clicked. All of a sudden my slow 50's were 44 seconds, my half-halfs were 41 seconds and my sprints were 36 seconds... I couldn't work it out. I know I have been swimming a bit lately but my times have been so consistent for months. Then I realised something. I wasn't thinking about work while I was swimming, I was focusing on my technique, the things I could control. Literally my first session stress free and I had felt good the whole time and swam faster than I had before!
I am far from a psychologist, but as I have come to terms with recent changes I have actually felt myself get lighter, like a weight has lifted off my shoulders. So I figure that all that time I have been training stressed I have been making it harder for myself than needed.
So how can this apply to Jo average who isn't interested in that 4:05 70.3 time like I am? Well I have several PT clients now and one thing I notice with most of them is that the biggest limiter to them completing their sessions and reverting to poor health choices is stress. So I want to say to anyone reading this who is stressed that you may not realise how much of an impact it is having in you. Remember why you want to be active and try and separate your fitness from your work. Something I suggest to people which may be helpful is to think of your workout as your reward for the shit you have gone through at work or uni. Too often we see people rewarding themselves with food, come on, we are not animals needing to be trained with treats. Think of your workout as a treat and then enjoy it. Use it as a distraction from your stress and think about the benefits you will experience from it.
I hope this makes sense to you guys, I actually found this one quite difficult to write as there is so much I want to say so I might break some of the things I have left out into blogs for future weeks.... But please, let me know how you all deal with stress, share any secrets you may have.
As for training, I am getting stuck in with my coach again this week and am really looking forward to ramping things up in the lead up to Cebu 70.3.
Anway, stay safe, train stress-free and remember to TRI!!!
EDIT: Thanks to one of the best personal trainers and I guy I look up to Andrew Read for adding some good points to this:
"Adding exercise to destress from a stressful work situation doesn't fix it. It makes it worse. When stress is added you need more recovery not more work. The solution is things like yoga, meditation, walking, relaxed stretching - things that calm the CNS. When stress (either in the form of training or work) is high then recovery also needs to be high to balance it out.
The point is that when work stress adds up you need to reduce training load to ensure adequate recovery, not try to out train it by using exercise to get it out of your system. That sees a journey to a very dark place as you eventually burn out the poor adrenals that were desperately trying to keep you going for so long."