Take Time Out for a Faster, More Complete Recovery
Avoiding and buffering stress should become a top priority for every athlete—regardless of her competitive experience or aspirations. While intermittent, short-term stress is manageable, chronic stress can drastically diminish the body’s performance and recovery potential. While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for achieving a lower stress level, there are some basic guidelines to follow:
Move slowly after moving quickly.
But continue to move. To counterbalance the physiological stress of hard, physical effort, the body needs to move slowly. So a long walk, easy hike, or relaxing spin on the bike offer the opportunity for a physical and mental recharge without overtaxing the body.
The body does not respond positively to rest periods of complete inactivity. If you have a job that requires lots of sitting, make sure to get up from your desk at regular intervals. Try to stand up from or change positions at your desk once every 20 minutes; and walk for five to 10 minutes every hour--preferably outside if your work logistics and weather permit it. Recent research shows that no amount of exercise or type of physical activity will overcome the negative, physiological effects of a sedentary work day.
Vary the type and intensity of your workouts.
If you’re only doing long, slow distance, you’re using and training only one of the body’s energy systems. And you’re missing out on an opportunity to make your body (and mind) more stress resistant. To optimize your body’s capacity for stress resilience, consider adding some short burst interval training (high-intensity repeats combined with intermittent recovery periods). Short burst intervals mimic the stress response—short periods of increased heart rate, breathing, and muscle use followed by an adequate recovery.
There is a direct connection between training the heart rate to drop and recover after the stress of exercise and getting it to drop and recover after the stressors of everyday life. Training the body to recover from any type of stress—physical, mental, or emotional—improves the body’s resiliency. Interval training trains your body to recover from stress more quickly and efficiently. Short burst interval training also raises the trigger point at which our body decides something is stressful. This means it trains the body to handle more stress before it trips the stress response.
Even mild dehydration can significantly impair the body’s ability to repair and recover. Keep a glass container or stainless steel water bottle with you and sip water throughout the day. There are a range of water recommendations, but the easiest way to assess how you’re doing is to check your urine color. Consistently clear is the goal.
Get at least 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily.
Sunlight is necessary for healthy brain function and nitric oxide (NO) production. The skin also needs sunlight in order to manufacture vitamin D3, which keeps cortisol in check. Because unprotected, full-body sun exposure is often a difficult task to manage, (especially during the winter months), the use of a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement will be a necessity for at least a portion of the year. Maintaining a high NO level improves oxygen delivery, which is crucial to the healing and recovery process. One of the most convenient and effective ways to support nitric oxide is with the use of a high-quality beet juice powder like PureClean Powder, which is available on Amazon or at purecleanperformance.com.
Organize your life.
Define and establish your goals and determine your priorities. Then establish a realistic, step-by-step plan to achieve them. Focus on what’s really important in your life and don’t let the ‘small stuff’ get in the way. If and when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a problem, take a step back and simply assess it. Brainstorm possible solutions, and then break them down into a series of small, manageable goals.
Take some time out for yourself every day.
Listen to some calming music, watch a comedy show, read a book, start writing in a journal; invite a friend over for a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or a walk. If you’re spiritual, dedicate a portion of each day to practicing your faith. Even five to ten minutes of silence a day can make you significantly more stress-resistant.
When it comes to maximizing the body’s ability to respond positively to accumulated stress, nothing is more powerful than quality sleep. So just do it: Prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. It’s the only window of opportunity your body has to dedicate 100% of its resources to resting, repairing, and regenerating.
I’m curious—what strategies do you use to manage stress? How often do you use them? Please share your insights in the comments section below.