Stress and Performance Expectations

Every Day I’m Hustilin’

A lot goes into your daily training beyond just your physical ability. Sleep, nutrition, and stress all play a role. Sometimes we walk into the gym ready to kill the workout but instead, we end up as carnage.

The perfect training day is a Unicorn, if there is one in existence, it is rare. We may have slept well and our nutrition was on point but there’s a work deadline looming and that’s all you can think about. You’re stressed, I get it.

We’re Stressed Out

Stress is a reaction by the body and brain to some challenge or threat, good or bad experiences. When you are stressed by something, your body reacts by releasing chemicals into your blood. There are two types of stress, one is positive and the other is negative and can directly affect your performance.

Nothing separates the positive and negative stress. When the level of stress increases, the level of performance also increases, but when it reaches a point of excessive stress, it becomes negative to the body and our level of performance will instantly decrease, making way for fatigue and exhaustion.  We may not feel enthusiastic, our productivity will decline and these combinations often lead to illness. 

Additionally, stress can directly affect our physiology by increasing muscle tension. Stress also interferes with both sleep quality and quantity. Muscle tension combined with troubled sleep can lead to greater amounts of fatigue and injuries.

Because of stress’ affects on the immune system, which in turn makes us more vulnerable to illness as well as negative affects on tissue repair, recovering from injuries can also be slower.

When we can manage our stress effectively, we will experience positive stress that will increase our performance. Stressors such as pressure can facilitate better stress response and higher levels of performance. This pressure can motivate and encourage us to do better.

So how do we manage our stress relative to our training?

1. Take a deep breath. Realize where you are at this moment with your stressful situation and allow yourself to be ‘ok’. Don’t add any more pressure to yourself be increasing your expectations in your training. Know that you’re giving it all you have and whatever the result, be ok with the effort you gave.

2. Just get the warm up in. If you feel like you’re just too stressed to workout, agree to at least get the warm up in. Talk to your coach and let them know where you are mentally and that you want to do something but not sure you can handle the workout load for the day. Chances are, once you get connected with your friends at the gym, some of your stress will subside for a period of time.

3. Stop beating yourself up for what you would consider a sub-par performance. So you weren’t able to do the RX weight today or keep up with the pack on the runs, it’s not a big deal. No one is going to cut you from the team. It’s more important (and more valuable to your training) to cut back a little rather than set yourself up for an unnecessary injury.

4. I can’t stress (no pun intended) this enough…talk to your coach. Listen, we aren’t exempt from life’s difficulties, we face many stressors as well and we understand that there will be days and weeks where our athletes’ performance may drop a little. It’s ok. If you can communicate with us that you just need to go through the motions a bit, then we know how to coach you better. We’re in this with you, remember, we’re all on the same team.

5. Remind yourself that stressing over a situation is futile. I know, I know, trust me…I struggle with this myself. These scriptures serve as a reminder for me: “Come to me, all who are weak and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. and Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.

Some days we are forced to just go through the motions. Just remember to give your best effort. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi,  “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.”



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