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I've heard it said and said it myself hundreds of times... "Life-stress is total". What I mean when I say that to my athletes is that they should keep in mind that the stress of that workout is cumulative with the stress they are experiencing in other areas of their life.

Think about this for a minute. Step back and look at what is going on in your life on a daily basis and identify the potential sources of stress: relationships, work, school, child care, major life-events like loss of a loved one or divorce, trauma, financial challenges... the list is individual but put it in context with your life. Now realize that your workout also imposes a level of physiological stress to the mix. If you identified several areas of your life that are stress inducing, then it might be worth it to moderate your workout intensity a bit to make sure you're able to recover.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research sheds some light on this topic. The research was done on University students. Their level of perceived stress was measured using a series of well-established questionnaires. They then performed a heavy-resistance exercise protocol and over the course of the next 4 days their recovery from this exercise bout was monitored.

The researchers found that students who scored highest on the stress measuring questionnaires had an impaired ability to recover from this hard resistance-training exercise bout. In fact those with the lowest levels of perceived stress returned to baseline strength level several times faster than those that reported higher levels of stress.

Although this study was done on young healthy individuals using a resistance exercise protocol, the result most likely carries over to other forms of exercise like running and also carries over to athletes who might be well-past their "college-age". Knowing that higher levels of chronic psychological stress are associated with delayed recovery from physical strain, athletes who sense they are experiencing a higher level of psychological stress in their lives may want to monitor their recovery from workouts a bit more closely and be ready and willing to moderate their training in order to avoid pushing themselves into an injured state.

Worth pondering - what's your cumulative stress like? Life stress is total, try to keep it to a level your body can recover from!

To your health - Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS


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