Article written by Marshall White for LiftBigEatBig.com
Lately I have been going through some very stressful things in my life personally. Through it all I have tried to make sure I still kept my gym schedule, my eating schedule and my sleeping schedule. I have done a very good job at maintaining these schedules and have only been out of whack a few times. Even though I have maintained them well I have noticed a slight decrease in my performance on certain days. What I would like to write about is how ones personal life can affect their athletic performance and strength and what you can do to better manage that stress.
For many years I refused to believe that anything stressful in my "regular life" could affect what I do in the gym. I figured that if I was stressed out and I had a bad day, week , or month in the gym that I must be mentally weak and the only thing for me to do was to train harder in order to overcome this weakness. This is when I started figuring out that your body has a physiological response to stress. Your cortisol levels go up, your central nervous system takes longer to recover and on a more superficial level, your eating and sleeping can be negatively affected. My first step in overcoming personal life stress affecting me as an athlete was to admit that stress can affect my strength and performance negatively. My second step was to look for ways to overcome these stresses. Here are just a few tips that I have found to work for me in managing the impact stress can have on my training.
DO NOT stop training!!! Most people's workouts are more of a stress relief than a cause of stress. It's completely understandable if you are so stressed you don't even think you can get out of bed to go to the gym and you stay home, but do not let this become a habit. To the best of your ability try to stick to a training schedule. Even if all you do is go into your box and jump rope, stick to your routine and try to make it in every day you can. This will improve your mood, provide some mental clarity and because you put in work you will eat and sleep better. Next, if at all possible reduce your exposure to the stressors prior to training. If you have a big work meeting in the evening try to catch your workout in the morning or early afternoon. Again, this will put you in a better place mentally to train as well as handle the stress later in the day.
Another good thing to do is to try and minimize other smaller stresses in your life so that things don't "pile up". Maybe hire someone to mow your yard if work is really stressful right now. If your domestic life is rocky maybe try only watching funny movies or tv programs for a while so that there is some levity in the household. Focus your energy on the big stressors and your training and minimize and manage the small ones so that you can get back to a regular lower stress life. Finally, make sure you stick to eating cleaner foods and getting good quality sleep. It's very common for people when stressed out to want to eat junk food and sleep all day. A little junk food is ok, and a nap here and there is also ok, but try to the best of your ability to stick to your regular schedule. Taking too many naps will keep you up at night and the quality of your sleep will reduced, and introducing a lot of junk food to your diet will make you feel lethargic and possibly add an element of depression. During high stress times I rid my house of all junk food and I have even incorporated a sound machine to help me sleep better.
The biggest key to minimizing the impact stress has on your training is to recognize it for what it is. Recognize that you are stressed but that it is also temporary, things will get easier. Take this time to do something fun you may not often do in the gym, or spend some time on just getting your clean and jerk up. Stick to a routine but have fun with it and use your workouts as a stress reliever. Working out, training, exercising, lifting, whatever you want to call it should enhance our lives not make them harder so incorporate these suggestions next time things get stressful and I'm positive you'll be better off for it.