I have had multiple clients that have found that they are unable to continue making progress towards their fitness goals. As a trainer that hopes to have influence over multiple aspects of a clients' life, I often feel straight up at fault. It makes me want to dive into every aspect of their life and play around with all of the variables - because there must be a way...right?
Yes and No. Everyone should be able to continue making progress towards a fitness goal (sans something like birth control, for example, that can impede weight loss), but what we run into is a variable that few trainers even consider...stress.
Biologically, the stress response found in animals is an amazing thing! It sets the body up to act in a moment's notice to an environmental stimulus that could potentially be deadly (i.e. getting chased by a bear). Unfortunately for our urban societies, however, this same response is triggered when we are psychologically stressed out from unpaid bills, an argument with a friend, busy times at work, planning a wedding, etc.
Here's what I have run into as a trainer when I know that the client I am dealing with is stressed out:
- Muscle tightness and pain that doesn't seem to go away despite being worked on
- Inability to pay attention to the workouts - all sorts of anxiety and a constant need to check email
- Eating and drinking stuff that they know is counterproductive to their goals (and not strategically)
- Sleeping too little
I did a little bit of research to see what else happened when one is chronically stressed out:
- Memory problems ensue
- Poor Judgement
- Constant Worrying
- Overwhelmed Feelings
- Constantly getting sick
- Reliance on alcohol/drugs to relax
Unfortunately, chronic stress is a side effect of living in our society today. Not only are we bombarded by stimuli environmentally, we are pushed to the emotional and psychological brink through work and interpersonal relationships. In this world, it is important to find...no, MAKE time to destress AND decompress.
Everyone's stressors are different, so responding to them should be customized to your individual needs. Just because you are meditating or doing yoga, you need to look at what may be required to truly get away from what is causing the biggest problems. While a vacation from a stressful job would be ideal, I understand that this is the real world and maybe it needs to be thought of as a smaller, more regular effort at getting away from work. I find it fascinating that when clients go on vacations, their muscular problems tend to go away or lessen.
Some ideas that have helped me or people I know get away from the stress:
- Meditation (daily): They have great phone apps and such that are a great way to get yourself immersed in this now as the market for it increases every day. From there, seek out ways to do meditation in a less tech-oriented way to increase its effects.
- Side Plug: If you are interested in trying out a great combo class of exercise followed by meditation, check out Lifted in San Francisco. Website here. Know the owner, love his passion and his ideology.
- Tech Redux: Stay away from your phone, computer, and TV (even though it may feel relaxing, news and shows can be tiring and stressful too). Find yourself getting into a book, game, or hobby that takes your mind off of your daily life stresses.
- One of my favorite things to do to get away from my phone is take a walk without it. We live in a beautiful city, filled with all sorts of stressors; but if you go out with a relaxed mind and no phone you will see just how beautiful it is.
- Vacation: This is a big one. I know that it is not exactly easy to just go on vacation, but try to plan one in the near future. It will help ease the stress and give you stuff to do when you need to get away from work for a little bit.
- Deep breathing exercises (you can even do this one at work!): Like the ones found here. As you may know, I am a huge fan of correct breathing as it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to functional movement. Bad breathing technique is directly correlated with tension in the body and is a good indication of how stressed out you are. The PRI breathing exercises are another example of focused breathing that can help you relax.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to manage stress. Reply to the subscription email directly to contact me!