David Wiener, training specialist for leading AI fitness and mindset coaching app Freeletics, explains how stress throws you off your game.
Sweating out a bad day can be an amazing stress reliever. A workout is always an effective way to forget the stresses of the day and boost endorphin levels.
But what happens when you’re too stressed to even think about hitting the gym? Too much stress can end up sabotaging your workout before you’ve even laced up your trainers – here are just a few reasons why…
Stress Hinders your Recovery
It can be normal to feel a bit sore after a workout, but when you’re stressed the effects are multiplied, as your muscles are stressed too. The mental demands of stress steal valuable resources from your body and leave you feeling more run-down and tired than usual. When that’s combined with a tough workout, it’ll leave you with nothing left in the tank and put you at greater risk of injuring yourself.
To lessen the risk of injury, it’s important to give your muscles and your mind time to recover following a strenuous workout. That means taking regular rest days and mixing up your style of training to maximise the effectiveness.
In addition, research suggests that exercising when you’re experiencing stress can increase your risk of injury, which could be for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, if you’re overly stressed it’s likely you’re not focusing properly on your workout or technique, and your wavering attention could be the cause of an injury.
Secondly, when you’re stressed you experience increased muscle tension, which could also set you on the wrong road to an injury, or make any existing aches and pains worse.
Stress Distracts and Demotivates
When you’re coping with a big life event or you‘re behind at work, it becomes the only thing you can focus on, impacting other areas of your life such as exercise. Over time, that means you sacrifice a session for more time at the office or an evening on the sofa.
Stress has the annoying ability to distract your mind and overwhelm your body. Apart from skewing your motivation, you’ll have a hard time reaching your fitness goals when your mind is elsewhere.
When stress makes your training become another thing on your to-do list, the quality of your workout will suffer, as you’ll sacrifice technique in favour of getting it done and dusted as soon as possible.
To overcome that, remember that stress only as big as you allow it to become. One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is mindfulness, and mindfulness combined with exercise is a sure-fire way to help with stress management, helping to calm you down and keep you focused and motivated.
If you’re unsure where to start, Freeletics Mindset offers a unique and holistic approach to getting and staying fit and healthy, both mentally and physically. Combining AI-powered, hyper-personalised exercise plans mindset coaching, Freeletics Mindset offers educational, motivational and mindful audio courses designed to help you improve your mindfulness techniques, establish routines, cope with setbacks, manage stress and improve your focus, recovery and sleep.
Stress Plays Havoc with your Cortisol Levels
Chronic stress can affect your ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol, which influences your metabolism, immunity, sleep rhythms and blood pressure. Unregulated cortisol levels will leave you feeling run-down, tired, and subject to weight gain, as well as making you crave more sugary and fatty foods.
Your cortisol levels will be far higher when you’re experiencing stress, and high levels of cortisol encourages insulin production, which could result in sugar cravings. It can also slow down your metabolism, which isn’t good news if weight loss is your goal. Increased levels of cortisol can also make it difficult to lose body fat, especially around your stomach.
Lack of sleep coupled with stress is a total progress-killer when it comes to reaching your fitness and weight loss goals. Sleep is essential in helping you restore your muscles after training and feeling refreshed and energised the next day. You can regulate your cortisol levels by turning in early at night and getting a proper night’s sleep.
Stress Makes you Fatigue Quicker
Stress affects the part of your brain that deals with both short- and long-term memory, as well as working memory, which is what you use when you’re processing multiple pieces of information at once.
That can make even the simplest of tasks more difficult and means that you’ll mentally and physically fatigue more quickly, which will impact your workout.
However, it’s not all bad news…
While stress can be bad for your workout, there is a plus side: stress can also motivate you. A slight increase in cortisol from moderate stress has proven to have a positive impact on performance. The one upside to knowing how to weather tough times is that you have experience performing under pressure.
That results in more confidence, so rather than seeing stress as a barrier to your success, try viewing it as an obstacle you’ve overcome in the past, and that you’ll no doubt succeed in doing again.