What goes up must come down
It is something that we tend to harp on about a fair bit, BUT it is also something we see everyday people completely disregard (including ourselves) and a large portion of the health and fitness industry guilt you about.
It is the idea that if you are not training your arse off then you are not training well.
A couple of crucial definitions:
To us, stress refers to more than just a deadline at work or uni.
Stress is a state in which you are put under a certain amount of pressure. Generally, it is associated with an increase on your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight nervous system). What you are probably always told is that stress is terrible and that if you are stressed you will die. Wrong. However, prolonged periods of stress are associated with the cause of many chronic diseases, so it is important for you to control stress and not stress to control you.
To us stress is extremely valuable when used correctly.
Stress at work (such as a deadline) forces something out of you, and often that is a good thing or else nothing would ever get done.
Stress in the gym can be experienced when at the bottom of your 5th rep of a back squat, or 30 minutes into a conditioning session.
Stress is a certain amount of pressure that will elicit change.
However, too much stress of all kinds for long periods certainly becomes harmful.
Well, this is generally a direct result of accumulated stress. Burnout, lack of motivation, bad moods or injury are all associated with fatigue, so don’t just assume we mean feeling the need to sleep.
Recovery can be active or passive and again, should be considered several forms.
Our knowledge of recovery is slowly improving, we now have centres that are specifically catered to physical recovery (think ice bath, infrared sauna, massage etc.). However, a recovery session at the gym might just involve reduced intensity. Recovery doesn’t always require an injury. For us it is a planned process to return from the fatigue induced by a stressed state.
It is important not to get rest mixed up with recovery. Rest can help recovery. Having a week or two going away on holiday can be considered rest (particularly for the nervous/psychological system) and another great example of rest is a bloody good night’s sleep.
Rest is deliberately having prolonged time off stress inducing periods unfortunately, our modern lifestyles don’t particularly allow us to make enough time for rest. It is one of the biggest problems we are facing.
Now, when considering your training, which should be a major part in your health and fitness regime, are you considering all these aspects?
Here are a few suggestions when it comes to your approach to your training and its place within the spectrum of stress, fatigue, recovery and rest.
Short term cycles
Let’s consider short term training cycles as weekly plans.
For the sake of simplicity, you have 5 training sessions programmed that week.
If you squeezed all 5 of those sessions into two days, you’d probably be pretty sore and cooked after 2/3 sessions on the first day and your quality of training on the second day would go down the drain.
It’s pretty obvious that it doesn’t make much sense to load yourself up.
Now consider this, when was the last time you had one or two full recovery, or even better, rest days within a week?
Make a plan and spread your work load out allowing adequate time to recover and adequate time to rest within weekly cycles. You will get a lot more enjoyment out of your training as well as wayyyyy better results!
Long term cycles
When was the last time you had a recovery week?
When was the last time you had a rest week?
Yes, we do mean do NOTHING physically stressful for a whole week.
Scientifically, exercise programs should cycle through 4,6 or 8 week stints where stress is introduced gently (new exercises) then built up (increased reps and/or sets) and then slowly decreased for recovery and occasionally rest days/weeks.
Our brain and body need a holiday from the stress of work so and the same applies to the stress of training.
Bear in mind this is just a crash course to what is a complex process, but the key aspects are pretty obvious.
Stress, recover and rest to help manage fatigue.
If you haven’t made that shift and started planning accordingly, why not start now?