I'm so stressed out!
You want public enemy #1 when it comes to performance killers? Look no further than stress. Proper stress management leads to performance improvement. Improper stress management leads to decreased performance, altered mood, and even burnout.
A positive form of stress, eustress, can have beneficial effects on health and overall performance. Then we have the distress. This is probably the stress you thought about when you started reading this post.
Training is interesting because it can be a positive AND a negative form of stress.
It is up to you to manage this stress that training provides with the stressors of day-to-day life. While this seems like a tall task at times, there are a few ways you can optimize your stress management.
1) Keep track of your daily resting heart rate.
Resting heart rate is a simple way to make sure you're recovering enough to tackle a new day. Yes, you could invest in much more complex measuring tools, but resting heart rate is a quick and inexpensive way to capture meaningful data.
Start by taking a full week of measures each morning when you first wake up. Try to utilize an alarm that gently wakes you up so you can get the most accurate data. At the end of the week, average your scores to establish your average resting heart rate.
Then set a normal routine to capture your resting heart rate every week. I recommend a minimum of three days a week.
If you notice that one morning your resting heart rate is five beats or more above your normal resting heart rate, take it again the next day. If you have two consecutive days of an elevated resting heart rate, it might be time for some rest days. At least schedule a few lower volume days of training.
An elevated resting heart rate might mean you're not recovering well and are running the risk of illness, injury, and decreases in performance.
2) Schedule out some time for meditation or breath control practices.
Your breath is so powerful and unbelievably undervalued. Learning to control your breathing is such a powerful tool for performance, recovery, and life.
For example, being able to calm your system down after an acute bout of exercise or competition allows you to switch to recovery mode faster. This is super valuable in sports where you might have to compete multiple times over the course of a day.
As "woo woo" as it might seem to you, meditation is a great way to be guided through this level of bodily control. Also, if you're like me, part of stress is being able to quiet my mind. Buying into the practice of meditation can help you practice this skill.
Breath control training is awesome during training and during stressful situations that arise in day-to-day life. Box breathing is a popular modality to maximize system control.
Start by breathing in for three seconds, hold for three seconds, exhale for three seconds, hold for three seconds, and repeat.
Being able to control your breath is a valuable training skill that many athletes forget about. Don't be one of them.
3) Manage your stimulant intake.
Let's face it. We are a stimulant driven world. We want bigger lights and sounds. We want more caffeine. We want to feel a kick instantly. When used properly, stimulants can be a valuable tool to elevate your performance for a short amount of time. Overindulging in stimulants can just add to your feelings of fatigue and leave you unable to tap into the high level of performance you want to achieve.
I, too, struggle with wanting an afternoon coffee or energy drink. However, finding a few alternatives that are not stimulant base can positively influence the potency of all aspects of training and performance.
Utilizing other options like Bioenergy Ribose and even dialing in your hydration will provide opportunities for increased energy without the stimulant burnout.
Manage your stress and your performance pathway will run like a well-oiled machine.