From a Lack of Focus to Sore Muscles: How Stress Could be Sabotaging Your Workout

Sweating out a bad day can be an amazing stress reliever.  A workout is always an effective way to forget all the bad vibes and also boosts endorphin levels. But what happens when you‘re too stressed to even think about hitting the gym? We know that a certain level of stress can end up sabotaging your workout before you‘ve even laced up your trainers, so bodyweight training specialist Ben Bulach from leading fitness app company Freeletics (www.freeletics.com) shares the signs that stress is affecting your workout, and how you can overcome it:

IT THROWS YOU OFF YOUR WORKOUT GAME

When you’re coping with a big life event, or you‘re “so behind” on that project at work, it becomes the only thing you can focus on. What suffers most? That evening run you had planned is sacrificed for more time at the office or winding down on the couch. Stress has the annoying ability to distract your mind and overwhelm your body, not to mention making you a lot less likely to stick to your exercise regime. Apart from skewing your motivation, you‘ll have a hard time reaching your fitness goals when your mind is elsewhere. When stress makes exercise become just another thing on your to-do list, the quality of your workout will plummet as you‘ll sacrifice technique in favour of getting it done and dusted as soon as possible.

How to beat it:

Remember: stress is all in the mind. And it’s only as big as you allow it to become. While it may be difficult to push your worries to the side, thinking about it won‘t make it go away, and it certainly won‘t make it any better. I recommend doing workouts in combination with other stress management techniques, such as meditation. This will calm you down and keep you focused and motivated.

A man with his head in his hands

IT HINDERS YOUR RECOVERY

It‘s 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 groggy than usual. When this is combined with a tough workout, it‘ll leave you with nothing left in the tank.

How to beat it:

Unless you want to risk injuring yourself, it‘s important to give your muscles (and your mind) time to recover following a strenuous workout. Not sure if you‘ve allotted enough recovery time? If the thought of your upcoming training session has you feeling like you‘d be dragging it out just to get through, I suggest giving it another day or two of rest to maximise the effectiveness of your training.

IT MESSES WITH YOUR CORTISOL LEVELS

Chronic stress hurts your ability to regulate the hormone cortisol, which influences your metabolism, immunity, sleep rhythms and blood pressure. Un-regulated cortisol levels will leave you feeling run-down, tired, and more subject to gaining weight, as well as making you crave more sugary and fatty food.

How to beat it:

Lack of sleep, coupled with stress is a total killer when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. And it’s even worse when your goal is to lose weight. 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.

BUT…IT DOES GIVE YOU THAT EXTRA PUSH

Whilst stress can be bad for your training, there is also 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. This 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 at again. It‘s all about your state of mind, and if you use stress to fire up your workout, you‘ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

The Freeletics Bodyweight, Running, Gym and Nutrition apps can be downloaded for free in the App Store and Google Play Store. For more information about Freeletics, visit www.freeletics.com.

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