Managing and Recognizing Stress

Stress. A general term with a broad application.

Signs:

  • Fatigue. General fatigue is often a sign of stress. No energy for movement is a clear indication that the mind and body are worn down.
  • Decreased self-regulation. Are you indulging and grabbing sweets to snack on or an extra glass or wine at night?
  • Looking for ways to feel better? Bad habits rear their ugly heads here as escapism infiltrates our path to change.

All stress is cumulative.

Simply put, it adds up. Adding more stress via excessively difficult training sessions or group fitness classes will not make it better. Remember this: it doesn’t need to be painful. Do you want more stress in your life? Is stress associated with progress and rewards? Discard those thoughts when working out.

The other side of stress.

Adaptations arise from bouts of stress and recovery. This may represent itself at your job, working on a project deadline or sales goal. If met there is often awards and incentives. Positive right? Maybe not… subconsciously you may be seeking out stress or stressful situations to improve your health. Chronic conditions arise when we fall out of balance. Work / Life. Training / Recovery. Hard / Easy. Polarity is a good thing!

Step 1: recognize stress.

Step 2: manage the cause of stress.

Step 3: eliminate the stress if you can.

Step 4: begin your day with mindfulness.

Step 5: end your day with physical activity and mindful nutrition that brings peace back to yourself.

Step 6: review your day and plan for tomorrow.

You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

A simple Army saying that applies to almost every action we take or avoid…

The mind is our power center. Dictating and directing the body to take certain actions. To do or not to do. To give the power of choice to another (boss, spouse, etc.), or to trust in oneself to make the right decision. Many times the things, tasks, jobs we do not like, are a part of a bigger process, or delayed gratification. Giving in to this process is OK. Repetition is required to learn and then improve all skill.

Your focus must be on the specific microsystem (your mind) that is subject to failure. Your training “action” must stress that microsystem to failure. Mind-power is therefore trained by the decisions and choices we make from the time the alarm clock goes off to the time our head hits the pillow at night. You must believe that weaknesses can be eliminated, if not become strengths.

It is the concept of purpose that distinguishes specific practice from simple experience. Did it happen to you, randomly, by chance, or did you engage, plan, and seek it out?

We are, you are, and I am one simple step from the right path. You don’t have to like, you just have to do it…

Maintenance for Longevity

“A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Coveting the new, finished product is not an unknown concept. Yet, it is the act of ownership obsession that stifles personal growth.

All items that make our lives easier and/or more convenient require maintenance. Fairly infrequent is the act required, meaning our confidence and expectation trumps action in upkeep. When failure occurs, which it will, it takes both time and capital to get our life up and running again.

Our mind and body are no different. Neglect, and pay the price. Abuse, and live with the consequences. Time/age escapes no one. The fade may appear slow, until the check engine light flickers on. What will the diagnostic test reveal? What’s the damage? For many this is a trigger to wake up and forge a better life. For others this is the beginning of the end. The mind accepts the sentence.

Maintenance prolongs life. By now you should be familiar with what is minimally required of you to keep your arteries clean, blood pressure down, BMI at an acceptable level, and a myriad of other necessities to live a respectable life. But you slip. You stop learning. You envy the healthy and vigorous. You spiral into the depths of self-disrespect, and loathing.

But wait, doesn’t that new car come with an owners manual? The proficient dealership whom sold you the car is so kind to send out reminders of when service is needed. Just call, schedule, drop off the car, heck, you even get a loaner for the day… how convenient and caring of them? You clean your car, washing it weekly. It requires “premium” gas. You justify the extra expense by reminding yourself it is required to keep the engine performing. All this for the peace of mind in knowing that you’ve done what is required, as an owner of this find piece of machinery.

Now think of all of the luxury items this applies to? Maintenance is a daily process. The more things we own, the more maintenance we must do. Look at all the businesses that are simply products of required maintenance. Pretty amazing to think about.

Now back to you. Why does this one thing that you’ll take to your grave get get abused, punished, polluted, neglected, etc.? How has this become acceptable? It starts at a young age. A few silly choices, and habits start to linger. As you grow older those few bad habits start to multiply. Pretty soon the effects begin to show. Fatigue, lethargy, weight gain, acne, flatulence, and dependency creep in and take hold. Some can fake it longer than others, but the cold hard truth is unavoidable. Your time has come. With more neglect comes greater reliance on modern technology and medicine to stay alive. More dependence…

You, the ultimate possession, the un-replaceable commodity, the selfless giver to the soul, deserve more. The process is rather simple, yet the journey is long. Correcting behaviors is simple. Nutritious food. More sleep. Less stimulants and depressants. Exercise. Hydration. Choices that all add up and lead to change.

Enough already. No more ignorance and complacency. It’s time to give back to ourselves. Stop. Think. Engage. Honor. Refuse to “wish you had” and instead be “grateful for” the gift of sound mind and functioning body.

Very few things are needed.

Sustenance: food and drink. Nourishment. Water. Meat. Vegetables. Fruit. Nuts. Grains. Recognize when you embellish. Don’t chastise, minimize. Why? Understand weakness. Unavoidable slips need not derail commitment.

Fitness: Lift. Climb. Step. Crawl. Jump. Push. Pull. Stretch. Run. Walk. Bike. Swim. Ski. Row. Dance. etc. Experiment to discover enjoyment. Fulfill daily. Options are unlimited. Consistency is key. Repetition is the mother of skill. Daily engagement resets your mind, fueling the drive to give the body what it needs. Internal as much as external. Heart. Lungs. Brain.

Growth: Mind. Body. Soul. Books, mentors, friends, family, spouse, lover, student, coach, community. Growth comes from listening, and applying advice and lessons. Simply taking a step back, surveying, and making a decision is often all that is needed.

Onward.

“EACH OF US IS born with a 70-year warranty, but few of us read the instructions. We blindly go through life without consulting a manual for the operation of the human machine. The maintenance and preservation of our bodies doesn’t concern us. We believe that longevity and freedom from malfunction have been built in by the Creator. And they have. But we can live long and stay healthy only if we take care of our bodies as we would our automobiles. We have to follow certain rules to get maximum performance and maximum longevity out of what we were born with. We have to apply the biological wisdom gained over the centuries to our day-to-day living. Make no mistake about it: Nature does not allow for error, and she is not reluctant to inflict capital punishment. Deviations from the correct regimen can certainly diminish one’s daily well-being and eventually one’s life span. True, aging is inexorable. And death is inevitable. But neither should occur before its appointed time.” -George Sheehan

 

Friendships and Coaching

The right prescription, assignment, plan, outline, etc. does us no good without the inner confidence that we are capable of improvement, completion, and success.

Friendships develop over time. Often taking months before a level of trust and willingness to care is manifested. This trial period of sharing experiences, exposing weaknesses and displaying strengths is a delicate dance requiring equal participation of both parties. One can not want it more than the other.

Establishing this relationship fosters the potential for new heights. You must give to get. We cannot create more time. A reprioritization must occur and remain to keep the potential a possibility. Commitment.

You must know your “why” in creating change. Admit a void, or known weakness, struggle, insecurity, etc. and be confident in your decision. Continuing down your current path will not produce the desired change. Comfort breeds complacency. We cannot hope to maintain that which hasn’t been maximized. Not knowing our full potential (will we ever?), those words, “maintain”, should never be uttered when speaking of our health. Continuous engagement requires an allocation of energy resources. When training, you are building/working/fatiguing, then recovering, where you lose, in order to regain the energy/resources to begin again. See the full picture.

Committing to coaching requires a letting go of emotion, control, and routine. This is not easy, but it is the only way. Trust requires vulnerability. Change requires months, not days and weeks. This should embolden you to let go of repeated judgment and give in to the daily assignment.

And do you know what I found after several decades of life? We achieve our goal, we become a level of ourselves, and then we want to go further. And we make new mistakes, and we have new hardships, but we prevail. We are human. We are alive. We have blood.

Patti Smith

Checking In: Connecting Trainer with Client

“If you are prepared, have confidence and persevere, you will always have the edge.” Howard Ferguson

As a personal trainer, I find the most difficulty and dissatisfaction in those days in between my training sessions with my clients. On the way to meet the trainee I’m pondering how their week went. Did they workout? Eat well? How are they sleeping and recovering? Days always turn into weeks, turn into months, and eventually years. Time is always of the essence, so for me, finding a program that allows me to be connected and locked in with my clients in the virtual world is essential, but until now, it wasn’t a reality.

Trainerize, an online personal training software has changed the game for me. My plan is to fully integrate all clients into it’s usage moving forward. The ability to see how each week is structured, and how those week’s lead and build into a 4-6 week block of training, is a game changer for clients. It shows them where the process is going. As much as it is about the daily workout, the focus is more on the long-game. Are you building or are you dabbling? Are you hoping it gets easier, or are you planning to get stronger?

I won’t wax philosophical too much, but I will challenge your involvement with the success process. It’s as simple as checking-in. Once that becomes automatic, a connection is established that gets strengthened on a daily basis. For the client, knowing that I’m not judging what they did or didn’t do is crucial as well. I want to know and understand they “why” so we can implement some strategies and find other paths to success. It’s there, but we need engagement in the process in order to unlock your/our potential.

Check in. Utilize. Implement. Engage. Discover. Succeed.

Onward and Upward,

Jake

PS- I’ll leave you to ponder all of the crucial moments of your life where you were required to check in. Listed below are just a few examples.

  • Your first days of college. Checking in at the dorm, registering for classes, exploring options of engagement with the university and your peers.
  • Medical/dental/legal appointments.
  • Sports practices.
  • Job interviews and admissions interviews.
  • etc

The list can flow on and on. Give the process a certain importance and your actions will follow.

A Cloud of Fatigue

Wednesday, mid-week, hump day, recovery day, etc. When analyzed from a work, business, or training perspective it’s easy to see why this day can be a tough one to make productive. As a runner, it’s like that 4th of 8 hill sprints. Already feeling the effects of the previous 3, and knowing you’ve got just as many left as you’ve completed, it’s the duty of the mind to force completion and execution.

On this day I back off and recover. All things flow as usual, but I remind myself that this fatigued state is where I want to be. It’s a part of the process. I’ll hydrate, eat well, read, make progress where I can, while working out moderately with a relaxed, complacent mind.

Why not push through and pound away you might ask? It’s detrimental. In order to go hard, with high quality, on Thursday, I must back off on Wednesday.

Accept fatigue as part of the process, but don’t be lost in the foggy cloud that comes with it. Plan ahead and stick to the process. Everything has a proper time and place. When it’s time for quality work to be done, make sure to be ready to execute!

Pursuing Peak Performance

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Points of failure in all instances define the limits of systemic function. Right Practice must seek to extend those limits through the pursuit of failure… Outside the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of success. Within the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of failure.

Michael Livingston, “Mental Discipline

When we train, we must seek to fatigue the working muscle or energy system. Doing the plank, or forward-leaning-rest, focus intently on the position you are trying to hold, tight hips, legs, locked out arms, as well as tension throughout. If a break down occurs, stop. There is no honor in spastic extended effort. In your next attempt at extending your time in plank position use your previous best as your bench mark. The same goes for pushups, pullups, squats, or other bodyweight exercises. Crush the muscle group you are training, keeping body tension throughout. True failure is controlled. It still “looks” smooth and easy. Following this protocol helps with injury prevention and overtraining.

In my running/endurance training I love :30/:30 intervals. 30 seconds of very hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy recovery. We must hit these hard, and then back off completely to get ready for the next. The body is adapting and with adequate rest between these intense sessions our fitness builds and expands. New realities, new limits, personal bests, course records, all become possibilities with focused training and recovery.

Respect your efforts and engage in positive recovery practices, daily. The younger crowd seems to frown on stretching, until they become injured. Start your daily stretching practice sooner rather than later. With heightened levels of exertion comes increased strain on the major movers, i.e. hamstrings, groin, and quads in running. Seek to lengthen these muscles on a daily basis via a few simple exercises:

  • Instep-Stretch
  • Pigeon
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Wide Founder (foundation training)
  • Wide Founder into Windmill (foundation training)
  • Narrow Stance Decompression Breathing (foundation training)

Work + Rest/Recovery = Training

 

 

Running: Speed Play

How many of you like to slip into a comfortable groove, let the minutes and miles add up, and lose yourself in your runs? Me to… this is why we run! The flow, the feeling of easy, steady effort and the satisfaction of completion keep us coming back for more of these amazing experiences!

When I first started to “train” for running, which was later in my fitness career, mid-20’s, I was introduced to track workouts and tempo runs. Man, I hated these! My ability to gauge effort was non-existent, therefore I would go too hard, too early in the workouts, and struggle to hold on and finish them. Where would this leave me? Down and out for 2-3 days not wanting to even run a step! This is how you disrupt flow.

As I’ve progressed in the sport and have a more solid grip on my abilities both in training and racing, I’ve been able to engage in these more challenging workouts and reap the benefits that come with them. I’ve also learned about another way to trickle in speed work while I enjoying my daily “cruise” runs. This form of training is termed “speed play” or “fartlek” style.

Speed play is exactly that, you mix in 10-30 second bursts of accelerated running or even sub-maximal sprinting during a run of easy pace. There is no set schedule as to when you do them, just when you feel like it. Sometimes I’ll run to a certain landmark (fire hydrant, stop sign, driveway, etc.) and other times I’ll run for set periods of time.

There are many benefits to these runs. First, I believe you can recover from them during the run much better than a standard track or tempo run. This is excellent for beginners or recreational runners, which, most of us are. Second, I believe that it prepares you to race! Setting multiple in race goals, and knowing what speeds you are capable of running makes racing fun and competing more engaging. Third, they make you faster! You’ll see your cruising speed increase, which may transfer to other runs.

How to apply:

Start walking and warm up into a jog. Take 10-15 minutes to properly warm-up before starting your first speed play interval. For the next 30 minutes have fun. Mix in some speed with your cruising pace. You’ll cover more ground, realize new abilities, and hopefully reap the benefits of turning over those legs a bit faster! To finish, slow down and jog it in. Walk around for a couple minutes and stretch your hamstrings, hip flexor, and groin area. Start with one a week and gradually increase to two of these engaging workouts each week.

Enjoy the run!

Mindset: Growth Choices

A wise friend of mine once told me that you can’t prioritize everything in life all at once.

This statement came after I asked him why he had been away from the gym the past three months. To me, it was shocking how a person could minimize their fitness after making remarkable gains over the past six months.

He began to explain to me the immense importance of another area of life, business, had become and the undivided attention it needed. He also explained how we have three crucial elements to our lives that will need constant juggling and prioritizing, health, business/career, and family. We can’t expect 100% improvement or focus in any one of these areas at a given time. A balance, would be nice, but a conscious negotiation will ultimately prevail in how that 100% will be divided up.

Realize that to grow in any one area of your life you’ll need to prioritize it. Understand what this effect will have on the other areas, and plan ahead. Be strategic in timing, setting short-term goals and benchmarks, as well as keeping the long-term outlook in focus.

Training: The Long Run

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Proper pacing ensures successful racing!

 

With March upon us, many of you are probably finalizing your spring/summer/fall race schedule. Along with that schedule, of course, is your training program. Speaking to the marathoners and ultra-marathoners among us I’d like to give you some quick tips on the long run.

  1. Wear a HRM: heart rate monitor
    1. You can skip this for your tempo and interval training, but always wear it on your long run. Your races are long! Train at a sustainable pace, mimicking the pace you will run your race at. This ensures proper training effect, and smooth recovery for the following week’s training.
  2. Use MAF formula
    1. 180-Age. This will give you your effective training HR for those long runs. As an example, I’m 33 so my base MAF is 147.
    2. If you are fit, healthy, and have been injury free for at least 6 months you can add 5 beats per minute to your MAF. For me, this would make mine 152.
    3. Alternatively, if you’ve been injured, sick, or are relatively new to consistent running, subtract 5 from your MAF score. For me, this would drop me to 142.
  3. Use a HR range
    1. My range would be 142-152. This would be where I keep my effort at for the entirety of my long run. Instead of focusing on pace I’m focusing on effort.
    2. When you encounter hills your HR will rise substantially. Walk! Don’t become impatient. Keep accountable to your MAF.
  4. Communicate your intention
    1. Let others know what your strategy is on the long run if you are running with a group. They may stay with your pacing, or you may find yourself running solo more often.

Becoming more efficient at lower levels of effort will only help your racing. Making your hard runs hard, and your easy or long runs consistently easy/moderate is something many runners fail to respect.

The next post will be on fueling for the long run. Specifically, we’ll address how changing what you eat in the 36 hours leading up to that run will change your bodies fueling strategy.

Keep running!