Time To Read
Points of Interest
- What is stress?
- Impact on Intense training
- Impact on Injury recovery
- Impact on Sleep quality
- Impact on Athletic Performance
- Reducing negative effects of stress
This is the first in a mini-series on wellness and recovery – two overlooked facets of health and sporting excellence.
Taking stress into account will help boost your training and improve your competitive results, so read on to learn how stress can and does effect wellness and performance if it’s not controlled…
Stress is an interesting concept for athletes and general exercisers, because as active people, we voluntarily and willingly place stresses upon ourselves. To a degree this aids our performance but pushing these stresses too far can have an adverse effect on our physical and our mental well-being.
To perform at our best we need to be both physically and mentally fit. The brain and body work in synergy. You don’t have to look far to see how much importance professional sport applies to athlete psychology. Many top athletes and teams employ sports psychologists to give them a psychological edge in training and competing.
As active people, we have a complex relationship with stress. Let’s closely at what stress is and four ways it can affect our wellness.
Defining stress is tough because there are so many different types. There’s physical stress that we generate through training and competing. Other types of stress we may encounter include; emotional, financial, sleep, thermal, work and chemical to name but a few...
Whilst these stresses are all different, at a physiological level they all look roughly the same. They stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, increase the inflammatory conditions, raise levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and can bring about feelings of anxiety, nervousness, sleep difficulties and a drop in performance.
So, in the absence of an ‘official’ definition of stress, let’s use health and wellness practitioner Paul Chek’s version…
Reactions of the body to forces of a deleterious nature, infections and various abnormal states that tend to disturb its normal physiologic equilibrium (homeostasis).
Now we have a general definition of stress, lets look at what being stressed does to our wellness.
As an athlete, you’re most likely to create physical stresses on yourself through periods of intense training and performance.
Punishing training and competing schedules without sufficient recovery time can put an unsustainable amount of stress on the body. With this in mind, you should always look to include recovery times in your schedule if you want to be at your best.
If we look at this study, it shows how the inclusion of rest in pre-season soccer players training schedules actually increased performance. If this rest isn’t included, physiological stresses are allowed to accumulate and subsequent performance drops.
A strength coach once said to me that in his mind, the most important ability an athlete has is availability…I couldn’t agree more. All of the talent in the world is no good if you can’t compete.
Studies have shown that stress is a major contributor to injury recovery delays.
One interesting study assessed six psychological variables and their impact on time lost from sport through injury. The conclusion was that optimism, hardiness and reduced stress led to reduced time lost through injury and faster recovery rates from injuries.
The most important factor when it comes to rest and recovery is sleep. Without adequate sleep in terms of both quality and quantity, risks of injury, illness, missed sessions and general fatigue levels can spiral out of control.
So far in the article we’ve already discussed how stress can affect athletic performance, but there’s another layer to the cake… stress is also responsible for a drop in sleep quality, which has a knock-on effect across many different areas of the wellness spectrum.
This study shows a direct link between active participation in stress relieving and wellness-boosting activities and an improvement in sleep quality.
Other research found that this link between improved performance and regular, good quality sleep, could be carried over into other sports, the military and emergency services.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps keep a relative lid on stress and the performance benefits certainly more than make up for it.
You can help offset the physical elements of stress with KYMIRA Sport infrared sportswear range. The infrared generated by the fabrics help to alleviate the physical stresses that are accrued through intense training and competition.
As active people, we invite a certain level of stress into our lives – we need this stress in order to improve our capabilities, but we have to respect the fact that too much stress is a bad thing. Over training and under-recovery will lead to a drop in our physical capabilities and will be detrimental to our performance.
Be aware of stress and plan your training and recovery strategies around it.
Steve is a Personal Trainer and Professional Nutritionist