Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stress, recovery and holism.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I feel stress is one of the biggest obstacles I face. The effects of stress are well known and well recorded. To put it simply, living with chronic stress is like living 30 seconds from a fight the whole time. Your body remains at a heightened level of alertness at all times. Eventually, something gives.

Honestly, the more I read about it, the more I believe that rest without relaxation does not constitute adequate recovery. The idea sounds backwards, how can you rest without relaxing? I think it's quite possible as I feel I've been doing it for years. T.V. and the internet provide one avenue to this type of rest, sitting and worrying about work is another. If you can't relax yourself and let go of that tension it will eventually harm you. I'm starting to form the opinion that 9 hours of crappy, stressed out sleep is worse than six hours of blissful, fully relaxed slumber.

It could possibly affect your training in other ways beyond simple recovery. Are you struggling to get the finer points of one lift or another? Think of your stress level just before or during a workout as you read this article. In the past I've struggled mightily with my weight for distance technique. Now I'm wondering if the fact that I practice at work (the main source of my stress) during my lunch break has a small part to play in my struggles. This also forms the basis of my objection to people using technical lifts for conditioning without extensive experience with the lift. When your heart rate is up, whether from stress or your workout, your fine motor control and technique is going to suffer unless you have "Etched" the movement.

This is where holism comes into play again. You could be doing everything else right and suffer because you're not handling stress well. If your head ain't straight, how do you expect everything else to line up? Working on a technical lift or fine motor skill under high stress levels without a coping mechanism is akin to driving drunk. The thing that's supposed to be in control has diminished control over itself.

Looking back at the last week I've seen small improvements in both my bench and overhead press, my WFD throws and how well I'm managing everything else in my life. I've been using small, easy to implement, relaxation techniques (mindfulness and the non-mystical ground and center ) and it seems to be helping. It's not a miracle or a cure all, it's just a small but measurable increase in both the weight I'm lifting and the distance I'm throwing. But it's encouraging.

Relaxation is hard for many people from western societies. The books I'm reading keep telling me this and personally I fit with the stereotype. Giving it the college try and pushing harder and harder is ingrained in us as the path to success. I've carried this with me for years. We respect those guys who can stay cool under fire and can do it for long periods of time. We try to emulate the ones who can just "push through it" often with disastrous results. The "Everyday Joe" needs to understand that there are literal differences in the brain chemistry of those who handle stress better than the rest of us.

When looking for motivation most people would be better off with Yoda's pseudo eastern ramblings than the ravings about never giving up and tying harder that dominate the western school of thought.

I find this quote more enlightening:

"Awareness cures; trying fails."
-Eloise Ristad

If your focus is blurred by stress, how can you be fully aware of why you are failing? If you are focused only on the result of your efforts and not the process how well do you really understand what you are trying to do? Trying harder while doing the same thing you've always done will only get you a more physically taxing version of the same failure. This makes sense in a very subtle kind of way.

No comments:

Post a Comment