There are different kinds of stress in life – good or “healthy” stress and bad stress. Rarely is it hard to decipher between the two. While good stress is, say, a job promotion, bad stress is often manifested in the form of something more pressing and negatively impactful like a financial insecurity. Exercise, for example, is almost always categorized as a positive activity, but when it comes to resting and recovering, time off is just as important in regard to stress management. There are several key factors at work here, so let’s examine a few.
Hormesis, as defined by Wikipedia, is the “generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors.” Essentially, what this means in terms of fitness is that the juice isn’t always worth the squeeze. Say you’re training for a triathlon and work out six days per week. Despite your dedication and the notion of doing everything the “right way,” you find yourself gaining weight, failing to meet your time goals during training runs and feeling generally burned out. This is your body (and mind) revealing that you’re doing too much and are not properly recovering. That’s where the art of recovering comes in. Yes, art. It is, indeed, a sweet spot – that’s how the concept of hormesis works.
Before delving into physical and psychological recovery methods, let’s define rest and how it’s used. Rest is just as it sounds – inactivity or the ceasing of movement or work. This could mean playing video games between final exams or simply taking a nap after a long morning of housework, kids, and errands (hey, you can fantasize, right?). However, in terms of recovery, rest is not the end all, be all solution. It won’t necessarily recharge your battery so to speak. So what will?
Recovering from an intense training schedule involves more than flopping on the couch for a Netflix marathon. Esteemed author Dr. Daniel Kalish states, “Psychological stress and physical stress are virtually indistinguishable in the body.” The key takeaway here is the quantifiable amount of stressors you take on as a whole – not just physically.
Recovery in terms of simply not doing is just as important as recovering in the traditional sense by eating your greens and other healthy foods. In other words, recovery can sometimes equate to saying no to that sixth half marathon in six months. Why? Simply put, your body and mind are approaching dangerous levels of exhaustion based on the other stressors sprinkled throughout your day-to-day life. Hormesis says that more is not better and that eventually, the negative consequences of overexertion outweigh the positive effects of exercise. A constant obsession with a healthy lifestyle can be downright unhealthy; it all depends on your personal threshold for stress – a combination of the “good” and downright debilitating kinds. Here are some ways to truly recover and balance the scales:
- Give the goals a rest. If you always feel the need to be working toward a new goal, let adequate rest be an achievement. Instead of going for yet another run, skip one altogether and focus on consistency and maintenance.
- Boost your nutrient intake. Food is fuel, so don’t get lazy on true “rest” days by gorging on pizza and wings. Consider green supplement powders or sessions of nutrient IV therapy from the biostation.
- Take a social media hiatus. When you waste less time online, you suddenly find more time to recharge productively, whether relaxing with a book or stretched out on a yoga mat.
- Quantify your response to stress. You can improve what you can measure. By using the diagnostic labs at the biostation, you can track your bodies response to stress. Typically this is shown in hormone imbalances, micronutrient deficiencies and metabolic insufficiency that can be treated with custom supplementation.
Good and bad are relative terms, especially when applied to fitness and one’s overall lifestyle. The “sweet spot” for optimal performance of mind and body is found through an acute awareness of both.
If you’re exhibiting signs of mental stress such as an inability to sleep or nervousness and anxiety, it may be time to evaluate the stress factors in your life. The same goes for physical demands. Scale back the 5 a.m. runs to three days a week instead of five and allow yourself to skip a long run or two occasionally. Constant soreness is your body’s way of telling you to cool it. Only you can determine what’s right through an understanding of rest and recovery. Once you do, be empowered to know, and say, when enough is enough.