A good race performance, such as a personal best time over a certain distance, is usually associated with a good training program. What is generally overlooked, and rarely mentioned in any forum, is the role of the athlete’s lifestyle in their achievement.
Endurance sport is often seen as a lifestyle rather than a sport. This is mostly due to the long hours and the alterations to the athlete’s daily life that need to be undertaken to perform at their optimal level.
In today’s blog, we will discuss the importance of controlling stress and what happens when we fail to control it and allow it to get out of control in our body. We will look at how this affects the body and the mind of the athlete, their friends, families, and their teammates.
Stress is the body’s response to a perceived danger or alert in the environment. When danger is perceived, our body produces cortisol as a way of responding and preparing our bodies for alert mode. This response allows our bodies to respond in a way that prepares cortisol around our body. It should be mentioned that the body doesn’t prioritise or classify specific sources of stress. Any stressful event will trigger the same reaction. This means that your rush to pay the bills on time can be interpreted by your body in the same way as if you were about to be attacked by a tiger.
Due to the above-mentioned reactions, having high levels of stress for long periods of time will eventually start affecting your training in different ways:
- Deregulating the way your body assimilates carbohydrates and blood sugar. This means that it doesn’t matter how healthy your diet is. If your emotions are erratic and you are continuously anxious, then the chances are that you will start gaining weight regardless of what you do.
- Being incapable of quickly and successfully recovering the glucose levels in the blood after training sessions will eventually lead to extreme fatigue and potential injury.
- Inflammation will increase leading to generally feeling ill, exhaustion and fever. These are signs that the immune system is overactive and pulling all your energy sources from other activities.
- A decrease in different body functions such tissue regeneration, metabolism, etc. Not being able to recover efficiently will decrease your ability to train well and increase the chances of injury.
- Problems with concentration will make it hard to respond well when competing and reduce your enjoyment of your chosen sport.
High levels of cortisol in the body during short episodes of stress are healthy and indeed required biologically. What is not healthy, however, is the chronically elevated cortisol levels in highly stressed individuals. The more you live with stress and the more you allow yourself to endure such stress, the harder it will be to stay regulated and keep your mind and body balanced and healthy.
The first thing you need to do to control your levels of stress is to understand the different signs your body sends when there are unusually elevated stress levels. Every person is different, meaning that some signs may be relevant, whereas others may not. Some signs that my indicate that you are suffering from stress are:
- Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality
- Low appetite or binge eating
- Pressure in your chest not associated with any heart issues
- Muscle Tension
- Jaw clenching
- Digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Trouble being intimate
Triathlon can be a lifestyle, but it must be remembered that our immune systems are not isolated from our psychological, emotional or social relationships and we are the result of all of those things combined. Endurance sports can be the basis of a very healthy lifestyle. What is most important, however, is the way we relate to the sport and the way we connect with our fellow athletes, online triathlon coach or squad triathlon coach. These grounding actions are the things that have the biggest impact in the way we adapt, perform and most importantly, how much we enjoy the sport.
If you have any questions about how to start finding balance in life and sport, Davey Black Sports Performance and Triathlon Club offer many blogs around the topic that you can read. Alternatively, you can book a counselling appointment to start understanding the different ways you can relate with your friends, your family and most important with yourself.
“You can’t separate the mind from the body or the individual from the environment.” – Gabor Mate