This post/episode was originally published in May of 2018. The post/show notes are more or less copy/pasted from the original post, but the podcast audio is a new take on the topic.
We all have it, and all of us deal with the stress of life in different ways.
For many of us runners, the most effective way to handle stress in our lives is to lace up our shoes and head out for some run-therapy.
In many cases, that may prove effective.
However, there are times that the stress of running actually makes the stress of life worse and vice versa.
Stress is Stress
Before we dive too deep into the weeds of how stress impacts your running and running impacts your stress levels, I want to make one thing clear:
Your body doesn’t know the difference between good stress and bad stress.
To your body, stress is stress.
And your body handles stress the same way whether the stress is caused by an impending work deadline, COVID-19, or a killer track workout.
Your body can only handle so much stress at a time, and since all stress is the “same” to your body, you don’t want to give your system more than it can handle at once.
If you’re dealing with a lot of life stress at the moment, and who among us isn’t, a good run may help you clear your mind and feel better.
But you’ll be better off keeping that run at a low level of intensity so that you aren’t actually placing more stress on your body while trying to burn off the stress that you are dealing with at the moment.
A Delicate Balance
When you are feeling stressed AF, instead of trying to power through with your training one of the best things you can do might be to take a step back with your training.
Not a permanent step, of course. Just don’t hold yourself to the same level of expectations right now as you had been when all was well.
As an example, I have a client that is kind of in the midst of a big upheaval in her life right now.
I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been a struggle to balance training and family and all of the other things that she is dealing with at the moment.
Last week, I got a message from her saying that she skipped a run due to not having enough time to squeeze it in that day and that she was doing her best to not let it stress her out. (I’d only been telling her to back off her training, if needed, for the past couple of months, but who’s counting…)
That one day off, but more importantly her flipping the switch and letting the missed run go, has been huge!
All of a sudden, she let go of the stress of trying to stick to her training plan perfectly and since that day she has been killing her workouts!
Before that point, she was putting too much pressure on herself to be perfect with her training.
But once she let that extra stress go, she has been able to find a bit of balance at this point in her life and have some really great workouts since then.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
When it comes to your training, learning how to adapt/adjust based on how much life stress you’re dealing with at the moment is critical.
If you have a lot on your plate outside of running, now isn’t the time to try and go all-in on nailing your next PR or running milestone.
Adding stress on top of stress is a good recipe for some serious running burnout.
Instead, back off.
Run for fun. Take a few days off. Spend some extra time on the yoga mat. Run easy.
Just because your life stress is at an all-time high doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, run at all.
But it would be a good idea to keep things loosey-goosey for awhile.
And once life calms down a bit, then you can get back to some more serious training and the pursuit of your running goals again.
How Do You Balance the Stresses of Running With the Stress Reducing Benefits of Our Sport?
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