September is a wonderful time of year for many of our FIT Athletes: Summer weather still lingering but football in full swing, kids are back in school and the routine of the school year feels “right.”
For other FIT Athletes, September is CHAOS! The weather could be hot OR freezing cold, causing all kinds of potential issues with outdoor professions and teachers in schools that don’t have AC or a poor heating system (usually the former in Wisconsin schools!).
And kids are back in school, which means landscapers, carpenters, masons etc are scrambling to find laborers and teachers are taking on what could be considered the most important job of all: grooming our future caretakers and leaders!
See, it’s all perspective.
For those who are redlined on stress this Fall but still want to train at full speed, there is a saving grace: RECOVERY.
See, the best thing for the human body/brain following immense levels of stress and a constant sympathetic response (fight or flight) is to retreat into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) and allow the body to repair and regenerate.
So here are three great ways to maintain a focus on your training, handle, if not thrive, in a stressful environment and crush your recovery to finish the year stronger than ever!
1. Train to progress not compete
This seemingly goes directly against one of our core values: “Compete to better yourself daily.” When most people compete, they think of it as, “I have to lift what my training partner did.” Not true for those over stressed during the Fall months.
Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is a training stimulus that produces a training effect beyond the previous workout, training block etc. and NO MORE.
The idea being, if you can consistently get one progressive step better than the workout before, you will accumulate a ton of progress over a 6 week program and be MASSIVELY better over the course of 6 months or a year!
This concept works well for ANYONE at any given time of the year, but it’s a critical piece when the rest of your life is pure chaos.
Focus on getting one rep better or 5 lbs stronger on a core lift and make one improvement in your accessory work. “Punch the clock” on the rest of your training session (just do it with no real intention to improve that day, just get it done) and you will be able to continue progress without crushing yourself at work or in the gym.
More importantly, your likelihood of getting sick or injured decreases dramatically!
**Side note: competitions like races or lifting events are also NOT a great idea during a chaotic time with your profession. If you do compete, be willing to make adjustments to your performance expectations.**
2. Recover with a purpose
Ironman is big in Wisconsin, particularly Madison and every year I hear at least three people following the Ironman race, “man I am totally signing up and doing it next year!”
I’m all about big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs around FIT), but what most people don’t realize is that Ironman training takes 14+ hours of training per week AND close to 14+ hours of intentional recovery, if you want to actually do well!
When stress increases, so does our need for recovery. This goes back to what I stated at the top: sympathetic responses via stress need to be countered with parasympathetic recovery.
And the simplest and cheapest form of recovery is…SLEEP!
When the body is put into overdrive, sleep is the best solution to persevering through, likely coming out the other side better than before.
So if that’s you this Fall, get even just a few more minutes of sleep each night, which probably means starting your bedtime routine a bit earlier.
If you have sleep on point, the next piece of the puzzle is finding ways to use what you have to relax
- If you have a nice bathtub, take an Epsom salt bath or get one of those bath bombs (not my thing but people seem to really enjoy them!)
- Spend a few extra minutes in the shower, just closing your eyes and breathing
- Take advantage of a hot tub, whirlpool or sauna if you have access
The big key here is to do something you actually ENJOY to relax. For example, I feel claustrophobic in steam saunas, so they are not my choice for a nice relaxing break from stress. Give me a good long hot shower with water washing over my head and on the back of my shoulders!
Notice above I italicized, “If you have your sleep on point.” Nothing will optimize recovery better than more quality sleep. Tackle that first before moving onto other strategies!
Finally, try some new things like meditation, yin or flow yoga, float tanks etc. There are A LOT of great tools available to us because we don’t recover well and we struggle to de-stress. Seek out options you think you might enjoy and see what comes of them.
If you are truly in your “busy” season, it won’t be often you can indulge in options like this so when you find something you like, stick with it and find a way to make it an appointment on your calendar.
3. Don’t forget about your Summer hobbies!
No we aren’t talking drinking on lawn chairs in your neighbor’s backyard, particularly if you want to keep progressing with your training.
I’m talking about the fun things you did in the Summer that were active, playful and energizing.
Long, busy days can be draining. If you have something fun planned to look forward to it will make the day feel shorter and you will likely be more productive.
Additionally, there is a thing called NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which basically accounts for all the energy expenditure associated with walking, talking, typing on a keyboard (hey that’s me right now!) etc. But things like playing disc golf, kicking a soccer ball around, chasing bubbles blown by your kids all count as well.
We tend to do two things commonly when under a lot of stress (or at least this is my experience in Wisconsin): drink more or eat more.
Focusing on getting out to do more NEAT things will keep you from shoving those extra calories in, get you energized and make the training day coming up much more productive!
It will set a great example for your kids (the ones you teach/work with who see you out and about, or your own!) and it is great for your brain health.
The brain, like other organs in the body, loves fresh oxygenated blood coming to it and the release of chemicals like endorphins and dopamine during activity just make the brain and therefore YOU happier 🙂
Because feeling like you are ready to conquer the world at hour 7 of a 10 hour day is much better than feeling brain dead!
Wrapping it all up!
Fall can be a hard time of the year for some of our FIT Athletes: long days with less help than the summer and kids constantly throwing a wrench into well thought out lesson plans.
For those and anyone struggling with too much stress, RECOVERY is KING!
- Train to achieve Minimum Effective Dose (MED)
- Recover via sleep and relaxation techniques of YOUR choosing
- Continue active hobbies to keep the brain healthy and the body energized
Take these strategies and apply as frequently as possible.
We have all been there, so stressed your brain freezes and all you want to do is zone out in front of a TV or watching something on your iPad.
I encourage you to take control, try some of these and see how your mood is the next day or the next time a stress wave comes at you!
Enjoy and as always….
We are FIT Strong!