I have been pounding the pavement hard lately, with surprisingly good results. I’m not breaking any speed records, but I feel great. I thought back over the last few years at the ups and downs of my training, and it occurred to me that I don’t have a lot less stress in my life today. Could that have something to do with it? You bet your bottom.
I was reminded of this when reading an article on Competitor.com about Cortisol. Cortisol is commonly called the “stress hormone,” and it’s released when your body is responding to any type of stress — physical, mental or emotional. It’s required for survival, but too much of it is not good for us.
We’ve been conditioned to believe stress is bad because, for the most part, it is. But stress, when applied to fitness, is the key to improvement. What’s that saying? “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”? The thing is, your body can only cope with so much. If you are bombarded with other types of stress, such as work or personal issues, your running — and possibly your health — will suffer.
If you can eliminate some of your everyday pressures, you’ll feel it in your training. Your recovery will be shorter; your muscles will ache less. Your body is efficient at dealing with the stress when all things are equal.
There are lots of ways to balance your life, so start eliminating the bad stuff where you can. And keep in mind, sometimes a bad run might be due to the amount of stress you are under, and a great run could be an indicator that you are doin’ just fine. It’s just one more thing to be aware of, and it could be a reason we have great running seasons and not so great ones. — Amie