Stress: Your Progress Killer

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More isn’t always better.
You don’t have to choose between going hard or going home.
Sore doesn’t always equal success.

North American society has made us believe that we need to constantly hustle and grind in life; whether it’s with work or fitness, we need to keep on ‘keeping on’ in order to win. But with all this pressure for MORE, we accumulate stress. This stress can be conscious or subconscious, but either way we’re increasing the cortisol levels in our bodies.

When we don’t get quality sleep, we increase cortisol.
When we worry or overthink about situations beyond our control, we increase cortisol.
When we over train and do excessive amounts of cardio, we increase cortisol.
When we don’t feed our body with vital nutrients, we increase cortisol.

Our bodies are sensitive, so when we do something that doesn’t truly feel good, our bodies respond, usually in the form of increasing cortisol.

But what the heck is cortisol?

Cortisol is your stress hormone that’s made in the adrenal glands. During stressful times, your body releases this hormone to try to regulate your body; increasing heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose and muscle tension as a way of responding. At the same time, your body temporarily shuts down other systems like digestion and reproduction in order to focus its attention. Although cortisol is natural and important in your body, too much of it isn’t a good thing, and can definitely cause negative side effects.

Sure, working out can feel like a form of stress relief, absolutely! But when you actually push your body through a training session, it still releases cortisol. So we need to understand what areas of our life produces levels of cortisol, and try to balance accordingly. Training can feel good emotionally, but stress is stress is stress, and cortisol will respond accordingly. Make sense?

When we are overworked (literally and figuratively) then there’s a time and place for training sessions. If you’re overly stressed out at work or in your family life, then maybe training needs to be set aside in order to better regulate or balance your cortisol levels. I always consider workouts to be a bonus, especially when it comes to fat loss, so if we can keep nutrition under control then the training doesn’t have to always be present. Following programming guidance – both nutrition and training for that matter – can be more useful than you might initially think. Having accountability and structured guidance may be better to help keep you balanced and focused on what’s most important. And just having the extra support from a trusted coach who tells you that it’s ok to not workout for a week, might just be music to your ears that you need to hear! If you’re overly stressed already and then you go for a serious strength training session, you might just be pouring more fuel onto the fire.

Do not sacrifice your health for the sake of workouts.

Opt for some more relaxing and less demanding activities like casual walks or hikes, yoga, or mobility programming (RomWod is my favourite! Details below.) Choose something that seems a little more therapeutic and calming for both your body and mind.

Training is not the most important element for weight loss. If we are to review this hierarchy, it would look like this:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Sleep
  3. Stress management
  4. Movement
  5. Training

Nutrition always reins superior in the fat loss kingdom. There’s no doubt about that. And training is awesome too, but if your sleep, stress, daily movement (and even hydration) levels aren’t in check, training isn’t going to give you the results that you desire.

So if your stress levels are in overdrive, make sure you’re taking the necessary steps in order to balance out your lifestyle. Get your nutrition in check first. Prioritize healthy sleep patterns. Manage your stress levels (first, you need to understand where they are and how you can improve them). Remember that training is a bonus.

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