CROSSFIT SUFFOLK ** Forging Elite Fitness
STRESS: A CROSSFITTER’S FRIEND
We generally think of stress as a negative thing. Something to be avoided at all costs. When we place stress on our mind and body, especially in the form of a difficult lift or exercise, it just plain sucks! Or does it?
Well, what it all comes down to is our attitude and our knowledge about stress. Stress, in proper doses, is the factor that modifies our body and brain because we were designed to be adaptive. It’s also human nature to try to stay the same. When you run an 800 meter run for the first time or for the first time in a long time and do so with genuine effort it’s natural to have thoughts like “what the hell am I doing this for?” or “I hope my breakfast is as good coming up as it was going down”. You’re placing a new stress on the body and brain that for most people won’t feel good at all. Regardless of how it feels, your body and brain will start to prepare for the next time you’re in this predicament. As you keep taxing the body the body will continue to adapt, as long as the “dosage” is not too strong and the body has time to recover.
Olympic Lifting coach, Charles Staley, in the book, The Science of Martial Arts Training, states, “Upon the application of stress the body temporarily goes into an alarm stage, and begins to make adaptations in an effort to successfully regain homeostasis. This adaptation process is called the compensation stage. …………Unlike machines, which eventually wear out after long periods of use, the human body actually grows stronger when it encounters stress, in an attempt to prepare itself for the next perceived stress or “irritant”.”
In the book, Spark: The Revolutionary new Science Of Exercise and The Brain, Dr. John J. Ratey, states, “It’s well known that the way to build muscles is to break them down and let them rest. The same paradigm applies to nerve cells, which have built-in repair and recovery mechanisms activated by mild stress, The great thing about exercise is that it fires up the recovery process in our muscles and neurons. It leaves our bodies and minds stronger and more resilient, better able to handle future challenges, to think on our feet and adapt more easily.”
What’s the point of this? After all, we are experiencing what is being described above, on a regular basis.
The point of this is to not lose sight of the fact that as we CrossFit we are stressing our bodies and nervous system. It isn’t always going to feel good. We are all going to struggle with one element of a workout or another. We must not let struggle discourage us from the goal of improving performance. We must not allow “new” stress to discourage us from improving on a weakness. We also don’t want “new” stress to be so severe that form, function and safety is jeopardized.
The trick is to stress the body and brain so that adaptation is facilitated, not set back. This does not mean that every workout is going to feel good. In the same respect, not every performance will be improved on the last one, although that is what we aim for. It’s important to understand that you have to keep going through the process, but not every performance is going to be a banner performance. Not everything will come without a struggle nor should it. We grow from our struggles.
Stress…..not necessarily a bad thing!