I was reading an interview this morning on firstoffthebike.com with Coach Grant Giles of Aeromax coaching. Gilesy is a coach I respect and has been doing some great things with his pro squad based in Lennox Head on the NSW north coast.
In the interview Phil asks Grant what his top three tips are for age group athletes. His top three are psychological prep first, time management (being realistic in the true time you have to train and not the ‘dream’ hours – this way you can absorb the training load) and finally to look at their stressors.
They are all good points and the psychological aspect is definitely undervalued with so much emphasis on the physical prep. Something to go deeper into in another post.
But today I wanted to discuss the last point a bit more because it truly is a big point. This is having a good look at all your stressors and working ways to minimise or eliminate those that have such a catabolic impact.
High levels of stress and big volumes or intensity are like oil and water. They don’t mix well.
What are some of the common stressors
Work, family, travel, traffic, environment (hot, cold, pollution, etc), medications, nutrition, lack of sleep, finances, EMF (electromagnetic fields), loss of mobility, injury, training and the list goes on…
All of these life’s stressors can weigh heavy on the body and all of them can be reduced to levels that we can deal with. But to do this you need to sit down and look at what is creating high levels of stress for you and go about changing it.
Eating crap? Change it. Not getting enough sleep? Turn off to TV and go to bed earlier. Family / Work… communicate better! Training … be realistic with your current life circumstances and commit fully to the time you do have and so on.
See piling on the stress has the same effect on our bodies as epic endurance training or consistent threshold plus work. It’s ALL catabolic on the body. What I mean here is is that it has a breaking down effect on the body. When left unchecked, they can wreak havoc on your body’s immune system leaving it weak and not having the ability to fight off viruses and cancer cell growth.
I’ll use myself as an example. I had been putting off having my wisdom teeth removed for over 10 years until I caved last month and went to Tustin Smiles due to the increased pain! Sure, I was able to extract some fantastic results over that time, but I had to pay the piper( the piper being my ego). I missed two Ironman races this year as a direct result of those. So lets add teeth, amalgams, braces etc to that list of stressors above.
Our bodies do give us clues… if only we’d listen.
I believe that training for and racing triathlon should always add to your life experiences and definitely not detract from your long term health.
What I want you to do is take some time out and look at all of your life stressors and then work ways that you can reduce them. If you are truly unhappy with something, then have the guts to change it. Doing this will reduce your exposure to catabolic stimuli as much as possible.
Don’t get me wrong. Some stress is good. We need some stress so we can adapt and get stronger. It’s only when we pile stessor after stressor on our shoulders that we will eventually crumble.
Here’s a few quick ways to mitigate the catabolic effects on the body.
Ensure healthy sleep and nutrition.
Makes sense but at times of increased stress it is easier said than done. We understand that good sleep and nutrition habits are required for optimal recovery from training and health but do we understand the mechanisms at play? The body produces Human Growth Hormone (HGH) during sleep and there is a minimum requirement for it to do so effectively. It is said that some of the most important sleep is pre midnight hours and this is when HGH release is at its greatest. Our diet will also have an effect on our bodys secretion of HGH, in particular with regards to high levels of insulin in our blood just before going to bed.
Paying close attention to sleep and a healthy diet during times of increased stress or heavy training phases will help mitigate the catabolic effects.
- Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep during stress or heavy training. This cant be ah stressed enough!
- Avoid refined carbohydrates within a couple of hours before going to bed, especially simple sugars; insulin stops HGH release when we need it leading to our bodies breaking down.
- Eat meat (free range chickens, grass fed cattle), seafood, vegetables, some fruit, nuts and seeds, some fats, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. The ONLY time we need to add grains is immediately post training.
- During times of high stress and/or poor sleep, avoid high volume aerobic training or long time trial (lactate tolerance) training.
Reduce stress levels
This should be a major focus because it can quickly help to body re find its equilibrium (balance). There are many ways and strategies such as massage and self massage, laughter, which produces mood elevating endorphins and HGH release, meditation, and plain old time out we all need this at some stage to mentally recharge and refresh!
Finally at those times where we feel overwhelmed and stress is at an all time high. Adjust your training load accordingly. Reduce the volume and cut out the threshold efforts. Increase the strength component as it’s an anabolic stimulus (growth) and even some short speed efforts can help you improve recovery from training and other life stressors.