Workout of the Day

Stress vs. Stress


Stress is a funny thing. On the one hand, we run from it. We hear of its dangers in books, the news, and on the internet. We know that stress can do bad things to us. On the other hand, we need it if we have any interest in getting better. In fact, stress is an absolutely central part of the equation when we talk about the evolution and adaptation of the human species. We are here today largely because of stressors that we’ve encountered.
On a smaller scale, stress is also a big part of the equation when it comes to what we do in the gym. It's kind of our bread and butter. In essence, the way we get stronger, faster, more enduring, whatever, is with a continuous cycle of stress and adaptation.

The problem is that our body isn’t great at differentiating between these different types of stress. At the most basic level (think hormones, all that important system-regulation stuff), your body doesn’t know the difference between you stressing over your mortgage and you doing heavy deadlifts to get stronger. Though the stimuli may differ wildly, the body has just one response. This is an issue, because while some stress is good (and necessary) for improvement, too much stress will have the opposite effect. In addition, while the stress that we apply in the gym has a positive outcome from adaptation, we aren’t exactly equipped to recover from hour after hour, day after day of this stress. Your workout may last 30 minutes. That’s manageable. Your body adapts, and physiological and psychological benefits result. But your mortgage stress lasts for 10 hours every day, 7 days a week, for months on end. And that’s compounded with traffic stress, family stress, job stress, leaky plumbing stress, politics stress, and whatever else. Your workout provides an acute stress that we follow up with recovery (eat, sleep, relax), which leads to positive adaptation. But with chronic stress, we end up with a basic equation of stress > adaptive capacity. In the same way that doing a 10 hour workout, day after day, would not lead to great fitness, constantly exposing ourselves to this “non-fitness stress” doesn’t do us any favors.

The good news is that while our basic physiological systems may not be great at differentiating deadlifts and mortgages, the conscious and rational you can. I’m not going to try and tell you that you should never stress or that you should spend your life blissed out without a care in the world. I get it, it’s hard out there. Stress happens, and I honestly believe that in proper doses, a little bit of stress is just the thing you need to get yourself together and make things happen (a good body of research agrees with this, too). But in the same way that you would give me a pretty good stink eye for telling you to go do deadlifts for 10 hours, you shouldn’t be okay with that 10 hours of daily stress. After all, the goal of stress is to drive adaptation -- to get better. And I think we can all agree that worrying about your mortgage while you sit in traffic and try to get ahold of the plumber and try to read work emails that you don’t care about isn’t making you a better person.

We owe it to ourselves to set our standards high for the stresses that we let in. We have a limited capacity for stress, and when you start letting your space for stress get filled with things that aren’t helping you out, you’re pushing out all of the positive stressors that could be there instead. So next time you feel the blood pressure rising and the worrisome thoughts running through your head, ask yourself: is this stress worth letting in the door?

- Preston Sprimont

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  • 21 min EMOM

    • Min 1 - 30s max burpees

    • Min 2 - 3 sandbag ground to overhead (AHAP)

    • Min 3 - 30s max cal row