Stress plays an important part in what we do as strength coaches/trainers, as well as in other areas such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and even massage therapy.
Basically, we apply a stressful stimulus to our athletes/clients - either in the form of a training intervention or in the form of a therapeutic modality (soft tissue therapy, manipulation, stretch, etc) and we ask their bodies to respond. When stress resistance is low, the response is not favorable as the athlete cannot recover properly and their body will not respond the way it needs to. When stress resistance is high, we can push the envelope a bit more and train at a higher level, knowing that the individual is able to sustain this level of stress, recover from it, and come back for more.
With a sound training and recovery program we can help to enhance stress resistance. Obviously this is also dependant on what else the athlete has going on in their lives, as this too can play a factor in how they respond to the stresses of training and treatment.
Unfortuntely, stress resistance is not infinite. We can’t increase our resistance to stress forever. Rather, stress resistance tends to modulate depending on what we have going on.
- Your girl friend breaks up with you and you may be feeling depressed, which brings you down and lowers your stress resistance. Alternatively, perhaps breaking up with your girlfriend is a huge relief and a large amount of stress has now been lifted off your shoulders….stress resistance goes up!!
- You start working another shift at work and your stress resistance may decrease because you are now cutting into some of your recovery time and adding more hours in an environment that can be taxing (both physically and psychologically).
- You get sick for a few days and stress resistance is impaired.
As coaches and therapists it is important to understand stress and take into account all the factors of your athletes/clients lives. If you push an athlete with low stress resistance to hard, you may run into a rather large set back in training.
A favorite book of mine was written by stress researcher and Standford professor, Dr. Robert Sapolsky. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers does an excellent job of explaining stress and its affects on the body in a rather easy (and often times humorus) manner. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Additionally, National Geographic did a great piece on stress featuring Dr. Sapolsky called Stress: Portrait of a Killer. Below, posted in six parts (about an hour), is the entire episode.
I hope you enjoy them!