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How Does Stress Affect My Workouts? | Effects Of Stress On The Body


Luke Teuma | UK Personal Trainer


There are so many factors which can affect your motivation and workouts. But one we have all most probably experienced is stress. Sometimes it’s our own fault, sometimes we can’t control it, however we need to know when to suppress it and how to do so.

Let’s explore if stress is bad for your workouts, and is it the thing that is holding you back from achieving your goals?

Stress Symptoms

Symptoms of stress can include:

? Feeling anxious, scared, easily annoyed or being moody.

Stress can also affect your mind by increasing the feeling of low self-esteem; how much you worry and induce poor concentration.

You can start to see how having a fantastic workout could be difficult under these circumstances!

How Does Stress Affect Your Mind?

Stress can really take over your brain to reduce focus and make you transform from completely energetic to extremely flat! All of these things affect motivation. Many of you may have found it hard to keep focused during a workout as it seems like your brain just keeps thinking about whatever is stressing you out.

In my opinion, no matter how much you need or want to train, sometimes know when you should just maybe relax instead – allow yourself the time to clear your brain of negative thoughts and surround yourself with comfort and positivity.

Positive Stress?

On the other hand, stress can actually a positive thing…

When many of my clients have had a stressful day or week I like to do pad work, boxing or animalistic or aggressive movements to keep their mind occupied. This helps to use negative energy to positively influence the intensity and effort in their session!

This will always depend on the individual, so see what works for you and try to get rid of the stress.

How Does Stress Affect Your Body?

Stress causes the body to increase the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in response to stress.

stress reduction

Cortisol can:

? Ruin muscular repair

? Decrease testosterone production.

? Can affect muscular growth.

If all that isn’t bad enough, it also reduces the body’s ability to use fat for energy, this then increases the amount of fat which is stored within the body. If you’ve ever felt like you crave more carbohydrates when you’re stressed, cortisol can be a major key to why it happens!

Carbohydrates raise serotonin levels which helps you feel good – however, this means you’re eating more calories than usual and, as you’re stressed, you’re more than likely to hold on to them too – especially in the abdominal area! Nightmare. 

How Does Stress Affect Training Progress?

If we combine the previous two examples we can see that if your mind and body aren’t functioning as usual, this will most definitely hinder gym results.

“Where the mind goes, the body follows”;  this quote is a perfect example to explain the effects of stress on the body; if you’re too stressed to concentrate and this has lead you to eat less or more than usual, you’re not really going to think that you’ll have great gym results.

? Although it’s not always in our control, in order to maintain and quickly regain where you are in your fitness goals, you need to learn how to handle and prevent getting too stressed too often. Easier said than done – but it certainly can be done!

How To Reduce Stress

stress reducing techniques

? Positive Thinking

Positive thinking isn’t always easy, especially when you’re very stressed. Again this will depend on the person, but each of us can think positively in these situations.

A simple thought process: you’re stressed – and can keep telling yourself and everyone else about it (negative energy) or, accept that you’re stressed and try to still have a positive outlook and still make others happy around you (positive energy).

This is all a choice – only you can decide how you handle stress, but I know for sure that positive thinking and spreading those vibes will only help you get them back. Visualise where you’d like to be. Get that good stuff down on paper and highlight all of your achievements that you’d made so far – but don’t give yourself enough credit for! You’ll be surprised at how much credit you’ll give yourself afterwards.

? Relaxation Techniques

As previously mentioned, sometimes you may need to just chill and relax, clear your brain, and do something that makes you happy or most importantly relaxed. I have found that listing to music always helps me clear my thoughts and allows me just to listen, feel, and forget whatever was negatively polluting my brain. It could be a TV programme, a film, or even going somewhere which makes you happy. I wouldn’t suggest going down the kebab shop as this is only a temporary fix and will only leave you more stressed and annoyed in the long run.

Although sitting down doing nothing doesn’t sound like it’s going to help reach your goals, it will help get your mind and body in the right place to continue thinking and training to your full potential, taking a few days or even a week to relax your brain and your body will put you ahead for the upcoming weeks and months, so don’t be scared to have a break.

Take home message

As we now know, if stress is persisted for a long period of time, it can affect your mind, body and gym results so it’s good to know the symptoms and also if you don’t try to suppress it, how it could affect your goals.

Take a rest if needed, and find your individual outlets to reduce stress levels and make you more positive and relaxed.

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