Are You Under-Minding Your Training?

Pressure makes diamonds. Train hard win easy. Never surrender. These are some of the motivational motto’s that Americans thrive on.  With the Olympic trials in full swing we are even more aware of how hard we strive to become ‘the best we can be’. So how do you know how much of a good thing is too much?  Are you over-training?  Are you over-working? Over-working is similar to when an athlete over-trains.  When they exercise, practice, drill, rehearse and compete too much.  When they over do it, their mind dulls and their body weakens with fatigue.  They get stuck.  They feel slow, stagnant and beat. When exercise, work, etc., is done in moderation it is healthy, but when you over do it, it becomes a ball and chain.

Stress, in small doses, is what our bodies were designed for.  Acute, brief, and intense stress is a good thing.  Chronic, repetitive, long term stress is a bad thing. It’s all about balance. Managing your stress is about managing your hormones and the main stress hormone is cortisol.  It is released by the adrenal system and in normal, acute levels it is helpful in lowering inflammation, helps your body to heal itself, and provides energy to the muscles. Chronic cortisol production tears your body down.  Too much stress stimulates excess cortisol and it becomes catabolic, destructive to tissue.  Over production of cortisol leads to ‘adrenal fatigue’.  The result is disrupted sleep and wake cycles.  Chronic exposure to stress, light, caffeine, tobacco, and sugar require your adrenal glands to produce more and more cortisol.  Some of the symptoms are: chronic fatigue, headaches, viral and bacterial infections, rapid aging, sluggish immune system, and impaired memory function.

If you are noticing any of these symptoms taking a front seat in your life it may be time to slow your engine down a bit.  Take a break.  Find some time to let your mind and body heal. Massage, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, exercise (not too much), and yoga are all ways that have been proven to help lower cortisol production, increase mood and health enhancing chemicals (such as serotonin and dopamine),  and reduce the symptoms of too much work and not enough play.

One of the best ways to beat stress, whether you have 5 minutes or 30 minutes, is practicing ‘mindfulness’.  It doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to go to a class to experience it, and it can be done anywhere.  Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) originated with Jon Kabat-Zinn, and is now experienced all over the globe.  You can read one of my favorite books about mindfulness:Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life, or listen to a CD Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness you can take an 4 week online course with Ed and Deb Shapiro authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, or even attend an eight week MBSR course taught all over the world.  For my local clients I recommend attending the course at University of TN or Blount Memorial Hospital.  The next time you feel driven to distraction, over worked, and you’re just not firing on all cylinders it might be time to breathe deeply, clear your mind, and surrender to some Olympic level non-striving.