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How to adapt your training when life gets stressful

Personal trainer Sarah Cremen offers tips to ensure continuity in your training even when other things get in the way.

WHEN PRESSURE IN work or our personal lives mounts up, sweating it out in the gym or pounding the pavements can seem like a good way to obliterate the tension and boost the levels of feel-good chemicals from the brain.

shutterstock_152968553 Source: Shutterstock/ra2studio

The correlation between exercise and stress reduction has been well documented; it can be a welcome distraction, but push too hard and the physical stress, combined with the psychological stress already present can overwhelm your body and actually move you further away from your training goals.

Before getting into the specifics of how to adapt your training regime, below are some general points to consider:

Stay consistent

If you’re facing stress at home/work, it can be easy to slack off your usual training and spend more time being sedentary. Listen to your body; if you need rest, take it, but try and incorporate other stress management techniques (meditation, walking etc.) instead of just flaking out on the couch.

Avoid injury

The mental demands of stress can rob your body of valuable resources and energy. It’s worth bearing in mind that when you have decreased energy and are tired/sore, the risk of injuring yourself increases exponentially.

Success is a series of small wins

Learn to match your training goals to your current situation. It may not be the best time to set ambitious new targets, save them for times when life is a little less chaotic. If you’re in the midst of a big, stressful life event like a new job, getting married or moving house, adding in something that requires you to devote a lot of physical and mental energy to your training, like running your first marathon, is a recipe for burnout.

shutterstock_450440815 Source: Shutterstock/Luis Molinero

So, if there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week, but you still value your training, what are the best management strategies to ensure you’re still getting it in?

Keep the frequency, but reduce the duration

Stick to your routine – if you already train 3-4 times per week then continue to do so. Instead of training for 60+ minutes, reduce your workouts to shorter, more efficient 30-45 minute sessions. As mentioned above, recovery can be compromised, so make your workouts more convenient and less taxing on the body.

Stimulate, not annihilate

Avoid heading to the gym and trashing your body. Ideally, you should be finishing a training session feeling better than when you started. Your body may be fatigued but you shouldn’t feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

Up and at ‘em!

If you’re inclined to fall off the bandwagon entirely during stressful periods, think about switching your training to early in the morning. There’s a certain discipline to early workouts – they require you to commit to and plan it the night before. As a trainer, I generally find clients have more energy first thing in the morning (maybe with a little help from coffee!) and there’s much less chance of meetings running late/babysitters cancelling etc.

Stick to the basics and train smarter, not harder

Variety is the spice of life, but when you’re in a stressed out or high pressure state, you may not need spice. Avoid overhauling your entire regime, instead consider time efficiency and smart exercise selection. Stick to the three core elements of mobility, strength and conditioning work. Within them, choose 1-3 good bang for your buck exercises/lifts and perform them to the best of your ability.

Sarah Cremen is a personal trainer and physiotherapist based in David Lloyd Riverview in Dublin. For more health and fitness advice and tips, you can follow her on FacebookInstagram or Twitter. Alternatively you can visit her website.

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