Archive for December, 2007

By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.

Stress, in the conventional wisdom, is an inevitable feature of modern life. Some might call it a pandemic. It may well be true that even with our labor saving devices and efficiencies now so much a part of everyday living, we moderns still experience more everyday stress compared with our ancestors of even one, two or three generations ago. Given that contemporary stressors are not likely to diminish in their influence over us any time soon, our only hope must come from how we learn to cope and adapt to the tension building vagaries of our world.

Personality, character, upbringing and the luck of the draw have a lot to do with how you respond when it all seems to be caving in on your head. But techniques for coping and managing stress can also be learned. One of the best, as any athlete will tell you, is just to go out and have a successful workout at whatever you do and like the best.

Here are a few thoughts about using your athletic training or fitness exercise as an approach to personal stress management.

For physical activity to work as a stress countering measure, you do actually have to go at it with vigor. Thinking about it, dabbling or playing at it won’t work. You can’t go to the Nautilus center and hang out as if recovering from a hard set for an hour and a half and get any real benefits. You can’t expect too much out of your first and only work out in six months. For exercise to impact on your stress level, you need to be trained enough at it to sustain at least minimum of a half hour of uninterrupted, serious effort.

If your base activity is aerobic, and it is not physically self destructive, it matters a great deal less what you actually do than how much you enjoy it. Even if you have a masochistic quirk steering and a puritan ethic driving your enthusiasm, you probably won’t be able to support a long term commitment to your exercise program unless it yields you some level of reliable, escapist pleasure. If you have not yet discovered such an exercise pastime, get creative and keep looking.

Once you have settled on a favored physical activity or, even better, a variety of them, you can choose at will whatever suits your day and circumstances for medicinal, sedative or preventive purposes. You say your loud, opinionated hard drinking, smoking in laws are all coming for the family’s Labor Day picnic when it is supposed to rain, and you are all going to be jammed into the back porch for the day? Go for a long run, Lose yourself in it; come back refreshed and at peace. When it’s all over you know you can go out again tomorrow and leave any lingering nasties out on the road. It may not improve your picnic much, but you’ll be tougher

One of the few psychological problems habitual athletes encounter is the addiction to regular training that can develop over time. Most medical and behavioral experts discount the seriousness of athletic addictions because they are considered positive and healthful. However, if you are aware that you have addictive tendencies and are likely to continue training even though doing so, for example, will aggravate an injury, take special pains to seek out advice and. or other training alternatives before it controls you.

If physical training is a valued part of your coping strategy, it doesn’t make much logical sense to otherwise dissipate your health or your energies in wasteful, counterproductive pursuits like smoking, excessive partying or overwork, all of which can load on your stress. Usually age brings with it some common sense along with physiological imperatives that help veteran athletes keep to the straight and narrow path of virtue. But beware, there are few who would not agree that we grow to soon old and too late smart.

In Good Health,
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
The Pressure Positive Company®


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