Our bodies have a limited capacity for output and repair. Maintaining this balance will ensure good health – when the balance is shifted too far in the output direction, we suffer. Managing your physical resource is fundamental to maintaining your health during these days of higher stress levels.
I have a recent personal example from my own life where I failed to do this properly. I will share with you where I went wrong and what I learnt from it, but first let me explain how I let this happen – you may recognise similarities in your own life….
I run a very busy personal training business, seeing clients both in the gym and their own homes across Stockport and the surrounding areas. I also have a weight loss group and various online projects. In the early summer my workload increases as clients work extra hard to get in summer shape, and new clients want my services. Overall, it is a relentless time of year for me.
Due to a busy and changeable schedule, it is difficult for me to timetable exercise into my week, so I train when I can. I grab windows of time in-between clients, early mornings and weekends. This usually works for me – I can keep my business running well, keep my training up and still make time for my family. On this occasion though, it slipped.
A few weeks ago I started to feel lethargic and tired over the weekend. On the Monday I woke up with a sore throat and swollen glands in my neck. My head and limbs were aching and I felt weak. My sleep was compromised and I found it difficult to function at my best. I was coming down with something, that much was obvious. The question was, why? I only get sick when I am run down.
I did a mental recap of my previous couple of weeks and realised I had trained hard for the 9 consecutive days leading up to my feeling ill – never a good idea. The nature of the training didn’t help either – I was performing short, high intensity workouts in the gym and spending 3-4 hours on the weekends out on my road bike, cycling up hills in preparation for a charity bike ride I had coming up. I didn’t make a note of the days I had trained so just carried on without factoring in rest. I wasn’t managing my physical resource.
My work schedule was tough too – 60 hour working weeks, coupled with less than my required sleep every night. One of the downsides of running your own business is that you can’t just turn your computer off at 5pm and forget about work – you ARE your work and therefore an escape is more difficult. It is vital that you take time away though.
I was pushing myself too far and it was no surprise that I started to feel ill. Luckily, I recognised the error of my ways and made amends immediately – I stopped all of my training for the week, postponed any non-essential work commitments and made an extra effort with my food, ensuring the quality was high and it was vitamin and mineral dense.
I had a trip to Barcelona which would give me the mental break from work that I needed, plenty of sunshine and a chance to do some exercise after a week off. When I returned home I made sure I caught up on my sleep.
I managed to fend off the symptoms and prevent a full-blown illness, but had I not recognised the problem it would have been much worse. It would have affected my ability to work, which would have prevented me from earning a living.
It made me realise that we do have a limited physical resource and it is important we manage that as best as we can. I have written about stress before, introducing the concept that at a cellular level all stress is the same and has a destructive effect on our bodies. Identifying periods of great stress and acting wisely is key to ensuring you are managing your physical resource effectively.
Tips on managing your physical resource…
- If you have increased demands on you (exams, work project, travel etc) take a step back from your training for a while. Reduce rather than stop your exercise output.
- Train sensibly – when you are under stress don’t push yourself for personal bests. Keep a workout brief and to the point.
- Make your sleep a priority. Sleep is the most anabolic and restorative activity we have. Sleep well and you will do yourself the power of good.
- Cancel non-essential commitments. If you have large demands on you, the uneccessary stuff can wait.
- Keep your good quality food intake high. Garbage in = garbage out. Stress hormones are catabolic – counteract this by making your sure your bodies building material (food) is the best quality.
- Take breaks. Following a period of high stress, you need to relax and recuperate. This doesn’t have to be a 2 week holiday, a weekend without plans is often enough. Just give yourself a chance to switch off.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine. They stress the adrenals which will do more harm than good in the long term.
- Stay hydrated. Water is the base material of all of our cells. Stay hydrated to help physical and mental performance.
- Travel only when vital – time zone changes disturb sleep and our ability to recover. If possible, save long distance travel for when you want to go on holiday to relax!
These tips are easy to implement and can be the difference between you thriving or suffering when there are demands placed on you. We aren’t built to cope with stress for prolonged periods, so managing your physical resource has to be a main priority when it comes to health and wellbeing.
Don’t spend your time in and out of illness – look after yourself proactively, preventing illness rather than curing it. Use these tips to become better at managing your physical resource.