Monday, 3 Oct 2022

If you feel stressed from a long week – don't go to the gym tonight

It’s Friday – you’ve had a stressful week, and now you’re debating whether you should go to the gym tonight, or go to the pub.

Really, it depends on just how stressed you are. While hitting the gym for a tough session can help to relieve stress under the right circumstances, being too stressed can actually hinder your progress and make your workout pretty pointless.

So if you’re feeling burnt out, exhausted and anxious from a busy week – taking a night off from the gym might not be such a bad idea.

Freeletics expert David Wiener has explained exactly why you shouldn’t work out if you’re feeling too stressed:

It throws you off your game

When you‘re coping with a big life event, or you‘re ‘so behind’ at work, it becomes the only thing you can focus on.

What suffers most? That evening run you had planned is sacrificed for more time at the office or winding down on the sofa.

Stress has the annoying ability to distract your mind and overwhelm your body, not to mention making you a lot less likely to stick to your training regime.

Apart from skewing your motivation, you‘ll have a hard time reaching your fitness goals when your mind is elsewhere. When stress makes your training become another thing on your to-do list, the quality of your workout will suffer as you‘ll sacrifice technique in favour of getting it done and dusted as soon as possible.

While it may be difficult to push your worries to the side, dwelling won‘t make it go away. Exercise combined with other stress management techniques, such as meditation, can really help to calm you down and keep you focused and motivated.

It hinders your recovery

It‘s normal to feel a bit sore after a workout, but when you‘re stressed, the effects are multiplied because your muscles are stressed too.

The mental demands of stress steal valuable resources from your body and leave you feeling more run down and groggy than usual. When this is combined with a tough workout, it‘ll leave you with nothing left in the tank.

Unless you want to risk injuring yourself, it‘s important to give your muscles and your mind time to recover following a strenuous workout. This means taking regular rest days and mixing up your style of training to maximise its effectiveness.

It plays havoc with your cortisol levels

Chronic stress hurts your ability to regulate the hormone cortisol, which influences your metabolism, immunity, sleep rhythms and blood pressure.

Un-regulated cortisol levels will leave you feeling run-down, tired, and more subject to gaining weight, as well as making you crave more sugary and fatty food.

Lack of sleep coupled with stress is a total killer when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. And even worse when your goal is to lose weight.

Sleep is essential in helping you restore your muscles after training and feeling refreshed and energised the next day. You can regulate your cortisol levels by turning in early at night and getting a proper sleep.

It increases your risk of injury

Research suggests that exercising when you’re experiencing stress can increase your risk of injury, and this could be for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, if you’re overly stressed it’s likely you’re not focusing properly on your workout or technique, and your wavering attention could be the cause of an injury.

Secondly, when you’re stressed, you experience increased muscles tension and this too could set you on the road to an injury or make any existing aches and pains worse.

You’ll fatigue quicker

Stress affects the part of your brain which deals with both short- and long-term memory, as well as working memory, which is what you use when you’re processing multiple pieces of information at once.

This can make even the simplest of tasks more difficult and means that you’ll mentally and physically fatigue more quickly which will impact on your workout.

It sabotages weight loss goals

Cortisol or the stress hormone as it is known is far higher when you’re experiencing stress, and high levels of cortisol encourages insulin production which could result in sugar cravings. It can also slow down your metabolism, which isn’t good news if weight loss is your goal.

Increased levels of cortisol can also make it difficult to lose body fat, especially in the abdomen areas.

David think’s it’s important to remember that exercise can also be a remedy if you’re feeling a bit stressed – it’s all about knowing your body and understanding when you need to slow down.

‘Stress can also motivate you,’ says David. ‘A slight increase in cortisol from moderate stress has proven to have a positive impact on performance.

‘The one upside to knowing how to weather tough times is that you have experience performing under pressure. This results in more confidence, so rather than seeing stress as a barrier to your success, try viewing it as an obstacle you‘ve overcome in the past, and that you‘ll no doubt succeed at again.

‘It‘s all about your state of mind, and if you use stress to fire up your workout, you‘ll be amazed at what you can achieve.’

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