One of the most important keywords in sports is "stress". Suppose you want to climb a 5-story building. Would you try to do it in 5 big jumps? Nope. You'd take it one step at a time. If you're young and strong, you might try to do it two steps at a time, but you'd be huffing and puffing more than you would doing it in single steps. Climbing two steps at a time puts a heavier load or stress on your body. You're breathing faster, your heart is pumping faster, and you're sweating.
Everything we do in our sport causes stress in our bodies. Stretching causes stress. Running, jogging, and walking cause stress. Increasing distance or speed causes stress. Racing causes stress to skyrocket. The climate conditions we run in cause stress. The time of day or night we exercise causes stress. If our bodies can't handle this stress, injuries result.
Stress is a Killer
Contrary to popular belief that stress strengthens our bodies, stress destroys our body cells. If we don't get rid of the stress, it will accumulate in our bodies and injury will occur. How do we get rid of this stress? Simple, by giving our bodies sufficient rest. Rest between runs. Rest between days of running, jogging, or walking. Rest each night. Naps during the day. Our bodies react, during periods of rest, to the stress of our sport, and our bodies become stronger as they rebuild cells.
We have two Nervous Systems
In order to properly manage our running, we need to know the symptoms that tell us we are under stress and the symptoms that tell us when we have recovered from stress. When we apply stress to our bodies, our Sympathetic nervous system responds and elevates our breathing rate to give more oxygen to our bodies. Our heart rate increases to give more blood. If needed, our sweat glands are activated to cool us off. Our adrenal gland are activated to produce certain hormones to help our bodies handle the stress of running. After we stop running, our sympathetic nervous system slows down, and our Parasympathetic nervous system becomes dominate and causes our bodies to recover by returning to normal conditions.
Here are the symptoms that I use to know when I've recovered from the stress. A normal wakeup heart rate is a good indicator that our body is overcoming the stress and is returning to normal, but it does not indicate that ones body has fully recovered from the stress and is ready for another speed or longer distance workout. At least with me, a high energy level is the best indicator I've found that I'm ready for more distance or speed. I first look for a normal wakeup heart rate, and then I look for a high energy level. By using both indicators, I'm able to listen to my body and respond accordingly. Sometimes, though, I have a good energy level, and even though my wakeup HR is slightly high, I'll still do a stressful workout.
Good Bye Stress!
By using common sense in our running, getting sufficient rest, and keeping our running within the limits imposed by our bodies, we can run injury-free, and we can enjoy our sport in ways that we may not have expected!