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Day 68 – Work Stress, Training Stress

My purpose in this post is to share with you an observation that I’ve made about our sources of stress and what we can do about them.

It’s Been a Busy Week

It’s ironic that today marks the end of one of my busiest weeks with respect to work, because it is also my longest training week so far: 7+ hours. I don’t know how I’ve been able to juggle both schedules, but no one is threatening to fire me or divorce me or suggest I pickup a different sport like darts.

And 7 hours of workouts is just the beginning!

I’m always amazed at how much we think we can get done in a week compared to how much we can actually get done. Just when I think I’ve hit my limit, the boss asks for something else or there’s a family crisis that needs my attention. In a way, this is a good thing, because we are capable of more than we think we are. In another way, it could be a bad thing, because each additional activity adds a bit of stress to the body and the mind. So how do we find that balance?

Work Stress

I’m not very good at finding that balance, because at work I have a “yes” problem. For example:

Coworker: “Hey, LG. Can you help me develop a set of database queries to summarize the latest production data, identify inefficiencies, list all of our shortcomings and solve global climate change?”

Me: “Sure!”

This kind of thing doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I just bite the bullet and work a bit more without consideration of the stress I’m accumulating. Unfortunately, the only estimate of work or family stress is time spent doing something stressful. I can’t make a generalization of overstress symptoms, but I can tell you about my experience. When I get stressed from work and family, I experience some, if not all, of the following symptoms:

  1. decreased work performance

  2. lowered motivation

  3. poor sleep

  4. irritability

  5. chronic fatigue

  6. depression

  7. increased appetite

Training Stress

Training for triathlon requires the same balance of pushing ourselves to the limits, but not over the limits. The first lactate threshold is one such limit. The second lactate threshold is another limit. The body can easily be pushed beyond these limits, but if it is done too often, there is a price to pay. For triathletes, the price is overtraining which is recognized by any combination of its symptoms like stagnant performance gains, chronic fatigue, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, sore muscles, depression and lowered motivation.

Different sources of stress. Similar symptoms.

Do triathletes have a type A personality? I’ve heard we do. I’ve also heard that because we have type A personalities, we tend to push our low intensity workouts harder than we should which leads to more than the optimal amount of physiological stress.

Manage The Stress

Now for that observation I told you about in the first paragraph of this post.

There are a myriad of self help gurus out there that will tell you how to manage the emotional, mental and psychological stresses that accumulate in your life. Their solutions include expensive retreats, expensive drugs, illegal drugs, herbs, meditation, group counseling, group therapy, pet therapy, massage therapy, hard to find teas, essential oils, energy healing and whatever else. I can attest that some of these work for me, but I’ve spent a lot of money finding out which ones work and which ones don’t. I still haven’t tried the expensive retreats or expensive drugs yet.

On the other hand, managing physiological stress due to training is far simpler: heart rate. You can get fancy with lactate testing and VO2max testing, but even those are ultimately used to calculate heart rate zones. Heart rate is a very good estimator of the physiological impact. It’s not perfect and zones have to be recalculated over time if the body is adapting to training, but heart rate is 1) inexpensive to measure and 2) not as invasive as drawing blood every 10 minutes to measure lactate.

What you do with this information is up to you. I was just in a sharing mood.

Until tomorrow…

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