We're about to go full hippie. Talking about the stuff you know you know, but never do. Unfortunately for you, no one has ever truly told you the benefit and how it relates to your goals, until now.
If you're trying to drop a pant size or move some stubborn body fat, listen up.
If you're pounding away at the weights, with no new muscle in sight and the scale hasn't moved in your favour since 2014, listen up.
If you've got a family, a career, and about a billion other things that come before adding another day at the gym, this is right up your alley.
Ready, address your Stress. That's it, that's the answer.
Done. Dusted, see you next time. But since you've heard it all before, and it didn't get through then, let's give you more justification.
STRESS SCREWS EVERYTHING. It basically plays silly buggers with your hormones, your gut, your mental state, and everything else in between. Stress can be anything. Mostly it's work related, sometimes it stems from relationships, sometimes from food. All that matters is STRESS IS BAD OVER PROLONGED PERIODS OF TIME!
“But I feel great. I sleep well, I eat good, but the results aren't happening...”
It's a common response, and truth be told, it could be another reason. But until you cross this one of your list for sure, don't look elsewhere. If this isn't taken care of, it doesn't matter what miracle cures you try, it will always come back up.
The simplest tests to use as an indicator that stress is too high are heart rate and heart rate variability.
- Heart Rate (HR) = how many beats does your heart take per minute.
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV) = what is the difference in the length of those beats.
The more variability, the better!
The less variability, then we can assume the more constant the heart beats, and the more of them per minute. We commonly see this scenario in training e.g. Running.
Now, if you are waking up, and your heart rate is as high as someone running on a treadmill, then clearly, something is wrong. Your body isn't resting.
So… How do you test?
HRV can't be tested without technology, not accurately anyway. The polar H7 chest strap paired to the ELITE HRV phone app is one way. The latest Fit Bit also has this capacity too.
We know that these two numbers often work on a continuum, so if your HR is high, your HRV is low. This also goes the other way, and that's the way we want it. HR low, HRV high.
An easy, free, and accessible way to test as soon as possible is to download ARGUS, an app you can check your HR directly off your phone. This is always best done in the morning, upon waking, for optimal results.
Of course the more data the better, so gather a pattern of 5-7 days consecutively.
What's good? - Ideally a heart rate between 45-55 is ideal, 60 at max.
What if it's higher? I've seen it as high as 103 in the morning, which is terrible.
Here are some action steps to get it better, none of which the gym junkies among us will like...
- For a period of time take your weights sessions down. 3 sessions max per week. Include aerobic training. This is not HIIT, or Crossfit. This is slow steady work, which you get your HR to a set pace and keep it there. This is a great way to challenge the cardiovascular system without raising blood pressure. Aim for between 130-150 beats per minute for 30 mins, ideally being able to do 45min as soon as your fitness allows it.
- Try sleeping. You know, that thing where you don't look at your phone for extended periods of time.
- Stretch. Highly-strung people are often tight as hell, purely by proxy. Chill out and you'll find you're more flexible. Yoga is great for this. NOT Pilates, yoga.
Try this for 4 weeks. I know, it's so long!
But you're being a baby if you can't fix yourself for 4 weeks. If you can't, have fun for the next few years staying the same and making no progress.
After this, go back to your normal routine, consistently monitoring your HR every few days.
No, it probably won't stay low forever, but being aware of this variable is a key indicator when it's time to pull the foot off the gas.
The hippies are onto something. Listen to them!