Why bring it on? Doesn’t stress cause you to pack on the pounds? Stress releases cortisol into your blood stream, helpful when you need energy to outrun a puma or saber-tooth tiger. But as we all know, our current stress does not come from discovering a predator in the bush that we have to outrun. Our stress comes from the boss, the kids, the spouse, the traffic, the dog, the cat, the in-law, the coworker. Things that, if you want to appear sane, you can’t sprint away from when you feel they’ve stressed you out. However, this is certainly not the stress which I am referring to here.

In order to be able to run longer, you have to push yourself to run longer than you have before. That’s positive stress. Stressing your systems causes your body to adapt, so you can go harder, faster, and be stronger. Place some stress on these areas to improve:

1) Your core. How straight your posture—spine—is depends on how strong your core muscles are. How heavy your squats, how heavy your shoulder presses, how fast you sprint, how far you can walk, that all generates from the power within your center. There’s a reason Joseph Pilates dubbed it The Powerhouse. Stress the core, strengthen your whole body. {NOTE: This does not say do endless crunches!}

2) Heart and Lungs. Cardiovascular activities strengthen these organs, which makes you stronger because you’ll train your body to use oxygen more efficiently, as well as excreting toxins that can hinder your advancements. Stress the heart and lungs, improve your performance output.

3) Your Weak Spots. It’s fun to train your favorite body part (or the ones you can see in the mirror!). Who wants to feel weak? However, we break at our weak parts, so you have to focus on making them not-so-weak. I have a bad ankle, my left one. I broke the tibia just above my ankle when I was 12. I did a bit of rehab, but it is still…over 10 years later…the weak link in my chain. I often roll it when I run, especially when I head out on uneven terrain, and just last weekend I had to ice it extensively after 2 days of 3-hours of soccer. Is it humbling to realize I have to write out the alphabet with my foot as a part of my training routine? Of course. But if I want to increase my agility and speed, I can’t have an ankle that holds me back, or rolls whenever I try to switch directions quickly. Be honest with your body, name your weakness, and stress it.

4) Muscles Under Resistance. If you’re not yet, you should be. Resistance training takes many forms, so there is no reason not to stress your muscles at least twice a week. Body-weight exercises, free weights, tubes, bands, machines, tires, medicine balls, balance balls, benches, couches, stairs…they can all be used to increase your overall musculature. Why do this? One, muscle is metabolically active (as compared to adipose tissue—fat—that just sits there eating up all your excess calories to save for later), so it actually uses what you eat to repair and function. Two, for those concerned about body size, toning can make your appearance more compact and slender. Three, strong muscles not only help in your athletic endeavors, but makes carrying groceries, hauling wood, picking up children/grandchildren, and moving furniture easier.

5) Muscles Stretched. Did you know that stretching between sets of weight lifting can make you stronger?

That’s because stretching actually strengthens muscles due to tiny itty bitty microtears that occur during the reach. Does this pose really look like it doesn’t take strength to master?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now of course, you don’t need to be getting all Gumby in order to strengthen by stretching. Do the ones you remember from school. Touch your toes (or knees), reach up, drop your head to the side and stretch your neck, all those good ones.

 

Push yourself. Become a friend of systematic, positive stress. Your body will adapt and grow.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

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