Nietzsche said: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” he should know, his body and soul suffered physical and mental stress for most of his life. In a sense, he was right up to a point.
There always is a breaking point we should be looking for, tipping often precedes breaking, so it should be possible to distinguish. Before someone kills me, let me put this post in the proper context. When I say stress can be good for you, I don’t mean that either in the evolutionary or the Nietzchean sense. I mean it in terms of our growth mindset.
In his brilliant book “Training essentials for Ultrarunning,” Jason Koop says: “Physical adaptation to training is Darwinian in nature. Training should be difficult because you need to impose enough stress in order to adapt.”
To impose enough stress, we need to know what we are capable of at the starting point. Given where we want to grow to or be in a certain amount of time and given of our limitations, we need to gradually and slowly increase the stress to create progress.
The level of stress, as you may understand, is a very individual parameter; it varies, with our genetic disposition, age, general health conditions, internal and external environments, mental, physical, and emotional. Not that these conditions are so distinguishable, they are, as a matter of fact, closely interrelated.
So our emotional, physical, and mental conditions matter greatly in our ability to adapt and grow with the stress surrounding us. If we can control these aspects of our nature concerning the curve balls life throws, we are better inclined to grow, evolve, and adapt.
Like in the circus, it’s a delicate balance between the different aspects of our being, propelling us further.
Phil Maffetone, another great sports physiologist and coach, argues that reducing stress in other aspects of our lives contributes to our capacity to adapt to physical training. He suggests making a stress list and gradually but systematically starts eliminating it.
He suggests we are subject to three main kinds of stress in our lives:
– Physical stress is caused by physical aspects of our lives, training, disease, or other physical conditions and constraints
– Biochemical Stress is caused mainly by environmental pollution.
– Mental and Emotional stress includes tension, anxiety, or depression.
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