All about stress

To truly understand fitness, you have to understand the concepts of stress and recovery.

That’s because training is nothing more than a specific type of stress, one that stimulates the body to improve its fitness.

Recovery, on the other hand, is how that improvement in fitness actually happens.

On the surface, getting in better shape is easy.

You put the body under stress through training and then allow it to recover and improve. Over and over again.

The reality, however, is that it’s more challenging than it sounds because stress and recovery both come back to the body’s most important resource: energy.

How stress works in the real world

Today, when people hear the word stress, they most often think of the mental side of it.

When we talk about being “stressed out”, it typically means we’re overwhelmed by finances, school, family, and everything that life is throwing at us.

These things certainly can be stressful, but there is much more to stress than just how we feel psychologically.

To truly understand stress, we have to understand how it works physiologically, i.e. within the body itself. This is where energy comes into the picture.

To see what I mean, let’s do an experiment…

Take a minute and use Morpheus to measure your heart rate. You can do this through the TRAIN feature using either the M5 band, or the M7 chest strap.

Once you see your heart rate on the screen, I want you to close your eyes and think of yourself in a situation that you personally find extremely stressful.

Maybe it’s being covered in spiders, or snakes, or speaking in front of hundreds of people, looking over the edge of a cliff, skydiving, etc.

Whatever it is, focus on it for at least 1 minute and then open your eyes and look at your heart rate.

Chances are, your heart rate will be noticeably higher than before. This is because just thinking about something stressful causes your body to activate what’s known as the stress response system.

This is also often referred to as the “fight or flight” system. In biological terms, it’s the sympathetic nervous system.

The connection between stress and energy

The important thing to understand is that when your heart rate is higher, it means your body is producing more energy.

An easy way to think of what stress is, then, is anything that causes our body to increase energy production.

In other words, stress is a reaction by the body that can be caused by something physical, like a workout, or something purely mental, like a phobia or just dealing with life.

In both cases, our body’s stress response system is activated and our heart rate goes up.

The reason this happens is because biologically speaking, our bodies are hardwired to respond to anything in the environment that we find stressful, whether it’s real or imagined, by cranking up energy production.

For animals in the wild, this extra energy can often be the difference between life and death.

Training might not be a matter of survival, but when we’re working out, our bodies need a huge amount of extra energy compared to being at rest or just walking around.

You can see this by looking at how many calories are burned in a hard workout relative to how many your body uses in an entire day.

The reason this is so important when it comes to fitness is because energy is a limited resource.

Our bodies can only produce a finite amount of it each day because it takes time to turn the foods we eat and our bodies energy stores into the ATP molecule our bodies run on.

In tomorrow’s lesson on recovery, we’ll explore how this energy limit is the single biggest reason people fail to reach their fitness goals despite putting in the work.

More importantly, we’ll talk about how you can use Morpheus to make sure recovery doesn’t limit your success.

Action step

To get a better idea of just how stressful mental stress can be, put on either the Morpheus M5 or M7 and try to drive your heart rate as high as possible purely by thinking about something stressful.

At the same time, to get a preview of what we’re going to cover in tomorrow’s lesson, spend a few minutes trying to relax as much as possible and see how much you can drop your heart rate as well.