The Wolf is always behind you…
The theory behind P90X and indeed any weight bearing exercise is stress. Stressing the muscle, if not to force it to grow, at least to force it to adapt to changing workloads. Muscles, much like people, work best when they are faced with unpredictable workloads and stressors. It forces the body to adapt, it forces the mind to focus and it keeps us sharp in so many ways. Stress though is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is required for growth and yet produces chemicals and reactions in the body which can be harmful if overdone. It helps to bring out the best in our workouts and in our lives and yet we run the risk of defeating ourselves if we push too hard, or push in the wrong way. For that reason I tend to rely on my phlegmatic outlook on life to avoid any such risk. I am not afraid of stress nor am I afraid of work, however I am not the crazy little stress monkey that some of the people around me seem to be. In my physical life my relaxed demeanor if often misinterpreted as laziness. In fact, generally speaking my laid back attitude can often be misunderstood as being the approach of a lazy individual however I have learned along my journey in life that there are ways of getting my brain to do things the most efficient way. People often talk about “tricking themselves” into doing things a certain way and very often in the fitness realm we talk about the body the same way. We believe that tricking our body into thinking it is stronger than it is or that it is capable of more will give us the best results and in a lot of cases that is true. The theory of complete muscle failure depends on the ability of an individual to push their body beyond the point of it’s own capabilities. I find that fascinating especially when it relates to the rest of our lives. Stress is key for humans and animals alike, it is part of the fight or flight response that is hardwired into our brains as a preservation technique. For this reason it is critical that we stress our bodies in new and unique ways every week in order to keep things both interesting and challenging.
Stess also kills.
Stress is linked to so many illnesses, diseases and mental disorders that we question the existence never mind the value of it. However there is a subtle nuance that in my opinion is the difference between Dolly and, well, take your pick among Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs or the boy who cried wolf, all of whom starred famous, yet nameless, wolves. That difference is the way in which we react to the environment around us. Physical stress in the gym is very different from psychological stress because the stress in the gym, or on the road if you are a runner or a cyclist, is tactile, direct and ultimately controlled. The stress in your life from the crazy kids, the pressure to get married or get a job, the fact that your boss just quit, the bill payments and so on is not so predictable or controllable. It is the unpredictable nature of these stressors and the fact that they are 24 hours a day which is the real killer. However, the secret to managing these unpredictable stresses are to treat them just like you treat your physical stress. As difficult as it may be to do, each stressor needs to be dealt with in a window and left in that window. Far be it from me to tell people how to live their lives but doesn’t it sound reasonable that you should not be worrying about your bills while trying to deal with your kids, or allowing the stress of your relationships to interfere with the execution of your job? In an indirect (and evidently fairly convoluted) way this related directly to your workouts. Any physical program of conditioning relies on physical stress on the muscles. It would therefore not make any sense that you would spend all day sitting at work flexing your legs and arms because you are worried or stressed about your upcoming workout. You treat the stress of the workout during your workout time, not before, not after. This is something that comes fairly naturally to most of us and enables us to compartmentalize our workouts and enjoy them as a break from our routines. However, there are many people out there who bring the stress confusion from their lives into their workout schedule and spend the 20 something hours between workouts worrying about having to do the next session. That, simply put, is craziness. You should not wake up in the morning thinking about the workout you have to do that night. That kind of thinking will cause psychological stress which will ultimately affect your physical ability to perform.
Which brings me, finally, to my point.
The P90X program, or indeed any decent Personal Trainer workout will provide your body with a challenge and with the stress is requires to grow and to stay strong, flexible and durable. However, allowing your mind to stress about your workout during the day or the night before will only be counter-productive. This is a fairly common issue especially with people who are new to working out or who are taking up a particularly challenging system. The way to avoid this is very simple. Time management. Just as in your daily life, scheduling and time management will save you from the psychological stress of your workout. It allows you to put your workout both physically and psychologically into a slot in your day where it can remain, undisturbed and without interfering with the rest of your life until it is time to bring it out and get it done. This will provide you with the ability to separate it from the rest of your life and to prevent it from bleeding over into other aspects of your day. If you are the type of person who dreads their workout or who stresses all day in anticipation of it then you need to practice a little separation and time management.
Put the wolf in the cage and don’t let it out until it is time to fight.
(I am sure there is some subconscious reason for this post. I just don’t know what it is… It does seem a little odd, doesn’t it?)