In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, I spoke about how chronic stress drains our energy levels. I used the bucket analogy to explain allostatic load.
Image source: https://jamesclear.com/cumulative-stress
We also covered how we fill our bucket by prioritising our:
They are vital parts of the equation, but they only make up half of it. Today, we are going to cover the second half of the equation. If we want to look, feel, and perform at our best, then we have to manage our bucket through:
Training intelligentlyWorking intelligentlyManaging stress
Filling Our Bucket - How do we do this?
1. Training intelligently
Depending on the goal, there is a smart way to train. After all, our body is an adaptive machine and will adapt to whatever the demands we place on it.
When it comes to training for improving body composition, I have found that the best mixture of training includes resistance training, cardiovascular training, and active recovery in the form of walking, jogging, cycling, or yoga.
For most people, I would recommend 3-5 challenging sessions per week and 1-2 active recovery sessions per week. The possible break-down of this was outlined in the “making time” lesson at the start of this blog series.
Also, listening to your body is important; if you are constantly tired, sore, and have low motivation to train, you probably need a little time off to let your body recover.
I like to think of training intelligently as “Goldilocks training” - not too much or not too little but “just right”. This is a term that I have borrowed from American S&C Coach, Dan John.
Image source: http://kahmco.net/deep-hole-drilling-thats-just-right-goldilocks-and-the-quote-for-three-bears/
2. Working intelligently
We spend the majority of our day in work, so learning to work intelligently is a huge factor in ensuring you are managing the energy reserves in your bucket.
For me, I used to think that being “busy” was a good thing and something I took pride in. Now, I have tried to eradicate this word from my daily vocabulary. Instead, I have tried to replace it with the word “effective”.
So when I come home and someone asks me how was your day I answer either effective or not effective.
One of the best ways to work smarter is to try to prioritise the really important things and do them first. Another way to work smarter is to develop systems, structures and scheduling that help you to be more effective.
Systems are a set of principles or procedures that dictate how something is done. This could be standard operating procedures, standardised email templates, or anything else that helps you to be more effective at work
Structures are frameworks that helps you to do things in a more effective manner. For me, this is my support structures in work and at home. My fellow coaches, my family, and my friends are the most valuable resources that I have when it comes to my quest for effectiveness.
Scheduling is how you plan and allocate your time. I have touched on this in previous lessons, such as “making time”. For me, this is a powerful weapon in the war on being busy. Trying to schedule time to complete tasks helps me to be proactive as opposed to reactive. It also helps to take action on the things I want and need to do. I truly believe that if you want to do something, then putting it in the diary will hugely increase the chances of it getting done.
3. Managing stress
First, let me state that a certain amount of stress in life is essential for growth. Where it is in your personal life, professional life or fitness, stress is the catalyst for growth.
There is a sweet spot when it comes to stress, too much stress will not lead to growth and too much stress will not lead to growth. The diagram below is the performance curve and this demonstrates this principle:
Image source: https://mi-psych.com.au/what-is-stress/
We want to challenge ourselves with a certain amount of stress to grow, but, ideally, we want to stay in the middle of the curve. Somewhere where we are fluctuating between optimum stress and stress overload.
As you can see on the graph, if you go beyond stress overload, then you start to breakdown mentally and/or physically. The tricky thing about stress is that it can creep up on us. In our fast paced lives we can start to get used to being stressed; it almost feels normal. We might not notice how stressed we are until we really start to struggle. For this reason, I would recommend using the following stress management strategies to manage stress proactively as opposed to reactively:
Noticing and naming – this means trying to mindful in everything you do. By just being aware of our emotions we can try to not let our emotions dictate our reactions to situations
Noticing and naming how are feeling helps to reduce the power of our emotions. For example, “I notice that when I check my email late at night I am more anxious when I am trying to fall asleep”.
Meditation – research shows that a regular meditation practice is one of the most effective stress management techniques. It has been shown to help rewire your brains stress response, helping to decrease anxiety levels.
Many people I speak to about meditation tell me that “that hippy stuff isn’t for me” or “I can’t do that, I have tried it before”. These people are looking at it the wrong way; the purpose of meditation doesn’t have to be enlightenment or having a mind clear of all thoughts. Mediation can be used to help you become more present simply by bringing your thoughts back to your breath every time your mind wanders. I would highly recommend using the Headspace app for guided meditations.
Making time for rest and recovery – We discussed this in depth in the previous blog post but I want to reiterate its importance. I can hear you now saying “that’s a nice idea, but I can’t make time for rest and recovery, I just have too much on”.
That answer is fine if you want to survive but if you want to thrive by looking, feeling, and performing at your best, then you have to make the time.
As with all the changes, it should be progressive; start small and you can always build it up over time. Even just a little bit of time each week blocked off for rest and recovery could have a huge impact on all areas of your life. For example you could block off one evening a week to just head home at 5pm and spend an evening of quality time with friends or family.
I guarantee that if you do this you will be more effective in the rest of your week. You will get the same amount done or possibly even more because you will be attacking things with more energy in your bucket.
Also, this scheduled rest and recovery is an investment in your long term health and performance. Your professional or fitness life will not be defined by what you achieved in one year, it will be defined by your entire body of work.
Thank you for reading. If you are interested in coaching to help develop nutrition and lifestyle habits that help you be at your best you can email me at email@example.com
Find Out More:
Ciaran and his fellow coaches at FFS present corporate talks to help educate people on the nutritional & lifestyle habits that help them to become the strongest version of themselves. To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or visited our Corporate Wellness page.
About the Author:
Ciaran is the Co-Founder and Director of Performance at FFS.
"I am on a mission to help myself and others become the strongest versions of themselves. To do this I want to help people eat, move, think and recover better." - Ciaran
Email Ciaran at email@example.com