Stress and Recovery


In the right amount, stress is critical. It’s what prompts our bodies to respond, grow, and adapt. Let’s call this acute stress. 

Most of us, I’ve noticed, have a bit too much stress in our lives. That is, we live with chronic stress. What’s important to understand is that I’m not just talking exclusively about mental stress rather all stress. 

Even working out and training the body is a stressor, albeit a physical one. It all contributes to the same allostatic load or the summation of all of the stressors in our lives. 

And because nothing exists in isolation it’s also important to note that mental stress can influence our physical performance and physical stress can influence our mental performance. In both cases, that influence could be either positive or negative, supportive or a hindrance. 

Now, me saying that most of us have too much stress in our lives requires a bit of context and elaboration. 

We have too much stress in our lives without enough recovery. It’s the too much stress, not enough recovery setup that causes problems. 

Here's a great way to assess how well you're balancing your stress with recovery. The best part about this exercise is that it's not exclusively based on feeling.  

By capturing some biofeedback, there's an additional layer of quantification that we don't often get based on feeling alone. 

Step 1: Create a 2 column chart - give the left side the Stressor label and the right side the Recovery label 

Step 2: On the left side, list out all of your stressors. Anything and everything that creates stress in your life. Yes, this includes your training. Then, give each a score of 1-10, with 10 being the most stressful. 

Step 3: Repeat the same for the right side, but this time instead of stressors you are listing recovery methods that you actively perform. Once again score them from 1-10 with 10 providing the most Recovery. 

Step 4: Assess. Subtract the right from the left and see how you scored. What does this number mean? In isolation, not much. But know that the higher it is, the more likely you're not recovering as well as you could. 

Step 5: Do something about it. That's what this section is all about. I'm going to give you some recovery strategies that you can implement but know that more is not always better. Sometimes instead of adding more recovery the better approach is to reduce the stressors. The best approach is most likely a bit of both where we add in a recovery method or two and reduce a stressor or two. 

Here are some Recovery Modalities that you can add in to help balance out the Stress v. Recovery equation should you find that stressors outweigh recovery: 

  • Deep Breathing 
  • Meditation 
  • A Massage 
  • Sauna or Steam Room 
  • Cryotherapy 
  • A Nap (my personal favorite) 
  • An Extra Hour of Sleep (my second favorite)
  • A Nice Cup Of Tea 
  • Diffusing Essential Oils 
  • A Hot Bath 
  • A Light Run 
  • Going in the Ocean 
  • Foam Rolling 
  • Mobility Work

Now, I recommend pairing this with critically assessing the stressors in your life and working to mitigate or eliminate the ones that don't serve you. Increasing your recovery modalities is great but removing stressors is mighty fine, too.


Credit: Ryan Glatt via Jason Phillips. Recovery Modalities inspired by Tory Dube