Can Stress Affect A Runner’s Performance?

Can stress affect a runner’s performance?

Written by Michelle Daniel, owner of The Lifestyle Technique, LLC

Exercise has been shown to increase your overall health and sense of well-being. It can also help relieve stress and have great benefits. Physical activity, such as, running can help increase your endorphin production, which is our brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Here are four stressbusting benefits the Mayo Clinic states exercise offers:

  1. Pumps up your endorphins
  2. Reduces negative effects of stress
  3. It’s meditation in motion
  4. It helps improve your mood

As runners we all hope our body will respond well to the training we do but some evidence suggests that stress may even reduce our ability to adapt to exercise. It has been shown that higher levels of stress failed to show an improvement in fitness. To help keep the stress of training for your race low, try not to think of exercise or training as a To-Do List. Also, seek adding in exercise that you enjoy and be flexible in your training if needed. Attempt to keep running for fun rather than having it feel like a chore which can potentially lead to burnout.

I have two effective ways of lowering stress and staying relaxed for your upcoming training run or race. First, is through a simple breathwork practice. Begin by connecting with your breath. Noticing your breath as you inhale through the nose and exhaling out either through the nose or mouth. As you get into the rhythm of your breath, begin to allow your exhales to become a little longer than your inhales. Next, try this easy 4-7-8 breathwork practice that can help decrease stress and anxiety. Inhale for a count of 4. Hold your breath in for a count of 7. Exhale long for a count of 8. Practicing this breathwork can help decrease our stress and lower anxiety. By having a longer exhale than inhale it allows you to ease the nervous system. This 4-7-8 breathwork can be practiced anywhere and is an incredible tool that you can be used anytime of the day.

Second, meditation or mindfulness practices are great to do before a long run or race day. They can also be used daily and throughout your day. Begin your meditation practice by sitting in a comfortable seated position on a pillow, block, bolster pillow, or folded blanket. If your hips or lower back are feeling tight feel free to lie down. In a seated position, allow your arms to rest down on your knees. If lying down, allow your arms to gently rest on the mat or try having one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Start to settle in and notice your breath, relax the shoulders and muscles in your face, straighten the posture and lift up through the crown of the head. As you inhale down into the belly center, notice the belly rise and, on the exhale, gently relaxing the shoulders, the face, the neck, and the jaw. Feeling centered and calmness come over the mind and the body and taking note of any tension you may feel in your body. Continue with the deep inhales and long exhales, melting tensions in the face, jaw, shoulders, and body. Feeling a sense of peace in the mind and the body. Allowing your nervous system to relax. Gently continue with this breathwork and visualizing all the positive energy entering the body with the inhales and letting go of anything that is not serving you on the exhales. You can do this simple meditation practice for just a few minutes as you begin and work your way up to 30 minutes if desired.

I hope this helps and please feel free to contact @The Lifestyle Technique, LLC on Facebook or @the_lifestyle_technique on Instagram for any questions or more info on upcoming local events for gentle yoga and peaceful meditation practices.

NOTE: I will be holding a 1-hour gentle hatha yoga session that will include breathwork at the Air Force Marathon Expo on September 16th at 1pm. More details to come.

*No Federal endorsement(s) intended.