• Slash Stress to Achieve Peak Performance

    By Bonnie Kretchik

    NASM Certified Personal Trainer
    B.A. in English

    Most everyone who walks in the gym has a fitness goal. Whether it be to tone up, shave a few seconds off a 5K time or achieve a new bench press 1RM, everyone ultimately has some idea of what they would like to achieve. Yet, all too often eager gym-goers of all ages fail to meet their goals, ultimately leading to loss of interest and burnout.
    Why does this happen? There could be many reasons for it. Perhaps the goals aren’t achievable, not everyone is meant to run world-class times or compete in international figure competitions. Or, it could be a lack of direction and focus keeping one from performing optimally (are you talking on the phone or texting during your sets?). But more often than not, it’s the stresses people live with each day that affect performance both. Not all stress has a negative effect, however in many cases it’s what sparks that never-give-up mentality. Too much stress though, has both physical and mental ramifications.
    When people are stressed, the hormone, cortisol, is released into the bloodstream from the adrenal glands. Cortisol has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and affect mental cognition. (Having a hard time keeping track of your reps after a hard day at the office? Blame it on cortisol) Further, the accumulation of too much stress leads to muscle tension, fatigue and immune function, thus upping your odds for injury.
    April is National Stress Awareness Month. For the next 30 days, make a commitment to manage your stress levels by following these five guidelines. Doing so will improve your performance in the gym and bring you closer to achieving your fitness goals in 2017.

    1. Be Present in Your Workout
    Leave your problems in your locker with your cell phone. Come to the gym with a plan and follow it. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted with emails and texts and treat your workout as a responsibility to your body by being present from start to finish. If you aren’t a organized person and you need help sticking to a routine that makes sense for you, consult one of Ultima’s personal trainers. They are fantastic, and they are more than willing to help.

    2. Meditate
    OK, so you may be thinking, “I barely have time to get here let alone meditate!” But meditation doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes or even seconds. Consider it part of your workout and dedicate just a little time to take a breath, clear your head of negativity and focus your mind on the job at hand. Yoga is a great way to get started in meditation while getting a good workout. Ultima has plenty of classes on the Group Fitness Schedule.

    3. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
    It’s admirable to remain focused on improving yourself. However, when that commitment boarders on obsession, the result is an increase in stress, not the sought-after reduction. Be present and stay focused, but understand that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Workouts will be missed, runs won’t always be fast and some days you just won’t have 12 reps in you and that is OK. Tomorrow is another day!

    4. Focus on the Positive
    It’s easy to beat yourself up for everything you didn’t do. But that outlook will only stress you out more and ultimately lead to burnout. At the end of the week, don’t focus on the workouts that didn’t exactly flow how you had intended. Rather, reward yourself for everything that did go well and plan to address what didn’t in the next workout.

    5. Make the Commitment to Improve Yourself One Step at a Time
    With the overabundance of images of models with perfect bodies, nutritionists touting the next best diet trend and fitness specialists performing workouts that elicit pain just watching, it’s easy to get caught up in taking on too much too soon. Keep in mind that life is a continuum and change doesn’t happen overnight. If your goal is to improve your diet, do so with the help of a dietician who can guide you in the right direction at an appropriate pace. Ultima has a Registered Dietitian on staff, who can create meal plans and provide counseling. The same goes with exercise. Ultima’s trainers are the best and you can always ask for help and guidance about how to best engage in a workout plan that will bring you closer to reaching your goals.

    Remember, you owe it to your body to care for it properly and managing stress is included in that list of tasks. Doing so will improve your mental clarity, reduce physical tension and help you perform your best in 2017.