Stress and recovery


Hectic work schedule, kids driving you nuts at home, too many things going on with your hobbies... Sounds like normal, everyday life in today’s society. Put a demanding gym program on top of that and you will not reach optimal results. At least, you need to make some changes here and there, and modify your training according to your overall stress levels.

Hans Selye, the father of supercompensation theory, defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand placed upon it.” Those demands may include both physiological and mental stressors. Of course, if exercise causes physical stress, it’s a stressor. But in this article, we’re going to concentrate on stressors that come from outside training. Michael Kellmann, one of the leading research authors in the recovery related sports science, defines recovery below. Let’s also consider how external stress sources fit into these definitions:


- Is a process in time that depends on the duration of the stress. 24/7 hectic, stressful schedule will impair your recovery

- Depends on the reduction of stress. By managing stress you can improve recovery from exercise-induced stress

- Depends on breaking away from stress. By learning active relaxation you can accelerate recovery

- Depends on changes in stress. By using RecoApp, you can monitor how changes in both exercise stress (e.g. new workout routine) and outside stressors (work-related stress, relationship-related stress etc.) affect your recovery.


External stress sources

What are these? Well, everything that causes you to reach, respond, even worry. Work issues, relationship-issues, financial issues. All these make our system respond by inducing physiological changes that decrease the body’s ability to recover. Keep in mind that positive stress may also impair your recovery. This doesn’t mean that you should keep the fun things out of your life! Just realize that if you are crazy about hooking up with the love of your life or excited about your dream job, it may also keep your stress levels higher than normal. Whatever the source of excess stress is, it activates the sympathetic, fight-or-flight part of our autonomic nervous system. That prepares your nervous system for mobilizing energy sources (increased conversion of
glycogen to glucose) and activating systems (like increased blood pressure and heart beat), rather than optimizing recovery and gaining muscle in the mean time (digestion slows down).


Stress can mess up your hormones

Excess stress increases catabolic, muscle wasting hormones and decreases anabolic, muscle-building hormones. Main stress hormones are cortisol and catecoliamines. Cortisol has gotten a bad name as the all-evil, muscle-destroying hormone. Actually, cortisol is good stuff during training, because it helps to mobilize body energy resources, and muscle work during exercise actually protects muscle from cortisol’s catabolic actions. Also, athletes in peak condition have highest cortisol responses to training. It is a necessity to get the body going during a training session. But outside the training session, excess cortisol is nasty stuff. Fat gain and muscle loss are two rather unwanted results that excess resting levels of cortisol can cause. Catecoliamines also help to mobilize fat during exercise, but excess levels of catecoliamines keep the body in arousal levels too heightened for optimal rest and recovery.


Stress management is often life management

If your stress levels are going through the roof, you need to make some changes in your work life, perhaps family life and prioritize your free time activities. You need to work on the complete picture. How to do that is individual and beyond the scope of this article. But here are a couple of tips you can use to alleviate stress in acute situations and to enhance recovery.

Plan ahead. If you plan your daily and weekly schedule well ahead, chances are you are more prepared for the un-expected changes. Get it out of your head. Write down all essential work-related things in the evening, What is the task? How and when will you handle it? This frees up your mind and gives you a chance to relax and recuperate.

Use relaxation techniques. Been working on bench press or squat technique lately? You bet! How about relaxation techniques? Yep, that’s what I thought too... Relaxation is an essential psychological skill. Athletes use it to recover better, sleep better and to alleviate anxiety.

Listening to relaxing music. Music has positive effects on relaxation. Music tempo and bodily functions work in unison. High tempo tends to make us exercise in a more rapid pace and it also has effects on the heart rate function. Slow, relaxing music helps the body to attain a more relaxed state. However, choose the music you enjoy, but avoid high tempo and very loud music – even if you feel it has “relaxing” effect on you – physiologically it does not.


Monitoring stress levels with RecoApp

Every workout you tap into RecoApp includes information about your stress levels. The information is stored into the system in Likert’s 7-point scale. All adjacent information is stored into Data Analyzer and can be accessed and viewed at any time. Not only can you enter your stress levels during a workout, but also you can do it at any time by tapping the head of figure from Home Screen. Over time, you will learn the proper correlation between recovery times, stress and workout.  If your overall stress levels are very high, it’s best to allow some extra recovery time for trained muscles. This can be done by calibrating “looser” recovery times for the workload bar, corresponding your current stress levels. In the long run, RecoApp also helps you to find out how big an effect a certain stressful period like mesocycle had on your training.


Data analysis for your smart clothing

Stress impairs recovery depending on the magnitude of stress. Therefore RecoApp takes it into account.

RecoApp’s efficient, visually pleasant and quickly readable way of the data interpretation is a user-friendly experience. Smart clothing is a rapidly growing business and manufacturers need more efficient ways to interpret the data. RecoApp’s patent covers using an image of a human figure in a form of traffic light color coding for receiving and displaying optimal training information regarding muscle recovery times. Therefore it is a significant asset for smart clothing manufacturers to protect their smart clothing portfolio.

RecoApp has demonstrated the function of the patent through MVP mobile application. RecoApp's MVP has over 10 000 users.

Learn to listen to your body - and discover your ideal supercompensation times with the help of RecoApp. The U.S Patent Pending. Global PCT Patent Pending.

 Download RecoApp on the App Store



Timo Haikarainen, MSc, Finnish personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach.

Markus Mäntynen, the CEO and founder of RecoApp Oy.


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