Acknowledging Stress

We all have those days… those weeks… those months. Heck, I recall having a couple of “those years” along the way – times when things just don’t seem to go your way, and you find yourself joined at the hip with the stress monster.

I’m currently on what I hope is the tail end of one of stress’s roller coaster rides. Eight months ago, I moved half way across the country (away from family and friends) to an unfamiliar town to take my dream job. At the time, I was training to run my second long race – a half marathon. I ran that race in December 2011 and broke my goal time by a whopping 9 minutes. It was a huge accomplishment, but I knew the facade was starting to crack. The last few weeks of training was brutal. I couldn’t focus and felt overwhelmed. Too much stress.

After the race, I decided to take a break from running – just a few weeks, to recharge and de-stress and find the joy in it again.

That break has lasted 4 months, with a few half-hearted attempts at jump-starting my running shoes along the way.

What happened? Athletic fitness had certainly become more than a habit. In 2010 and 2011, I ran oodles of races – ten 5K’s, one 10K (6.2 miles), one 25K (15.5 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles), and the insane Warrior Dash obstacle course 5K. Between training and races and recreational running, I pounded out nearly 1,000 miles of pavement and trails. Yet, here I am – 4 months later, still not running.

I heard something on NPR the other night as I drifted to sleep, and it struck me. The guest was talking about exercise, and debunking common myths (such as, the myth that the best time to exercise is in the morning. False: the best time to exercise is whenever you will do it!). The statement that hit me was:

Exercise is stress.

Stress! Gah!

But of course, she was right. Exercise (particularly high intensity exercise) stresses the body. I had become a master at applying such stress and then providing my body with the tools to recover, but I had failed to consider the cumulative effect of exercise stress and work stress and adjustment stress and school stress. In the chaos of having to function on a daily basis, do my work, and complete my studies, all in a completely foreign environment, something had to give – and it did. Fitness went out the window.

What do I do now? I’ve recognized the problem, but how should I address it?

One phenomenon that has plagued me the past few months has been mind games. My brain likes to tell me, “You’re only running a couple miles… if you’re not running 10, what’s the point?” To further that notion, the devil on my shoulder works hard to convince me that by the same logic, walking and biking are worthless as well. Of course, that is all nonsense – and in a way, I must acknowledge that I’m starting a bit from scratch here. I’ve lost most of the strength and stamina I had 4 months ago – but I haven’t lost the knowledge I gained or the accomplishments I achieved.

I’m going to start out with a little Finals Week juice reboot. I’m a fan of Jason Vale and his JuiceMaster lifestyle. I did one of his juice reboots after Christmas, with good results. It was supposed to be a 7 day juice and raw fruits/veggies fast, but I stopped after 3 days. Still, it was a great cleanse and I felt really good afterwards.

This time, let’s shoot for a happy, juicy week that concludes next Friday – May 4. Of course, if things don’t go as planned, no harm and no foul. But Finals Week sounds like a perfect build-up to kick start a healthy, active, and relaxing summer.

Time to break out the juicer! Here are some of my juice and smoothie recipes:

And for more information on my juicer and how I got into all of this: My Foray Into Juicing.

Here’s to a great week!

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