Sports Training and Exercise:
Stress Management for Athletes

At work or in life, everyone experiences stress. And that goes double for athletes. Not only do athletes have to worry about lifestyle and emotional stress, they also have to worry about training and competition stress. How do athletes know if they are under stress? Quite simply, an athlete with a manageable training schedule and stress load will be full of energy and will perform well. An athlete who is stressed, on the other hand, will seem listless and without a competitive edge, may have trouble sleeping and eating, and will be more susceptible to injuries and illnesses.

A certain amount of stress is actually useful to the athlete. Stress helps us focus, as well as allows us to perform with more energy.  But unfortunately our bodies can't differentiate between performance stress and lifestyle stress. Too much stress is basically too much stress, which eventually has a direct effect on hormonal balance. Eventually stress affects our entire metabolism and immune system.

While an athlete can handle stress better than a non-athlete because he is trained to handle pressure, over-training or competing too much can ruin years of hard work. Athletes must be very careful to achieve a good balance by maintaining a high level of fitness without going over their physical and mental limits. Since the body perceives all stress as the same, athletes who want to perform their best should make sure that their lives outside of their sports are stress free and manageable as well.

Stress is impossible to avoid. But it can be managed.

Managing training stress. A big mistake that athletes make is to train too hard too fast. Instead, training should be gradually progressive. Make sure the body can handle its current load before you increase the load, and always give the body adequate rest between sessions.

Managing competition stress. If the athletes finds competition stressful she shouldn't avoid it, she should just select it more carefully. You'll have more success if you plan your competitions so that the challenge increases each time out. The athlete's confidence and self-esteem will grow every time she is successful. There will be times she will be unsuccessful as well, and these should be recognized as great learning experiences.

Managing everyday stress. An athlete who is moving, breaking up with a partner, or going through other life-changing events will experience stress which will have an effect on performance. Since there is no way to really get rid of the stress, the best way to combat it is to cut down on stress in other areas. If lifestyle stress is high, cut down on competition, and see training as therapy. Do only as much as makes you feel good. Never completely avoid physical exercise when you are stressed, as exercise, as long as there is no over-training, reduces overall stress. Especially during tough times, athletes should exercise at least 30 minutes a day five days a week. Always monitor your eating and sleeping patterns, which have a direct effect on stress. Eat healthfully and get the correct amount of sleep. Regular patterns will help keep the stress level in check.


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