Finding the Balance: Maintaining Your Training in a Time of Stress

Finding the Balance: Maintaining Your Training in a Time of Stress

By Eric Palmer

Starting a new job can be far more stressful than anticipated. When I began teaching as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I wasn’t nearly as ready as I thought. The coping mechanisms I had in place at my old job were so built in that I hadn’t realized that they were such. Mine in particular revolved around training and sharing meals with friends (two things that were significantly impacted when coming here). It is important to realize what you do to handle stress and what you would do if one or more of these were removed. These are five ways I have found to stay motivated and keep up my training in order to maintain my physical and emotional well being when faced with a new challenge. You can use these in any time of stress such as a change in jobs, moving, going through a breakup, etc.

Pay attention to your relationships

It’s fun working out with friends…especially when you haul one hundred pounds 11 miles to go camping at Assateague National Seashore

It’s almost impossible to maintain your physical health if you are suffering on the inside. Know which friends you can count on whether its family members, coworkers, or an online community. Have someone who can keep you on track and will help you reach your potential. Or know who you can call when you just need someone to listen, having a support system is crucial and anyone who has done an Ultra will attest to the power of a support crew.

Set goals and track your progress

Challenge yourself and see how you stack up against your friends with apps like Strava or Endomondo

Whether you are concerned with times, your weight, or just getting healthier, it is important to have goals to keep you moving forward. Having benchmarks on the way towards your ultimate goal is a great way to access your progress and evaluate what is working and what isn’t in life and in training. If you are continuously missing benchmarks, maybe it is time to reassess your ultimate goal and shoot for something more achievable. Some of the tools I use are Strava, races, bi-weekly or monthly time trials.

Make your commute your workout

This is the best thing to do if you are limited in time. If there is a shower at work, perfect, you can do double sessions, otherwise, cruise in on your bike or longboard and push it on the way home. Don’t be afraid to mix up the scenery, take the long way home, or go with friends.

Work out the small muscles

Scrap wood and PVC is great when you’re on a budget!

If you already own a balance board, this is perfect. Otherwise you can make your own with a piece of wood and a rock or scrap piece of PVC piping. Running, cycling, and longboarding are fairly one directional. Doing balance activities can build muscles in your feet and make your body more resilient to lateral forces and prevent injury. Your body has 3 ways of stabilizing: sight, touch, and balance created by your inner ear. Can you stand on one foot with your eyes closed? If not, you may be prone to injury and need to work on this area. If you can, work on closing your eyes during balance board activities.

Meditate and visualize

Find your quiet place.

If you enjoy competition or are seeking to improve your own personal bests, this area cannot be neglected. I find a seated meditation to be helpful in bringing calm and composure to the rest of my daily activities. Through vipassana I have developed a strong body awareness, and through mindfulness meditation I am more aware of what requires my attention now and what lies out of my control. Life changes can be extremely stressful and scheduling just 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes of reflection at night can give you great returns in your mental clarity and in your interactions with people. Lastly is visualization. If you can see yourself accomplishing a goal, it makes it much easier on race day. Affirm yourself that you can do it and tell others your plans. If you are preparing physically, it helps just as much to prepare mentally.


Eric Palmer is a writer from Massachusetss currently living in Africa. More from Eric and his travels can be read at Little Backpack, Big World.

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