Are you stressed out? That’s a phrase we hear a lot. I’m stressed. Don’t stress about it. Man, this is stressing me out!

We throw that word around, but do we really know what it means?

The actual definition of stress is either “pressure or tension exerted on a material object” or “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So really, there are two types of stress that an athlete needs to be aware of. The first is the kind we are all focused on: training stress. If you use Training Peaks you are probably very familiar with the term TSS or Training Stress Score. This is developed to help an athlete track the amount of tri naming stress they were placing on their bodies. This metric has become very popular now simply because it is such a good way to measure training load. It takes into account not only the duration of your training, but also the intensity of it as well. Over time an athlete can know very well how much they are able to handle as well as how much they need to increase their training week after week to see continual benefits.

The other type of stress is life stress. where training stress is mostly physical, life stress is mostly mental. We all know that feeling we get when work gets crazy or things are piling up around the house. The mental strain affects us physically and can adversely affect other areas of our lives such as training.

I recently got clued into this and how the two are so closely linked. I knew they were, but had never really tested the limits of how much stress my body can take. (Side note: this is not something I recommend as you will see.)

Coming off my first peak of the season I took a good week off and then slowly started to edge back into tri naming. I had a few weeks wiggle room in my plan so I wasn’t really going to hit things too hard at the start of this next build to give myself some more time off without being fully “off.”

About that time, my boss took his summer vacations and I was the one tasked with picking up the slack. Things went very smoothly, but there was a larger load of stress on my shoulders than I have been use to. I handled it well and was able to keep raining like I had planned, but then a few nights of not sleeping well on top of it all and I could tell I was not my normal self.

During this time I had also been tracking my Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This is a metric that, like resting heart rate, can clue you into how well you are recovering. My numbers had slowly gotten worse without my tri naming really ramping up yet. I knew something was up but I didn’t do anything about it.

To start off my first block of rinsing building to my next peak, I had an FTP test scheduled. That morning I could feel a little something off, and my HRV confirmed what I felt. The app I’ve been using (HRV4training) told me to take it I didn’t listen. I ran into the test full speed… and blew up catastrophically! I was a mess.

Thankfully I knew what my FTP was from a recent test so I just left things the same. But, I learned an important lesson: stress comes from many places. Take it a rest day when you don’t have one planned is ok. When you pr body tells you it’s time to ease off the gas, LISTEN!

Sometimes stress comes from many places. Just because you could handle more tri naming stress, doesn’t mean your body isn’t already at its limit due to other factors like sleep and life stress.

The moral of the story, don’t overdo it. And track your HRV… more on that soon!