Not a week goes by without numerous emails from fellow weightlifters seeking answers to questions and affirmations about those little annoying aches and pains that require us to make program modifications in our quest to redefine the aging process.
In the gym, we bond together giving each other the knowing nod, as we share literal battle stories that produced real-life scars. Check out the shoulders, necks, backs, and knees of your fellow gym members and you’ll recognize the effects of age, lifting, diets, and stress on these 40, 50 and 60-year-old bodies. While we understand the effects of stress on our mental health, few consider the effects of stress on producing pain and muscle tension.
How Stress Can Contributes To Pains And Aches
Cumulative effects of daily stress contributes to the development and exacerbation of physical problems according to Dr. Cindy Carmack at the University of Texas, that translates into neck and back pain when stress builds up over time.
In a stress reaction, hormones such as adrenaline are released in a flight or fight scenario, which is a normal physical reaction. But, problems occur when stress continues, producing a build-up of the secreted stress hormones. When this occurs, an aging body is placed into a catabolic state that compromises the immune system.
According to Dr. Richard Bachrach, medical director of the Center for Sports and Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, “muscles contract as stress increases, cutting off blood circulation.
Waste products such as lactic acid and potassium ions build up and irritate the surrounding nerve tissues.” The tension is carried in the upper back and neck where constant tension on the muscles makes then rigid and sore. In the short term, you’ll have a stiff neck. But, over time the range of motion in your neck will be reduced and nodules of stiff muscles will spasm, cause pain and affect your ability to work out in the gym.
As Personal trainer, we need to make program modifications due to increased recovery times, slowing metabolisms and joints that lack the suppleness of our youth. Why complicate matters with the additional factor of stress-related limitations in the gym?
When Legendary Fitness, LLC was created several years ago, the goal was and remains to help redefine the aging process in terms of fitness, longevity, quality of life, injury prevention and physique goals. Our readers and our own personal experiences in rehab forced us to focus on injury prevention and the discovery of techniques that will allow the over 40 population of lifters and fitness enthusiasts to keep plugging along well into our 70s, 80s, and 90s.
On that thought, if you want to keep lifting successfully, you need to effectively deal with the daily stressors that will set limitations on your goal. So what are the signs of chronic stress?
- Fatigue, exhaustion, and tiredness that is persistent
- Increased anger, irritability, and negativity
- Loss of motivation
- Frequent headaches
- Weight loss or gain (typically a gain for the female population)
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased muscle tension and pain in the neck and upper back area
- Neck, shoulder and back spasms
What Helps Eliminate The Build-Up Of Stress?
Exercise! But, the right amount, boomers. Remember, we’re looking for a balance between exercise that helps rid the body of stress-causing adrenaline and other hormones such as cortisol while avoiding the catabolic effects of overtraining. For all lifters, this can be achieved by utilizing the techniques of periodization training.
How does exercise help to reduce stress?
- Generates relaxation through the release of endorphins
- Increases alertness
- Reduces symptoms of depression
- Improves self-esteem
- Encourages participants to follow a healthier nutrition plan
- Produces more restful sleep
- Increases energy levels, making it easier to accomplish more and deal with stressful events
- Makes you take time for yourself