This week, I’m going to be focusing on keeping stress to a minimum. That hasn’t been the case leading up to my previous marathons, even though it’s an important time to keep emotions in check.
On Sunday, between a short workout and yard work, I spent about a half hour listening to music and relaxing in a recliner. During the next week, I’ll take a few minutes each day to visualize the upcoming marathon. It is my own form of sports psychology – picturing the race, monitoring my breathing, foot steps, and running strong.
The March/April magazine “Fitness Matters,” by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), has an interesting article on stress. In part, it says:
“The primary physiological agent of stress is cortisol, the so-called ‘stress hormone’ our body secretes when faced with a ‘fight-or-flight’ situation. Small increases of cortisol have positive effects, such as a quick burst of energy, heightened memory, increased immunity and a lower sensitivity to pain. However, if the stressful situation isn’t alleviated, the body will continue to pump out higher and more prolonged levels … which cause a litany of health problems: impaired cognitive function, blood sugar imbalances, loss of muscle and bone density and more abdominal fat, higher blood pressure and lower immunity.”
The article goes on to address habits to fight stress, such as walking, running, biking or hiking, several times a week. There are also numerous mind-body activities like yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, hypnosis and meditation.
A combination before a big race can be very helpful: A little light running will keep the body balanced, helping to reduce stress and keep everything coordinated, and exercising the mind can help deal with race-day jitters and issues. If you’ve already dealt with the mental stress of running a half or full marathon before it happens, then your body can follow through when it comes time to perform.