Everything that pushes our organism out of balance causes a stress response. “That which has caused us to be out of balance” is the stressor, and the reaction is called stress. It can be either positive in the case of good adaptation, or negative in the case of poor adaptation, which we also call maladaptation. In the extreme situation in which a person has exhausted all adaptive energy, the condition may become incompatible with life.

Let’s take a look at the circumstances under which an exercise or sports stressor can work either positively or negatively. Every training or exercise is a stressor to which our body has to adapt, such as by increase in endurance in the long term, or just by immediately increased performance of the cardiorespiratory system. In the area of ​​psyche, this may occur through the development of volitional
features or an increased motivation while exercising. These are examples of so-called positive stress, where there is a good response to the workload. We call this positive stress EUSTRESS.

What is DISTRESS, a stress that is negative? This may be a stressor in the form of a sports load, when the body reacts poorly to the stress, e.g. to the wear and tear of the joints; muscle imbalance that cause disc hernia; problems with falling asleep in the case of exercising in the late evening hours and the consequent fatigue due to insufficient sleep; exercise addiction, etc.

The stress response occurs on both physical and psychological levels, so both aspects of the stress response need to be taken into account.

How can the holiday season affect us? Let me bring up two extreme examples. If we believe that one week of exercise and sports will make up for the previous months of idleness, we are mistaken. In the best case, there will be only irritation without adaptive effects on one’s physical fitness. In people unprepared to handle the load, for example when skiing, it may happen that untrained tendons and muscles won’t hold a joint together when a fall occurs, resulting in injury. Also, a person who is used to regular sports training may be irritated by the limited space to engage in his or her activity, for example because of family gatherings, changes in the lifestyle routine, etc.

Even top athletes do not train the whole year; they have so-called regeneration period. It does not mean, however, that they do nothing for weeks. They simply reduce the training load, exchange activities for others for which they do not have time otherwise and which they enjoy. To start doing nothing at all would cause them a distress because the body has already adapted to a certain amount
of workload. Equally, if someone is physically inactive and suddenly starts to train “furiously” it causes distress.

Some advice: Everything takes its time. Be it gradual increase of load, appropriate intensity of exercise and time to relax. And as I already mentioned in the previous article, it must be fun. Whatever we do, let’s enjoy it!

Then even holidays can be a sports eustress. How? Those, who regularly engage in sports, can skip a few times, but not all – with a good feeling about having some rest. For those less prepared for a sports load, we choose appropriate sports activities. If we continue to use skiing as an example, we avoid at least the “black slopes”. Also, a fast walk with our loved ones will substitute for individual jogging.

Holidays and vacations are not only at the end of the year, so let us approach them reasonably throughout the year. To enjoy skiing in the mountains, or biking in the summer, it is good to strengthen our muscles in advance, just as we need to adapt our cardiorespiratory system for the workload in order to have fun.


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Expert in Sport and Exercise Psychology