We’ve had the annoying Pandemic clichés, the covid takeaways, and the daily updates. The zoom parties are dwindling and Duolingo may be a distant memory that still lingers in your phone applications, and with summer camps few and far between the kids are still melting our heads. The Covid pandemic has delivered more changes to our lives in the past few months than many of us have experienced in the previous few years. Daily routines and interactions have changed for us all. School changed for the kids, many have lost jobs while those lucky to keep them have had to get used to working in the confines of our own homes or within alien environments with necessary new rules and guidelines to follow. Social media showers us with constant information and updates of the pandemics status, it calls on us to finish that “covid project” or write that book or learn Portuguese. All while just trying to survive and get through another strange day, looking forward to sitting down and enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. Just as you sit down to take the first sip then Ann Doyle on the news at nine tells you you’re drinking too much! Home schooling, constant handwashing, paranoia and social isolation ….. Is it any surprise that many of us are exhausted and may be suffering from pandemic fatigue, quarantine exhaustion and stress is real.
Stress can grow from many sources – money worries, family issues, relationships, work. Sometimes it’s a single dramatic event, sometimes is a multiple tiny cuts that build to a bigger wound. Stress has short and long term negative effects on the body, it can cause muscle pains, stomach upsets, headaches, nausea, dizziness, speed the development of chronic diseases, the list can go on. These past months have been enough to move the most “Zen” of people to distraction. So if you’ve found that your normal training run or exercise routine feels tougher than normal, that’s understandable. Mental fatigue, exhaustion, stress and loneliness has negative effects on physical performance (Stults-Kolehmainen, Bartholomew and Sinha, 2014; Lopes et al., 2020). The other reason training has been tough is that hard exercise feels worse when you experience it alone (do Carmo et al., 2020) – which, again, most of us have been diligently doing until the easing lockdown restrictions.
There is lots of recommendations for coping with stress- self-care, avoiding sugar, reducing alcohol intake, sharing thoughts and talking to loved ones. But exercise is one of the primary mechanisms consistently recommended for dealing with stress; the exact mechanism of how it works is unknown, but it is thought that by learning to cope with the physical stress caused by exercise, allows the body to practice coping better, allowing body systems trial runs at communicating better together. The body adapting to cope makes sense to me but I also think of the Viktor Frankel quote
‘in the space between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’.
In running like in life, if anything is to be achieved from jogging one mile to finishing a marathon, the mind, body and spirit must work together. So currently it’s probably more important to focus on remaining sane rather than worrying about making progress on your latest masterpiece, fluency in Italian or even running a 5km personal best……. Just survive the day and get to that glass of rioja.
do Carmo, E. C., Barroso, R., Renfree, A., da Silva, N. R., Gil, S. and Tricoli, V. (2020) ‘Affective Feelings and Perceived Exertion During a 10-km Time Trial and Head-to-Head Running Race’, Int J Sports Physiol Perform, pp. 1-4.
Lopes, T. R., Oliveira, D. M., Simurro, P. B., Akiba, H. T., Nakamura, F. Y., Okano, A. H., Dias Á, M. and Silva, B. M. (2020) ‘No Sex Difference in Mental Fatigue Effect on High-Level Runners’ Aerobic Performance’, Med Sci Sports Exerc.
Stults-Kolehmainen, M. A., Bartholomew, J. B. and Sinha, R. (2014) ‘Chronic Psychological Stress Impairs Recovery of Muscular Function and Somatic Sensations Over a 96-Hour Period’, The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(7).