Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coping with Stress: Distress, Eustress, and Destress

This is a topic we're all getting very familiar with: stress. Biologically speaking, stress refers to the failure of an organism to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether those threats are real or imagined. Short term effects of stress on human beings result in a physiological state of alarm creating elevated levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters associated with blood pressure, heart rate, and insomnia. Stress can also lead to a decrease in serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter which keeps epinephrine and norepinephrine levels in check. This vicious circle can lead to anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and other physiological maladies including decreased production of dopamine, which controls the human body's way of inducing states of relaxation and mental focus. In fact, it is estimated that between 60% and 90% of all doctors' visits are directly correlated to high stress levels.

Dealing with stress can take a negative and turn it into a positive. In fact, the term "eustress" (derived from the Greek "eu," meaning well, or good) denotes a physiological response to stress which leads to a positive adaptation. One example of eustress is found in the training principle of sports periodization whereby judiciously applied intense intervals of physiological stress (training) produce the adaptive benefit of strength and improved performance.

Another form of eustress comes in the form of regular exercise. Working exercise into your daily routine is the single best way to deal with stress. Exercise can dramatically counter the short term effects of stress by increasing endorphin levels, which in cause disinhibits the brain's production of dopamine and serotonin. Increased levels of endorphins cause the euphoric feeling known as "runners' high," improve mental clarity and focus, reduce insomnia, decrease the desire for fatty and high carbohydrate foods, and generally impart a feeling of control and overall well being.

At Cadence, exercise is the core of our existence. Using our expertise in the fields of cycling, running, swimming, and multisport we are here to help you take control of your life by turning your stress into a positive. Stop by Cadence NY or Cadence Philadelphia and we'll suggest events, services, products, and other ways you can turn distress into eustress so you can feel better about yourself, sleep better at night, improve your relationships, and focus better to take control of your life!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Bet: Episode 2

What You've Missed

I am running a marathon (that's for those who can't be bothered to read old blog entries) After our little bet was made, I knew I had very little time to get into running shape. I think I spent a good week "getting ready" to run. Buying shoes, shorts and tops; reading up on the newest running training theories and sitting down and mapping out my own training on trainingpeaks. I did just about everything a good runner can do... except run. I wasn't really looking forward to that part of it. As a cycling coach who is realizing more and more just how many triathletes are out there, I was excited to gain some experience in the "Multisport" world. If I studied up on running techniques and theories I would be more marketable as a coach and I was thoroughly enjoying my studies... just not the running part. That part I was dreading!


I want to make it clear to everyone that I am not a beginning runner. My pops ran marathons when he was younger and still ran almost everyday when I was young. I'm not sure how young I was, but my mom would wake me up before school and meet my dad at the end of the driveway when he finished his run and I would jog with him for a mile on his cool down. This progressed into running 3-5 miles with him by the time I was in the 5th grade or so. We did this for years until I starting running for school. I was obsessed with running, much in the same way I am with cycling now. I can't get enough of the culture, the people, the places. I love it and I loved running the same way. I continued in high school and was an above average runner. I ran a 16:16 5k in cross country my junor year, which wasn't fast enough to go to state. I missed it by 3 places. I broke 10 minutes in the 2 miles and that wasn't even fast enough to get me out of our conference meet.

Since I took up the bike I, or mostly my coaches, have tried to get me to run during the off season. I never made it more than 20 minutes and then I'd be so sore for a week I couldn't move. So I may not be a beginning runner but I haven't competed or ran for more than 3 miles in nearly 10 years.

The First Run

I knew if I just walked out the door I'd either be back home in 20 minutes or at the pub having a pint. No, I needed a different plan. Then it hit me. I had left my bike at work the day before and got a ride home. I needed to go pick it up later that day anyways, so I decided to run there, from Fairmount to Manayunk. It's ONLY 6 miles. I could do that. Even if I had to walk the whole way minus the first 20 minutes I still would be ok. It was decided. I threw on all my new gear (you gotta look good, even if you're walking) and headed out the door.

Fast forward 20 minutes. I am dying I think. Lungs are burning, legs feel like rubber. Maybe I'll just turn around I thought. But something kept me going. 30 minutes in and I was plateaued. I wasn't hurting worse than 10 minutes ago but I also wasn't hurting less. The good news is I haven't stopped to walk yet. 45 minutes in and something kicked in. I'm not sure what it was but my stride opened up, my HR slowed and a light breeze hit my face. I ran the last 15 minutes down Main St at what I figured was a pretty good clip. I felt like I was back in high school. I stopped in front of Cadence, amazed that I just ran here from home. I looked around and smiled. I can do this.

Tune in next time when I run 12 miles on only my 4th run back. (Stupid!)