A common correlation that people make is that apparent fitness is equal to health. This cannot be further from the truth and can be a dangerous thing to believe. Over the years I have had numerous clients who train countless hours each week, but when we uncover the deeper things regarding their health it is evident that there is a storm brewing inside. These people appear from the outside to be completely fit and their ability to run for miles or ride their bike all day makes most people, including themselves, think that their health is completely under control. However, this is not always the case. While fitness is crucial to health it is really only one piece of the puzzle of TRUE health. If these other pieces of the puzzle are not addressed then extreme training can actually be making health worse!
Some other puzzle pieces that really need to be assessed are nutrition, hormone balance, stress levels and management, and GI health. It doesn’t matter if someone is competing at a high level if their GI health and hormones levels are dysfunctional. They are just headed for a major breakdown of the system and are probably compensating for current symptoms with medications or just plain ignoring them. They are also cheating themselves as improved overall health really means an ability to train harder, which leads to overall improved performance. Logging training hours is only one way to get better. Improving the health of the body is another way and it is the one that is most commonly overlooked.
Let’s look at an example to try and put this into perspective. Say Steve is training hard and has a triathlon competition schedule that is packed for the year. Most injuries and set-backs occur as training volume increases and the year progresses. This occurs because the body hits a point where the stress that it is enduring overcomes the body’s ability to heal and recover. This excess of stress comes in many forms and the body gets hit with them all simultaneously: training stress, chemical stress, traumatic stress, and/or emotional stress.
For ease of example, let’s say that Steve’s body can handle 100 units of stress before it breaks down. In the beginning of training, when volume is low, Steve takes on 20 units of training stress, 20 units of chemical stress (from foods, drinks, medications, lotions, detergents, pollution, etc.), and 20 units of emotional stress (work and family). This is far below his 100 limit so his body is able to efficiently handle the effects of the stress andrecover from day to day.
However, let’s say that as training increases he also has an increase demand at work and home. Now he is enduring 40 units of training stress, 35 units of chemical stress (because now he doesn’t “have time” to eat healthy), and 40 units of emotional stress. He is now at 115 units and above his body’s ability to effectively handle stress loads and recover efficiently. What’s even worse, what if Steve started this whole process of training and wasn’t completely healthy in the first place?? What if this lack of health allowed him to only be able to handle 80 units of stress? He wouldn’t even make it to the peak volume of training before his body started failing! This is a very common situation and is a time bomb waiting to explode. Typically, this occurs at the peak of training when the training stress units are at the highest, but is highly dependent on the health of the athlete when training began.
Now, what if Steve paid strict attention to the foods he ate and the chemicals that he allowed himself to encounter. He could then drop his chemical stress level down to 20 units and at the same time provide his body with nutrients that allowed his system to better handle immune system stress and inflammation. This would bring his total stress units down to 95 units, even with the increased training load. This now allows his body to handle the peak of training, without the danger of exploding.
This is a very simplistic way of looking at stress to the system, but the point is to show you that health is not determined solely by fitness AND that overall health can be a huge factor in performance ability.
So, just because you are able to ride faster, run farther, lift more weight, or score more points, doesn’t mean that you are healthy! It just means that your physical fitness is higher.
For more information on your overall health or how it can be improved, contact our office today at (949)387-0060.