6 Keys to Training While Under Stress

In case you didn’t know this about me, I am highly revered across many circles of young children.


My movement skills have brought me a great deal of notoriety, second only to Johnny Karate.  My prowess in crawling & climbing and playing better than pretty much any other adult around has earned me the nickname Jungle Gym Kellen.


I’ve been riding high on this title and all the fame and accolades associated with it…you know free juice boxes, VIP playground access, mobs of small fans.


So this is what it’s like being Drake...


And then this week it all came crashing down.  The ugly face of fame revealed itself.  One of those filthy little buggers got me sick with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.  Look it up.  Actually don’t. It's a virus, it's gross, and depending on the strain it’s pretty much the most annoying week of your life. 


So that’s it, I’m done.  Out of the game.  Hanging it up. I’m officially retired. 

  At my peak, I was almost this awesome.

At my peak, I was almost this awesome.


At the time of writing, it’s 4:54 AM.  I can’t sleep.  I've been out of commission for a few days.  I rarely get sick so obviously I'm grumpy AF.  But my fever just broke yesterday so clearly I'm going to train.  Monkeys got a monkey, after all.  The show must go on.  This post details how you can train effectively when you're dealing with some extra stress.


Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of illness where you’re on your deathbed.  Or when you’re overwhelmed with the kind of stress associated with a traumatic event.  We’re talking about the minor interruptions here.


Learning how to train while you are sick or stressed requires a delicate balance.  Conventional thinking might suggest that you stop moving all together at first sign of a cold.  Let's be clear, this.is.absurd.  On the other hand, if you're like me being sick / stressed is a temporary limitation you probably don’t deal well with.  The idea that you might need to slow your roll for a while is like being grounded as a teenager - all kinds of F.O.M.O. and maybe a tantrum in there too.  


The video is sharing some highlights from my recovery practice this week.  The movements are scaled from what I do and not intended to be an exact template.  If you find some new patterns in there, great, but expressing the movements in a way that works for your body is the bigger takeaway message. 


As usual, the intention put behind the practice is more important than the logistics.  The beauty of recovery practice is that it creates space to focus on being over doing.  The benefit to stress is that it makes use stronger, builds our capacity to be anti-fragile.  In the process of managing stress, you'll learn a lot about your body and grow your intuition.  It's good to deal with a little bit of suck every now and then.   


As you are managing your movement practice amidst some stress, keep these 6 key points in mind along the way.



First, get your mind right.  Now is NOT the time for PRs.  Your mindset should be focused on giving back to you body.  It's easy to fall into the trap of pushing for more performance.  It’s also common to train hard to release mental / emotional stress, and end up adding extra physical stress to the body.  It takes discipline to keep your mindset focused on listening to what your body has to say, rather than challenging it to achieve.    


Familiar Patterns / Relaxed Movements  

The movements best suited for recovery are the movements that are already to familiar to your brain and your body.  Break down the movements into smaller pieces and learn them inside and out.   Stress manifests itself physically as muscular tension.  So strive to move in a relaxed state.  I modified my back bends, arm balances, deep squat, hanging and used deep breathing to release areas of tension.


Positions of Stretch  

Along the same lines as using familiar patterns, recovery practice is about revisiting familiar positions that create relevant sensations of stretch in your body.  Slow down the tempo as you search around for tight muscles.  Find a position of stretch and camp out there for a while - breathe deeply and make small adjustments to refine the position.  My tendency is to store tension in my hips and lower back - most of the ground positions I end up in target these areas.    


Spinal Articulation & Circular Movements

The saying goes, “you’re only as young as your spine.”  For this reason, I pay a lot of attention to flexing, extending, bending, twisting, and rolling movements.  The spinal column is incredibly versatile.  We take that for granted and before too long disuse causes the spine to become stiff.  Our brain loses it’s ability to map out and control how all the individual vertebrae articulate.  Then we get stiff and chalk it up to being old.  These waves and circular movements provide great input to help the brain remember that the spine is meant to for a wide variety of good movements. 


Shoulders & Hanging 

Our shoulders do a lot for us and they deserves some love.  Stability in the shoulders is developed in the crawling movements.  From a standing position, the arms / shoulders are free to articulate in a full range of motion.  Circular movements and reaching (push / pull) work well here.  Again, the brain gains a better understanding of shoulder mechanics and the joints are lubricated.  From a hanging position, the shoulder girdle traction is a welcomed stretch to the tissues and may help the joint center in-socket.  Where climbing / pull-ups are more performance-oriented, hanging variations support healthy shoulders without over taxing the body.


Breath Work 

Traditionally, a cool-down is some half-assed stretching mixed with some chit chat or smart phoning.  I’ve always figured "what’s the point?” My experiences in yoga highlighted the power of breathing to close a practice, what’s known as “savasana”.  I realized that this few minutes at the end of a class was a big part of why I left feeling so good.  I translated the practice to my training, closing with a series of 30 or so deep breaths in a comfortable seated position. Feel the belly, ribcage, chest, and back all expand as the lungs fill.  Allow the breath to release without force. The body oxygenates, the mind calms, and some space is created to reflect on the training session. 


That’s all for now.  Hopefully, this little virus of mine is eradicated promptly.  In the meantime, I’ll keep a smile on my face and I’ll keep moving.  

Let me know if you have any questions regarding recovery practice and sign-up for the newsletter for more ideas on how to master your practice.