by Jack Penner  

Starting on the path to getting strong, lean, and awesome requires you to place a huge focus on the way you eat and the way you train. Handle these two areas and you will see great results. You lose some weight, and feel stronger, more athletic, and empowered.

But then, despite your great adherence, progress seems to slow. Maybe the fat stops falling off or maybe you aren’t seeing the strength gains you want.

We’ve all been there before. “I don’t get it. I’m doing everything right.”

Whenever this happens, there’s something looming. Easy to overlook, but likely to keep you stuck.

Stress.

  A critical component to life, the right kinds of stress for the right amount of time allow you to adapt. To improve as a human. More muscle, less fat, better mental clarity.

However, the wrong kinds for the wrong amount of time can leave you stagnant. Less muscle, more body fat, brain fog, and a grumpy mood.

Using stress to your advantage- to make you leaner, stronger, and more awesome - comes down to finding balance. The balance where you get the right kinds in the right amounts.

All Stress is Not Created Equal

Some stress makes you better. It challenges you, taking you out of your comfort zone, and forcing your body to come back stronger. Think: a hard workout or a mentally challenging project.

You come out better prepared to handle things the next time around.

Then there’s the stress that does nothing but suck the life out of you. Traffic, bills, unhealthy relationships. All the ways the world makes you want to rip your hair out.

These do nothing but bring you closer to your breaking point.

Despite the different outcomes these stressors bring, your body doesn’t care. It’s all stress. It all takes a toll. It all drains your resources, yet only some of it pays dividends in making you better than before.

Are You In Debt?

Every person has a certain amount of stress tolerance. Your own stress bank account.

Some people have a huge amount to spend. These are the people who seem invincible. They can sleep 4 hours per night, eat like garbage, crush their workouts, and dominate their career.

Then, there are the people who aren’t as well off. Most people fall into this category. I certainly do. You probably do, too. It doesn’t take much to drain our funds and send us into debt.

When this happens, the wheels start to come off and progress comes to a screeching halt. Your body just can’t keep up with all the demands you place on it- physical, emotional, psychological- and it revolts. It stops progressing.

After all, improvement is taxing. Your body has to believe it can sustain the new person you’re trying to forge. One with more muscle, less fat, and higher levels of performance.

Smarter Spending

Making sure you stay in the green and keep your body in a position to make consistent progress comes down to a few action items:

1. Know when your funds are low

No matter how tough you think you are, you can’t redline your body for weeks on end without burning out.

Having the self-awareness to know when to back off, and what to do when that time comes will serve you well.

Now, this doesn’t give you the excuse to sand bag it all the time, telling Carmen and Lori that you’re “spending smarter.” It just means you have to be honest with your self and see the bigger picture of improvement. Embrace the journey.

2. Eliminate all the sources of stress that don’t make you better

Take a look at your daily life. What are the things that leave you feeling like you just went through the ringer?

Is it that co-worker that gets nothing done and leaves more work for you? Is it that looming home repair that just sits there, dripping anxiety into your mind?

You can’t avoid some of these. No one can live a life of vacations, tropical cocktails, and hammock naps. But I bet you can make a dent on some of them. Make a list of all the things that drain you and take a good, hard look at which ones you can get rid of. Then, take action on it.

3. Incorporate into your life activities that put some funds back into your account

Recovery techniques, sunlight, deep, restorative sleep, anti-stress nutrition. The list goes on.

These all serve as investments. They make you better able to handle future stress. More likely to see progress.

Over the next few articles, we will dive into these different topics. You’ll understand how your daily habits impact your progress, and learn strategies to make changes.

In the end, you’ll walk away with the ability to manage stress and ensure you come back better every, single day.