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Why Stress Is Killing Your Fitness Goals

sandbag workouts

For years I struggled as a coach because honestly, I just wasn’t as prepared to help people as much as I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I could tell you the science of training, I had great training programs for my clients, but the reality was that my clients were struggling more outside of the gym than inside the gym. 

I think so many people can relate, making choices outside of the gym, keeping dedicated to the goals that were set, are all a lot more difficult than just wanting to do better. Unfortunately, life poses A LOT of obstacles to us achieving the life that we want. Sadly, I used to think that people just weren’t disciplined or wanted to do the work. That was a pretty BIG misunderstanding by me of what the problems really were in people being successful. 

When so many of my clients would drop off is when life threw them a curve ball. It could be smaller like a bad day at work, a fight at home, or a bunch of little micro stressors that just put them over the edge (like sitting in traffic, having annoying phone call, a snarky comment by someone, etc.). 

If you think micro stressors seem like a silly idea, the Harvard Business Review discusses the strong impact they can have…


“Most of us experience several of these micro stresses in our day-to-day lives. For example, as the director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern, Barrett may understand the toll microstress takes on her brain, but that doesn’t make her immune to it. “When I’m overwhelmed by the number of things I have to do, and someone else’s outcomes are depending on my doing something, my husband will say, ‘Well, that’s the mark of a successful person,’” she says. “And maybe that’s true, but it only goes so far. I run a lab of 25 young scientists, and every single one of those people depends on me for something. I have an impact on their outcomes. We don’t just make deposits and withdrawals in our own body budgets. We are also the caretakers of other people’s body budgets.”

Research has shown the more we become stressed, anxious, and even depressed, the less likely we are to make good food choices, to sleep well, and feel motivated. I think as a coach I knew this, but I didn’t have many tools to deal with them. Of course I am not a mental health expert and I can’t make all of people’s problems go away. However, what I didn’t realize was there were things I could share with people that would be impactful. 

It starts with diaphragmatic breathing, yes, you have probably heard about such breathing. The cool thing is that it is a rather simple technique, but can be very powerful. Research has shown (like studies HERE) that diaphragmatic breathing can greatly reduce anxiety and help improve sleep in people that are highly stressed. Such breathing methods can also  help in reducing stress; treating eating disorders, chronic functional constipation, hypertension, migraine, and anxiety; and improving the quality of life of patients with cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the cardiorespiratory fitness of patients with heart failure. (Effects of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Health: A Narrative Review).

So diaphragmatic breathing can be very effective, but so can what is known as mediative movement. We know meditation has many great benefits such as reducing stress, anxiety, depression, helping improve sleep and nutritional habits, but a lot of people struggle with doing meditation. The good news is that movement can help people focus on doing meditation better. 

A 2013 paper in Frontiers of Psychiatry explains how many benefits can be achieved through meditative movement…

“There have been a number of publications on the effects of MM practices on: depression, anxiety, cognitive ability, inflammation, immune function, arthritis, supportive cancer care, cardiac and pulmonary health, balance, aerobic capacity, strength, bone density, fibromyalgia (, and diabetes. Overall, MM seems to have positive effects on a broad range of health conditions. An equally consistent finding is that the vast majority of studies have serious limitations, and much more high quality research is needed to be able to draw definitive conclusions.”

Mediative movement like we show in our Myofascial Integrated Movement Program and we break down in depth in our MIM Breath Course really show how we can apply these concepts. The cool thing is we can use these strategies before a workout to help people become more focused, energized, and moving better. We can also assign small sessions to people to help them manage stress, to do before they sleep, upon waking just to help them get in a better mindset that will result in dealing with issues in life better. 

This isn’t magic, there is a lot of evidence to support these ideas and I wish so much I learned about them before. The good thing is I know about them now and giving better tools to people helps them beyond just what we do in the gym, it can help them deal with issues outside of the gym that takes up most of their life that leads them to being more successful in the gym too!

Don’t miss 35% off workout programs like our Myofascial Integrated Movement program HERE and our Breath Course HERE with code “labor35” and 30% off our Ultimate Sandbags and functional training tools with code “laborday” HERE