lucas-favre-335248.jpgWe all want to perform our best, but we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed and burnt out after having taken on too many tasks. Instead, it’s best to focus on what most important and alternate between steady habits of stress and rest to maximize improvements. Planning focused sessions that alternate between both these simple concepts are the key components to progress, helping those disciplined to follow reach their full potential in physical, mental, and emotional fitness.

Two Steps to Success

The concept of stress and rest can be applied to many different parts of your life, whether pertaining physical, mental, or emotional aspects. The basic concept takes a skill and focuses on training that skill through alternating between sessions of stress and rest.

For example, a person building muscle first isolates a muscle group and undergoes workouts until that group of muscles is fatigued. Once accomplished, the bodybuilder now alternates to resting the same muscles until they are no longer fatigued, continuing this pattern to progress that muscle group. As a person gets stronger, those set of muscles no longer become fatigued by the same weight or repetition cycle and thus require an increased level of stress to match its new threshold.

An elite athlete’s workout schedule could include engaging in mental pre-workouts before getting into a workout and performing intense workouts four to five days a week, then alternating between days of rest. With 10 to 12 hours of sleep, regular massages, and consistent stretching, her muscles can recover from the stress quickly and expand its threshold of capabilities.

Disciplined Rest and Stress for Growth

This concept translates to many, if not all, aspects of an individual’s life. He or she could apply this to building resilience against negativity or perpetuating a positive attitude. The basic principle is to alternate between major stress and focused rest. Apply this to building muscle, improving mental fortitude, or enhancing emotional endurance. To gather the complete benefit of one’s workout, study, or exercise, he or she must alternate between very hard days and very easy days.

Working just outside your comfort zone is where progress begins. A person maximizes their efforts by exploring just beyond where he or she is most familiar with. Following the body building example, lift too little weight and fail to see progress, but lift weights that are too heavy and injury becomes inevitable.

I learned these principles after reading the first few chapters of the audiobook Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid, Burnout, and Thrive with New Science of Succes by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. They highlight the basic “growth equation,” which is stress plus rest equals growth.

If a person were to only focus on one portion of the equation, he or she would experience failure by either extreme of burnout or stagnancy. Muscles that have been exercised too much enter a catabolic state where it begins to eat by itself and degrade. Too much working out and experience withdrawal; however, not enough working out and never.

Practical Information: How to Use This Information in Your Life

Now that you know the basic principle of growth, you can use this to learn to play the piano or improve your basketball skills.

First, isolate the skill you want to improve. Determine if you want to build muscle, learn to play a new instrument, or develop a new skill. Next, schedule a time where you can focus on engaging with that skills.

For example, if you want to be a better reader, you could set time every day where you feel most comfortable setting for prolong periods of time without burning yourself out and feeling like you’ve just sat through a four-hour lecture.

To improve my reading, I set a timer for 15 minutes and alternated between 15 minutes focused reading and five-minute distracted stretching. This gave me the strength the resist temptations like responding to text messages or falling victim to other distractions. This also gave me enough breaks to feel like I was never forcing myself to get through pages. Additionally, I would only read for a maximum of two hours a day at first, until I can improve my reading endurance while maintaining comprehension. I made sure to also schedule days where I did no reading at all to rest my brain from all the imagination and focus on doing something else, like writing or working out.

If you want to learn more about this concept, listen to Peak Performance on however you listen to audiobooks. He goes into greater detail of this basic concept of stress and rest, as well as further details of engaging with system one and system two thinking, a concept developed in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

I’ll share more key information as I finish the book, so stay tuned for more post coming soon!


What are some ways you like to rest and recover from your grind? Share in the comments!

Photography by Lucas Favre on Unsplash