Friday, July 26, 2013

360fit - Fight or Flight

It’s Sunday night and I am preparing for Monday. I have the privilege of designing tomorrow’s workout for our training staff.  In our last session our team did 10 rounds of 10 burpees and 10 frog jumps with a 50m sprint in between (sprint sounds better, but it was a jog). It was 36 degrees outside and the pavement was so hot it was uncomfortable to touch. That workout had me a scared going in.

When you walk into a class or a training session you know you will be tested physically and mentally. When you hear “burpees for a minute” or even worse “half burpees” you know that after a minute you will hurt. Even the word burpee makes me feel dread. That feeling of anxiousness, dread, worry, jittery, and/or excitement is caused by adrenaline.

The term for this feeling is fight or flight. Fight or flight is the decision we have to make when confronted with danger; either we stand our ground -fight or we start running -flight. The decision we make actually matters very little to our body, either way our sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline, which increases blood flow to the muscles, blood pressure, heart rate, sugar and fat in the bloodstream for additional energy, blood clotting factors increase in case of injury, pupils dilate for clarity even perspiration increases to prevent over-heating. Ever hear stories of moms lifting cars off of their children, the sympathetic nervous system is doing the leg work.

The amazing thing about fitness is that we can feel that sense of danger, yet be safe. With fitness we can test ourselves without having to have our children trapped under a car or falling into a cage with a tiger. With fitness we can feel completely stressed, yet not be in any real danger.

What is so amazing about being able to safely increase our level of stress? The amazing part is what comes after. After your body has been stressed, from tigers or fitness, it relaxes. Your parasympathetic nervous system (working in opposition to the sympathetic nervous system) begins to release hormones to reverse the effects of the previous stress. Your body relaxes. Fitness can safely increase that initial stress which later increases our parasympathetic response allowing us to relax.

Working out allows us to relax. We just have to be a little afraid first.

Ben Costigan
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