Stress that toughens

Wow! James Loehr’s book, The New Toughness Training for Sports, should be required reading for everyone who is alive. You breathe… you read it. Don’t be deceived by the title. This is not a book exclusively for athletes. It is replete with wisdom for life and those who want to live well.

Because I cannot improve on what he has said, I am going to quote Loehr on the subject of “stress that toughens”. Here we go… (I have put some favorite lines in bold)

“…to much stress or to much recovery will lead to progressive weakening. You also know that physical, mental, or emotional pain is the language of over- and under-training. The question now is, how can you distinguish between stress that toughens and stress that weakens? To answer this you need to look at the issue of stress a little more closely.

…the volume of stress can be divided into four categories:

  1. Undertraining – too little stress
  2. Overtraining – too much stress
  3. Maintenance training – too little stress (at this level of stress you will simply maintain your current level of toughness)
  4. Toughness training – the volume of stress that leads to toughening (this is called adaptive stress)
It’s important to understand that only one relatively narrow band of training stress among the four categories leads to toughening.”
Stop for a minute! We’ve got to define “tough”.
Loehr writes, “Tough has nothing to do with the killer instinct or being mean. It has nothing to do with being cold, hard, insensitive, calloused or ruthless.”
He says, that “words and phrases like flexible, responsive, strong, and resilient under pressure” better describe “toughness.” After an extensive study on the subject he concluded that the real markers of toughness are: emotional flexibility, emotional responsiveness, emotional strength, and emotional resiliency.
His definition of “toughness” = the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.” (Think Jesus Christ, Payton Manning, Navy Seals).
OK. Resume reading.
“It’s important to understand that only one relatively narrow band of training stress among the four categories leads to toughening. One of the four merely allows you to hold on to your present level of toughness; the other two result in weakening. So the critical question is how you can tell if the training stress you are experiencing – physically, mentally, or emotionally – is adaptive and therefore toughening, or not?
[The chart above] provides the answer. The key is in the distinction between pain and discomfort. To toughen you have to go beyond your normal limits, beyond your realm of comfort. When you simply do what is comfortable in your training you’re either getting weaker or maintaining your current toughness level. You clearly have to challenge yourself beyond your normal limits to grow. While you have to cross new frontiers, you must not venture too far or overtraining will occur. There’s always discomfort because it’s further than you’ve gone before. The point is simply this:
No discomfort – no toughening
No pushing – no toughening
No personal confrontation – no toughening
The objective is to deliberately seek out new challenges in your areas of greatest weakness. Deliberately seeking out stress and pushing yourself to new limits and new frontiers is active toughening. Using the uninvited, random challenging stresses of everyday life to toughen yourself is passive toughening. In either case, discomfort indicates adaptive stress.
As stated earlier, stress creates the conditions for growth. Recovery is when you grow.”
Paul speaking…
To grow, to mature, to get stronger we must experience stress! Don’t run from it! If anything… run to it! Simply make sure that the stress you are encountering is neither excessive nor too little for growth!

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