Stress - a new perspective

November 1st is Stress Awareness Day.

In recent years we have been conditioned to believe that stress is bad. We need to remove stress, banish it from our lives for ever.

The truth is more nuanced than that and we are now understanding much more about how the body responds to stress. As humans we are actually well adapted to deal with stress – in small doses.

Life always contained stressors: finding food; avoiding becoming food; producing offspring, meeting the neighbouring clan. Our fight or flight response helps us manage acute stress and over time we adapt to stress. Training is a great example of this. Training is a stress. Too much and we get hurt or ill but with appropriate recovery we adapt and get stronger.

Where stress becomes a problem is when it is constant, always on stress, that gives our body no chance to recover. Unfortunately the modern world has ‘stressors’ everywhere. From blue light emitting electronics to always on email, relentless social pressures to fit in, long working hours, insufficient sleep, lack of deep contact with other human beings and more.

The good news is that there are simple strategies to help us better manage ourselves and optimise our stress levels to support better performance.  Athletes are often (but not always) good at striking this balance. With double Olympian Mara Yamauchi I am offering a series of masterclasses desiged to help you ‘Perform at your Best’.

Take a look and see how we can help you and your business this winter


The surprising comeback of a 6 time Olympic Champion

Surprising, because very few people knew that 6 time Olympic Gold medalist Jason Kenny had even hung up his bike in the first place. Kenny is the self-styled quiet man of the track. An elite athlete so comfortable out of the limelight that you hardly know he is there - until he blasts past you in the final stages of the Sprint or Keirin.

For the last 12 months Kenny has been on sabbatical, changing nappies and doing other stuff. He admitted that the break had left him feeling 'like an 18 year old again' and has caused to reverse his decision to retire. Kenny is not the only one to take long sabbaticals. Designer Stefan Sagmeister famously shuts his studio for 12 months every seven years. I took a long break from business in 2003 and recharged my batteries by living in East Africa and running like a lunatic with some of the best in the world.

You don't have to go to those extremes to get a break though. Many of the Kenyan runners I trained with would think nothing of taking a couple of months off at the end of the season, heading back to the shamba to spend time with family and tend the livestock before coming back to their 'work' of running fully renewed. Winston Churchill used to disappear for a few weeks painting, even while leading the war effort and Bill Gates had his week in his log cabin to let his mind run free of day to day Microsoft stuff and get some fresh perspective.

The key for all of these people is that when they take a break from their regular work they spend time doing something different. It may still be intense but in a different way to business as usual. It is popular refrain that we are too busy to take proper time off but the payback from doing so for even a short time is enormous, both in increased productivity and creativity.

With Olympic 6th placer and London Marathon runner up Mara Yamauchi, I have created a 'Recovery for Performance' Masterclass designed to help people in the workplace to be optimally recovered to perform at their best. Spoiler alert - it doesn't involve spending a year in the jungle!

You can get more information on this and our other Masterclasses here