Is Resiliency the key to performance?

Sometimes you’ve just got to play hooky..

One workday, I was mentally spent, and I texted a friend “Hey, want to skip work for a bit and go get lunch?” Between the two of us, we had checked about all the “life stressors” boxes possible in a year or two. As she asked how things were going, I shared what life had been giving, “I am learning what it means to a member of the sandwich generation, loved ones diagnosed with cancer (grateful to be on the other side), spending 19 months getting our office doors open, all while keeping up with an active teen kiddo, so on and so forth.”

She just taps my hand and says, “Are you ok?”

I replied, “I think so. I hadn’t really thought about it. “These past years have taught me the only way to survive is to learn to be resilient for the ‘just in case” times.

Survivial mode or Resilient?

For me, resiliency in action sometimes looks like:

  • Being able to just take a nap if my brain is exhausted.
  • Reaching out to friends to connect (laughter really is the best medicine).
  • Blocking time for creative space.
  • Getting movement in OR just sitting on the couch watching Netflix.
  • Setting aside time each week to catch up with my husband ( yes we are under the same roof but when you get busy enough you know that you can hardly talk for days).
  • Sometimes sitting outside, in the car, or walking on the trail to enjoy the solitude.

In times of silence, we hear the most!

Can you focus on resiliency as your secret to success?

In a recent blog post, I challenged how the elusive “lighter/leaner leads to better performance” belief may not be paying off in the long run, leading to more injuries, mental flatness and inability to move forward within your training cycle. This year, I want to challenge you to make 2023 the year of resiliency so that you might enjoy activities of choice all year long with minimal injuries and time away from training.

What is Re-sil-ience?

“The capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficult situations.”

Or “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape, elasticity. “

  • After a heavy training block, does your body spring back?
  • Are you feeling joy for your sport (yes even when it is tough)?
  • Do your legs feel fresh?
  • Do you feel your endurance grow and your strength build?
  • Can you get through a full training cycle with minimal injuries?
  • Does your body demonstrate markers of health- menstrual cycle, lab work?
  • Has your body been able to withstand tough training without ending up sick?

Let’s take these definitions above and think about how under-fueling and under-recovering impacts our bodies’ resilience. Certain messages around lighter/leaner makes one faster or no-pain-no-gain mentality has contributed to putting pressure on ourselves to perform. We place our worth and value in our sport and the fear of falling short of our goal, makes us feel like we are less as a person . We begin to believe the harder we push, the less rest, the fewer the calories, the quicker we can reach our goal.

When in actuality the search for “hacks” and pushing through mentality causes things like…

  • There is less glycogen, leading to plateaus in training and eventually de-conditioning.
  • When one loses their menstrual cycle or sex drive secondary to decreased sex hormones, there is decrease in VO2max due to less dilation in blood vessels.
  • One may have to decrease the intensity and volume of training due to the inability to hit training targets.
  • The bone breaks itself down to make up for the lack of nutrition, and bone building stops, lending to a weaker frame that is unable to tolerate the demands of training.
  • As the body depends on tapping into the savings accounts, there is a chronic release of cortisol, leading to a case of the niggles, stress reactions and more “itises.”
  • Emotions are a luxury. When there is less fuel to create feelings then the drive to compete starts to diminish. The “give a damn” button gets stuck.
  • The rate of illness, specifically upper respiratory illness and GI illness, go up, which means additional days off from training.

As research speaks to time lost in training due to illness or injury, it appears the last person standing is the one who wins the race. Those with the most consecutive, scheduled training sessions and training cycles develop the greatest fitness improvements in the long run. But how do we build the resilience so that our body withstands the training stress without breaking down – so we are able to train with consistency? Let’s challenge and put those definitions above into action.

Recipe to a resilient
body- Rest & Nutrition

Generally speaking, training cycles for most sports, including team sports, are 12-16 weeks. As an athlete progresses in their season, they are relying on energy stores (glycogen in muscle, glycogen in liver and body fat) to increase as their training increases.

Periodization of nutrition basically means to match the energy needed for the amount of work you are doing. An oversimplified look is- How much gas are you going to need to put in the car to arrive at your destination? You wouldn’t ask your car to earn its gas before filling up the tank or you might find yourself stranded on the side of the road.  Periodizing and planning allows their body to withstand tough training and be able to recover to do it again – pushing that level of fitness.

I am a fan of the research within the tactical performance (military) where they have been able to strategize re-feeding periods during times of rest or less expenditure. Their research has shown significant reductions in hormonal dysfunction, injuries and metabolism markers. Wouldn’t it make sense to take advantage of the days you have less energy expenses to build up that energy account?

During a training cycle, there should be stress on the body that turns on the building blocks in our bodies (anabolism) creating more muscle fibers, stronger connective tissues and sturdier bones. Stress turns on signals on within the body that alerts our brain what is needed and during the recovery process repairs tissues, replenishes energy and restore more muscle fibers and/or mitochondria. This allows the athlete’s body and the skeletal system to be one strong, mean machine. If one misses this critical 3-R window ( replace , re-nourish, rest) , then the stress signals the body to start shutting down versus picking it up! This the point where the body loses its resiliency, and those wheels start to come off.

In 2023, I challenge you to consider when flirting with a short cut:

  • That each bone stress injury means a minimum of 12 weeks out of training and generally takes >18 weeks to return to any capacity of training.
  • Whether every cold, or bug sets you back on hitting targets for that week.
  • Whether each “niggle” takes away from your ability to enjoy your training and challenge yourself.

Is it worth the short-term chase of some ideal that sets you back, takes you away from what you love and robs you of your joy?

Or you can follow your own recipe for resiliency!


Tools in the toolbox:

No better place to get the best of the best advice to maintain that resilience in your running future than the new RunWell app. You might see a familiar contributor there!

Hormones Health and Human potential- A guide to understanding your hormones to optimize your health and human performance. Dr. Nicky Keay

During the day a latte with burnt sugar  from Hand in Glove by night their smoky vanilla.