24 Dec, 2019
5 min read
Stressed? Yep, we all know what that feels like. Stress has reached epidemic levels in modern-day society, and it’s no wonder.
We are busier than ever, with more distractions and more content being thrown at us, and because we are almost permanently attached to our digital devices, we never really switch off.
You probably already know that exercise can benefit your mental health, but before you shut down your browser and head for the hills, you may want to read on. Because triathlon could be the ultimate stress reliever that you’ve been looking for.
If you haven’t already bathed in endorphins after you’ve sweated out one of your brutal swim, bike or run sessions, here’s a few reasons why triathlon is great for your mental wellbeing:
Legally. Exercise has a scientifically proven positive chemical effect on the body which can be as effective as anti-depressants at improving your mood.
After training, your body releases endorphins and these endorphins act as analgesics, interacting with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a happy or euphoric feeling in the body often known as ‘runner’s high’.
That’s surely worth a bit of pain!
Not only will a swim, bike or run session help your muscles to release tension built up from stress, exercise also releases norepinephrine. This is a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress, meaning that effectively, you can cope better with the stuff that life throws at you.
You may have experienced that ‘clear head’ feeling after a training session, where suddenly things don’t look so bad anymore.
Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin – brain chemicals which play an important part in regulating your mood, giving you a more positive outlook on life.
Meditation, or mindfulness, is essentially living ‘in the moment’ and is revered by many successful athletes as a performance catalyst. It enhances your ability to focus and concentrate, and also helps to ‘quieten’ mental ‘chatter’.
You may not realise it but sometimes, especially during a harder training session or a very specific interval set, you are only focusing on the next pedal stroke, foot strike, or arm stroke, and this is, in effect, mindfulness.
Use training to effectively switch off from the daily stressors of life and just throw yourself into it, in the moment.
As triathletes we all love a good early night, but regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain, which improves sleep.
Poor sleep can lead to a low mood and is a significant contributor to stress.
So by improving your sleep cycles through regular training is a sure-fire way to give you a mental (and physical) boost.
Waking up refreshed makes a huge difference to your outlook on life, and let’s be honest, if you’re a triathlete there’s nothing more satisfying than hitting your head on the pillow after a big training day!
You know when you’re in the pool, on the bike, or out for a run and no-one can really contact you?
That feeling of switching off, even for a short while, is giving you a break from the constant notifications we are receiving through multiple different channels.
After a training session, you will find that your ability to focus has improved and you feel are less distracted.
And that’s because you have given yourself time and space away from the nagging of digital and real-time interruptions.
It sort of goes without saying that by training for a triathlon you are going to maintain a pretty good degree of fitness and health. But being fit and healthy in body actually contributes to being fit and healthy in mind too.
You are less likely to get ill if you are a fit and healthy person, avoiding many of the oftentimes stressful health issues that unhealthy people suffer from.
You will, ironically, probably also be more energetic and less lethargic and sluggish, which means your coping mechanisms when ‘life happens’ will likely be more robust, reducing the chance of stress and overwhelm.
Triathlon by default is a sport that will take our training outdoors a lot of the time, and the great outdoors is a known stress-buster.
Being in nature is proven to improve mood and reduce mental tension.
Topping up your levels of Vitamin D when you’re out in more sunny weather, reduces the likelihood of depressive symptoms.
You heard it here first.
The global triathlon community is HUGE.
It’s a very social sport, and whether you’re catching up with likeminded peeps on Twitter or you’re making friends in your local triathlon club, socialising with people who share the same interest as you is a very effective stress reliever.
Humans are social animals and what better than to share your love of tri with others? Going through some of those tougher training sessions with a friend by your side is always a huge help, or travelling to overseas races with fellow athletes also helps to reduce any pre-race anxiety! It’s an all-round win-win.
There you have it.
Triathlon, aside from being an awesome sport which keeps you fit and healthy, could very well be prescribed as the next stress-busting super-sport.
If that seems too far-fetched, then just get out and enjoy it, because your mental (and physical) health will thank you for it!
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