While standing around after a workout one Saturday, one of my old college teammates said something brilliant. To be fair - this guy says intelligent things quite often, but sometimes a person makes a comment that makes you instantly want to run grab a pen and paper and write it down. These words of wisdom were so good, that even months later I still consider it to be among the smartest things I've ever heard someone say.
"Instead of managing your time...think about managing your energy instead."
As busy people, we are great at managing a quantity of several life issues at once. We manage our budgets. We manage our time during the workday and subsequently our free time during evenings or weekends. Nutritionally conscious people even manage their caloric or carbohydrate allotments during each day.
But how many people actually focus on managing their energy levels during the day?
Ever since my friend Jon Davis (creator of the blog Elements2Lead) shared this thought-provoking idea, I've been more focused on how I actually FEEL during the day, and during the week overall. If you are anything like me, you set a training agenda for the week and outline the specifics of what needs to be accomplished (i.e. long runs/sprints, lifting workouts, triathlon skills, specific CrossFit WODs, etc). The problem with setting a training outline for the week is that more times than not, Life gets in the way of your workout plan.
Business meetings run long or pop up unexpectedly...kids get sick (or we get sick ourselves)...the playoff game or movie you start watching at 9pm becomes too addictive to fall asleep on-time and costs you valuable rest. The list of hurdles that can arise and interrupt your workout schedule is seemingly endless. The problem is highlighted when we become slaves to our workout schedule, instead of letting our energy levels each day dictate whether we should go for an intense workout, or perhaps keep things light (or even rest completely).
Jon's comment drove me to research the taxing levels of intense training combined with the various obstacles of life. Workouts are a form of (external) stress, which is self-inflicted. This is not an issue assuming the other aspects of life, such as work stress, family stress, financial stress, sleep levels, and sufficient nutrition are all within relatively normal levels for your individual body. When cortisol levels (the "stress hormone") become too elevated for too long of a period, a person can become lethargic and sluggish, and experience a litany of other negative physical side effects (here and here) . One of these is adrenal fatigue, which I will cover in a little further detail at another time.
It goes without saying that there are times when it simply feels like there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to. Sometimes our schedules are so packed, even things like eating lunch away from your work desk/computer, or getting time to read/watch a movie at night become seemingly unachievable luxuries. With that said, when we shift thinking away from trying to squeeze our long list of To Do's into the hours available each day - it's worth realigning perspective once in a while and focusing on managing your finite amount of energy instead.
Your workout and training volume may decrease each week, but you may also find each workout becoming more productive - and more importantly you may steer clear of dangerous conditions like elevated cortisol and adrenal fatigue as well.
In part II I hope to dig a little further into the issue of adrenal fatigue, and cover some strategies to combat the symptoms. In the meantime, here is a productive read from Jon's blog with his strategies and thoughts on such a vital topic such as managing energy levels.