Here’s How To Know If Work Stress Is Ruining Your Workout

Unsplash/Abbie Bernet

Logging long, grueling hours at your desk does more than just make you tired. Chronic stress and burnout are real problems for the American workforce, and they wreak havoc on everything from your social life to your exercise routine. That’s right, you might be able to blame your lackluster workouts (or nonexistent motivation to go to the gym at all) on your toxic job.

A series of two small studies published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2016 reveal just how much athletic performance can suffer when you feel mentally exhausted. For the first experiment, the researchers recruited 12 soccer players and asked them to run as far as they could after completing a mental task. Half of the group spent 30 minutes working on a computer test and the other half spent 30 minutes reading a magazine before getting moving. The second study followed the same structure with 14 volunteer soccer players, but the physical test focused on their shooting and passing abilities rather than cardio endurance.

In both cases, the computer test mentally tired the participants more than magazine reading, and their physical performance suffered because of it every time. They couldn’t run as far, and the act of running felt generally more difficult even when their heart rates didn’t change. They also made more mistakes during passing drills and found that their shooting speed and accuracy fell noticeably.

Unsplash/Vladislav Muslakov

So how does this research apply to you and your workouts, you ask? First, honestly ask yourself how mentally depleted you feel at the end of a workday. The worse you feel, the less effective your workout is likely to be (especially if you choose to go to gym in the evening).

To mitigate these effects of serious work stress, find a decompression ritual that can help you find a sense of balance before you put your body through the ringer again with exercise. It could be completing a brief meditation session, sniffing some of your favorite essential oils, sipping a cup of soothing herbal tea or jamming to a few fun songs that make you forget about your job altogether. Pick one that works for you, and use it to your advantage.

And if this early evening reset button doesn’t seem to make enough of a difference, consider going to bed a little earlier and making time in the early morning for a solid sweat session. It might be a hard adjustment for night owls, but at least work stress is less likely to get to you before you show up at the office for the day.