Execising whilst under (lots of!) stress

I’m in a very stressful situation atm (I’ll spare you the details), it’s been going on for a few months and should be done in about a month hopefully. I’m super frustrated that I’ve not really been able to train properly this period when I’d hope to be working on my base. I understand that the body doesn’t differentiate between exercise stress and life stress, but actually not exercising can be pretty stressful as well - both because I’m worried about losing my fitness and not getting the relaxation that it can bring.

I know to some degree I just have to be super careful and get through this period, but are there any things I can do to help me at least maintain my fitness (and sanity)? I heard recently on a pod from @colbypearce that we only have a certain amount of glycogen and (what I didn’t know) our brain uses a big chunk of that and, what’s more, as we get stressed it uses increasing amounts. Obv. this leaves me feeling tired and not inclined/able to exercise.

Should I up my carb intake during this period to compensate for this affect (and also make sure I am properly fuelled during rides)? Should I perhaps lay off the fasted rides (I do those as part of adherence to a TRE diet rather than for any particular fat burning improvements, though I’ll take them if they’re there!)

I’ve been doing a bit more running and going through the woods seems to offer some more relaxation than, say, another ride or a roller session. Should I do more of that and just try and throw in the odd long-ish ride (say 3.5hrs) every week or two to try and maintain what I can of my base?

I did try one club ride because I thought the variety and company might be good for me. but the ‘steady’ pace (rather than effort level) left me wrecked for about 5 days so I guess that is probably not a great idea atm (I didn’t fuel during the ride which is not normally a problem, and I did eat a LOT of cake after the ride, but it seems not enough…)

I’d be really interested/grateful for thoughts on what else I might do (or not) during this period. As background I’m a masters racer and would probably be doing up to 14 hrs a week (inc. an hour of core/strength work) during this period, but now I’m barely doing half that.

TIA for any thoughts/input.


I feel for you man. I’m just taking on extra responsibilities at work and the uncertainty has thrown my training into the garbage. I think the best thing that I’ve found is to look at anything you manage to do as ‘‘exercise’’ rather than ‘‘training’’. There’s a natural distinction, in my mind at least. If I’m going out to do 30 minutes of exercise, the intensity and goals are secondary to just moving the blood around. The second I deem a workout ‘‘training’’, there are specific sets, reps and intensities that are implied. If I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with those variables, I’m setting myself up for a negative experience.
If I were you, I would plan to go out and get some long aerobic (unstructrured) exercise. Bring enough food and fluids to keep your focus (which will be limited anyway), but don’t stress too much about how hard or long you go. It will be what it kind of has to be, so your attitude towards the process can go a long way.

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I used to have a twice a day cycle commute when I held a stressful job in the IT service delivery area, oncall outside work hours etc with calls often coming in, in the early hours. I found my twice a day cycle commute was a great stress reliever and I’d arrive at the office or home quite relaxed despite all the pressures. Not sure how I’d have been without that commute.

If the rest of your life is stressful I’d keep the exercise low intensity which will help ensure you don’t add to it. I find time on the bike outside when you taking it easy enjoying the scenery and are not working hard or concentrating on numbers quite relaxing and a stress reliever. You might find the same.

Whereas high intensity will generate the same cortisol you are getting from your stressful life and may lead to chronic inflammation long term.

Good luck


Good responses. I found that trying to stick to a structured training program (another training v exercising) only increased the stress I felt while also managing several major launches. I finally told myself “screw it” and just rode for however I felt that day. It was a wise decision.

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This article from Trevor Connor seems relevant!

The Key to Recovery? Take Care of Your Brain

Thanks (and to others who have responded), will take a look!