Under Pressure, Part 2


We’re back with Part 2 on stress and the effect of adrenaline on the body.

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a quick review of Part 1:

We discussed how our bodies are placed in constant stress through our choice of activity (climbing, strength training, etc.) and everyday lifestyle factors (traffic, busy schedules, etc.).  We also looked at how the body responds similarly to these stressors, releasing hormones like adrenaline, and how this can impact the body.  That being said, let’s take a look at some methods for stress recovery and stress prevention.

Stress is an inevitable part of life.

But sometimes we create extra stress for ourselves. This happens when we do spur-of-the-moment activities like pounding out a one rep max, or sprinting up a mountain. So how can we prep our bodies for that stress?

Well, the obvious answer here is to adopt a lifestyle where you’re able to consciously control your stress, whether that stress is in your mind or body. Assuming you’re trying to live that lifestyle, I know you’re still going to go for your personal best on that next race, or tick off that high-ball boulder problem you’ve been eyeing forever in your Buttermilks guidebook. Oh, and you’re probably going to keep your hectic schedule job, right?

So what’s the practical solution here? 

Let’s start with food and supplementation. Proper nutrition intake is going to make you feel better, everytime.  Also, finding the right fuels to go along with your meals is key. We don’t get enough nutrients from our food alone, especially when we skimp and eat fast food. A pre-, during-, and post-exercise nutrition regimen is of the utmost importance, especially when you’re training about demanding more from your body. Whether that’s BCAAs, protein, and/or electrolytes, finding an effective nutrition strategy for your training will decrease the stress your body will undergo, which reduces long term inflammation. This all adds up to your body working effectively and not having to work so hard to recover. This in turns leaves more energy to help you cope with stress.

Caffeine: This stuff is pretty awesome. But be smart with it.

It helps with alertness and blood flow which gets you jacked for that full-on physical exertion.  Used in an effective way, caffeine can really give you that needed jolt to get you through your proj. However, let’s look at the flip side of caffeine. Overconsumption gets that adrenaline all tapped out, meaning possible exhaustion, irritability, potential weight gain, and issues with restful sleep. So use caffeine to help with training, but be smart about using it too much, as it could disrupt productivity in other activities throughout the day.

So how do I counteract my body’s response to stress?

I’m glad you asked. Engaging your relaxation response is the quickest and most effective way to recover from stress. The quickest way to get your relaxation response moving is through deep abdominal breathing. Activities like Tai Chi and yoga can work to deepen the breath while linking it to the exercise. The key here is that deep abdominal breathing. Even singing and laughing can boost up relaxation and get that stress response down (so maybe keep a comedian or two on your cool down playlist).

Speaking of playlists, music can also help your body and mind to relax.  Finding music that matches your mood has been shown to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels.  So make sure to keep that throwback Ja Rule track pumping on your way back from the gym.  Also, social connectivity is vital in stress management.  When you spend time with others, especially the ones you feel closest to, and even some physical touch increases oxytocin release (a feel good hormone) and reduces cortisol.  So that bro hug with your buddy might do a little more than you think.

Stress is a part of everyone’s life, no doubt.

Remember that you have control of how you prepare yourself for stress everyday. Carving out ten minutes to tune into your breathing will make a big difference in how you respond to stress triggers. And with proper nutrition and fueling, you’ll be able to channel your stress in a way that’s healthy for you long term. These stress tactics will also bring you incredible results.

Try it out! And don’t be surprise when you suddenly start seeing improvements.

Good luck out there!

Picture Credit: Drew Smith







Under Pressure, Part 1


250ft off the deck on the third pitch of your climb. The last piece of gear you placed was 15ft ago, and it wasn’t that good. You’re about to blow off this hold, but you go for the next move, stick that good hold, walk your feet up, and get a good piece of gear in. You remember that breathing is okay, and allow yourself a little rest before heading to the anchors.

Race day: you’re cruising that 5K, look down at your watch and you’re on mark for a personal best. Then, someone comes out of nowhere and passes you! You’re dueling back and forth, you push ahead, dig super deep and not only get your new personal best, but win your own mini race within that race.

Or that 100 burpees for time challenge. Or max out day. Or pretty much any day doing High-Intensity Interval Training.

All these things have one major thing in common: adrenaline release.

Adrenaline is this super amazing hormone that our bodies use on a daily basis. So what does it do?  Basically, it decreases the body’s ability to feel pain, heightens its awareness, and increases strength and performance. All of these functions are triggered through stress. That’s pretty sweet!

One major problem though….we only have a certain amount of adrenaline our bodies can release, and if we use more than our allotted amount, issues might surface. But before we hit the symptoms, let’s get a little info on how adrenaline works.

Here’s the breakdown: when we get stressed out, hormones/neurotransmitters (including adrenaline) are released, superhero mode is engaged, we perform, and then we crash. The interesting part of this whole process is that thousands of years ago your stress wasn’t the crux clip on your 5.13 proj or dialing in your sub 16:00 minute 5K, the stress was literally being chased by a bear or lion or some other substantially sized creature that could do some serious damage to your body. And today our bodies give the same exact response to stress whether you’re living through a real life version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant  or you’re stuck in traffic, late for work. Unfortunately, for us here in fast-paced 2017, our society is in a constant state of stress.  

Wake up at 5am, go to the gym, train hard, shower, go to work, meet that big deadline you’ve been talking about, go to your afternoon presentation, get off work, make dinner, get drinks with friends, maybe hit a second gym sesh. Not to mention the stress you experience with relationships, careers, and personal obstacles. We have zero downtime day to day, and these life stressors, coupled with that extra adrenaline release from physical output, is a potential recipe for adrenal fatigue.

So you’re probably asking what adrenal fatigue looks like?

This is what happens to your body when it’s placed in stress overload: High blood pressure, restlessness, irritability, decreased sleep, feeling jittery, even weight gain or obesity can occur from amped up stress and adrenaline levels. Really, these are only a few of the symptoms, and if you’re anything like most athletes or fitness enthusiasts, you’ve had one if not all of these bad boys at some point in your training.

After all this, your curiosity may be peaked on what to do to counteract or even prevent the effects of adrenal fatigue. While the answers vary for each individual, we have some tried and true tips that may help you. Stick around, Gnarly’s next blog post will address more on how to keep those adrenal thresholds in check.




Picture Credit : Savannah Cummins

Game Time Nutrition Change


Have you ever developed your solid nutritional regimen, trained really hard, and then come “game time” you go entirely off what you’ve done? Insert nutritional adversity in New England last winter.

Sometimes even the simplest of things can really put us in a pickle. This was case for me February 2016 amidst a winter ascent of New Hampshire’s highest peak, Mount Washington. Far from a seasoned mountaineer, but with ascents of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo in Ecuador, tallying in at 19,347ft and 20,564ft respectively, Mount Washington at 6,289ft seemed like a breeze. Not to take it lightly as my partner and I initially intended to traverse the majority of the Presidential Range, I bumped up my normal training to get more sport specific in building tree trunks for legs and further my core stability. In all the trips, I’ve taken, I never felt more physically prepared.

On the ride up from the Mid-Atlantic, we started checking weather reports for North Conway, NH and of course the summit of Mount Washington. Things looked bleak for a traverse of the range as they were estimating gusts of up to 100mph across the ridge, and temps of lower than -40 F with windchill, so we made the call of going for a summit bid of Mount Washington every day of our planned trip rather than risk a night or two out in those conditions. 

So after a hearty breakfast of eggs and hash browns (way out of my norm for powering up for endurance days and really not a breakfast I each much at all), we set out from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on snowshoes with our eyes on top of the White Mountain’s highest point. A little over halfway to the summit, we made the call to switch to crampons and ice axes and kept trekking. We hit the tree line, and I was starting to feel totally wiped. I kept thinking to myself of all the training, I had done leading up to this trip, which had got reduced to a little over a half day climb. We were only about three miles into an eight mile round trip day, and I was losing a lot of strength. The wind picked up as we continued to climb, visibility became minimal, only to the next highly stacked cairn, but we made the call to ascend…as long as we could see the next cairn we would keep pushing on. My legs felt heavier and heavier until we finally reached the summit! 

After a quick photo op from the top, we made our way over to a small area protected from the wind. “Dude, it’s only been four freaking miles and 4,000 vertical feet. What’s going on?” I said to myself as I finally snuck away from the wind and kneeled down to grab a bar from my pack. Then it hit me. “Dummy, you’re a Certified Health Coach, working with people on their nutrition, and you made the mistake of providing absolutely no substance of carbs or sugar for hours, AND you ate a breakfast that was abnormal from your daily nutrient intake.” I ate the bar and within seconds felt like we were back on mile 1 of the climb. I ate a second bar and felt even better. I saved the last 2-3 bars for the rest of the descent because as well all know the best mountaineer is always the one that gets back home. And little did I know how thankful I’d be for this “epiphany,” as our trip back to the Visitor Center greeted us with 60+mph winds, a wind chill of -30F, and a temporary whiteout. 

Pre-workout and mid-workout (especially in endurance sports) nutrition is crucial to performance. Fueling and maintaining high carbohydrate intake is associated with delayed onset of fatigue and increased muscle glycogen stores both leading to increased performance (1). Nutrition in the outdoor world can be tricky as you don’t have readily available resources and lightweight travel can be of the utmost importance. Trying out a few different forms of carbohydrate consumption when you’re in the front country can help to see what works best for YOUR body as everyone’s needs are unique. 

(1) ***Source-National Center for Biotechnology Information, Sugar and exercise: its importance in athletes.