The University of Iowa Strength & Conditioning

A Simple Understanding: Biological Stress & Adaptation

A Simple Understanding: Biological Stress & Adaptation

Stress can come from many different areas of a student-athlete's life: family, social, sport, academics, strength & conditioning sessions, etc. These individual stressors can be lumped into an encompassing term called biological stress. One must increase self-awareness in how their body adapts to all of these biological stressors during the journey of a successful student-athlete. The subsequent metaphor gives us a simple understanding of how a vastly complex organism like the human body receives, interprets, and provides feedback on how one adapts to stress.

Imagine one is feuding with a neighbor and they insist on blasting their stereo so loud it can be heard through the entire house. One would have to shut all doors and windows followed with some earplugs to minimize sound for sleeping. The body follows the same concept when you start imposing too much stress and turns down the response by muting the effects of hormones released during training. The body can still make sure these hormones do their job during periods of intense stress by producing more of them than it did before. This would be the same as the neighbor realizing one had put earplugs in and just turned up the music louder. If you insist on working the body too hard despite its attempts to mitigate the stress, it then has no choice but to "turn down the music" completely. In other words, rather than just turning down tissue sensitivity to the hormones, it decreases production of them entirely.

A successful student athlete is a better informed consumer. While working closely with a collaborative support staff, the appropriate stressors are applied and adaptations are monitored to make sure that particular individual is trending in the correct direction of the desired performance outcome. 

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